Abstract: A distinguished variety in the polydisc $\mathbb D^n$ is an affine complex algebraic variety that intersects $\mathbb D^n$ and exits the domain through the $n$-torus $\mathbb T^n$ without intersecting any other part of the topological boundary of $\mathbb D^n$. We show two different characterizations for a distinguished variety in the polydisc in terms of the Taylor joint spectrum of certain linear matrix-pencils and thus generalize the seminal work due to Agler and M\raise.45ex\hbox{c}Carthy on distinguished varieties in $\mathbb D^2$. We show that a distinguished variety in $\mathbb D^n$ is a part of an affine algebraic curve which is a set-theoretic complete intersection. We also show that if $(T_1, \dots , T_n)$ is commuting tuple of Hilbert space contractions such that the defect space of $T=\prod_{i=1}^n T_i$ is finite dimensional, then $(T_1, \dots , T_n)$ admits a commuting unitary dilation $(U_1, \dots , U_n)$ with $U=\prod_{i=1}^n U_i$ being the minimal unitary dilation of $T$ if and only if some certain matrices associated with $(T_1, \dots , T_n)$ define a distinguished variety in $\mathbb D^n$.