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What Is Whisky Black Fungus, Is It Dangerous
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What is Whisky Black Fungus, Is it Dangerous

What is It

Whisky fungus is an organism that grows near to distilleries and, as the name implies, it covers whatever it grows on in a black deposit. This though is also a subject of some dispute.

The problem of whisky fungus was first noticed near to distilleries in Eastern Europe but was first looked into more closely in 1872 when Casimir Roumeguère and Charles Durieu de Maisonneuve carried out tests around a brandy distillery.

What is The Problem

The black sticky deposit that is formed is particularly unpleasant for those people unlucky enough to be affected. It covers roof tops, signposts, cars and a large number of other objects. From there it can transfer onto clothing, hands and just about anything else it touches. It would seem that as fast as it is cleaned off it regrows, despite being a fairly slow growing organism.

The fungus can cause damage to the underlying object, as well as being unsightly and unpleasant to touch. There is also a knock on effect with the value of property in the area affected being noticeably reduced.

What Causes It

The fungus (proper name Baudoinia compniacensis) is an organism that uses ethanol for its carbon nutrition but ethanol is not thought to be its only source of nutrition. Ethanol is however associated with many of its habitats, with the result that the whisky and brandy industries have come under a certain amount of scrutiny, particularly in recent years. The release of ethanol into the atmosphere is part of the distillation and maturation process (the famous angel’s share).

This is where there is now some dispute. B. compniacensis does not only occur near distilleries or storage facilities, it is found all over the UK in all sorts of different areas and most likely it derives some of its nutrition from naturally occurring substances such as bogs, natural compost and seasonal fruit drops. It may be that ethanol only makes it grow faster and encourages germination of the spores.

Is Anyone To Blame

It is the lack of absolute proof that distilleries are ultimately responsible for the fungus that has caused problems when people have tried to get action taken. Just recently (30th November) Chivas Regal announced that the Dumbarton whisky black fungus, which locals have blamed on them, showed no evidence of being as a result of their warehouse facility. Understandably those affected do not see it this way and there is actually a legal team looking into the full implications.

The same also applied to other countries such as in the USA where the production of bourbon has been blamed for the surrounding deposits, the photograph shows this on a Kentucky storage facility (image is by Shadle under licence).

The whisky industry maintains that because the fungus is widespread then it is not their responsibility, an attitude that they are bound to take, because it potentially could lead to multi million claims against them.

The Outcome

It is a problem that in fact may never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and I can only see the disputes going on for a long time. Is it dangerous? There is some relief to be had in the fact that it is not a fatal condition, unlike that of the suspected Legionella and North British Distillery from early in 2012. It is however a real nuisance and a solution to it should be found.


Street Talk

Sounds absolutely icky, lol. Thanks, i did not know it even existed.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

I did not know anything about it either Shawn until it made it into the national press. an unwanted side effect.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Interesting article Roger, did not know about that. Glad i don't live too close to a distillery, Bushmills is 40 mile away am I safe?

Reply
  about 4 years ago

I think you will be just fine Mark. :-) Thanks for your comment

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Nice post, I learned something brand new to me. Great Party, Where's the Whiskey?

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Cheers Ty. There's Whisky in the Jar!

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Mason Jar? =) lol

  
  about 4 years ago

Excellent post and the title is pretty cool too ;)

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Thanks David, as I get more into the details of the industry I keep finding out things I never knew even existed.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Wow never heard of that one. Scarey.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Thanks Hannah. it looks pretty unpleasant and searches show more common than I expected.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Fascinating article Roger. This is something I had never heard of before. Appears to be a real problem for innocent bystanders.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

A sad side effect of the whisky(whiskey) industry. Some law suits gathering pace int the US I understand. Thanks for your comment Jim

Reply
  about 4 years ago
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