Spread of 'whiskey fungus' halts Jack Daniel's distillery in Tennessee

Locals of Lincoln County in Tennessee are fed up with the black fungus spreading across the neighborhood.
Sejal Sharma
Jack Daniel's whiskey bottles in a bar.
Jack Daniel's whiskey bottles in a bar.

NurPhoto/Getty Images 

Things for Jack Daniel's are quite literally "on the rocks."

A fungus-like black soot has taken over Lincoln county in the U.S. state of Tennessee. County residents are now raising hue and cry over the dark gunk covering their cars, houses, patio furniture, swing sets, factories, buildings, etc.

Nicknamed "whiskey fungus," Baudoinia compniacensis feeds on the alcohol fumes released when bourbon is kept in porous barrels for the process of aging. 

Several lawsuits have been filed against the American whiskey maker, resulting in a local court halting Jack Daniel's expansion plans of building several more warehouses in the neighborhood.

What is the lawsuit?

The complaint in Tennessee was raised by Christi Long, who is the owner of an events venue situated near Jack Daniel's plant. Feeding off of ethanol fumes, "whiskey fungus" leaves behind a crusty mold that is hard to remove.

Long's husband, in an interview with Insider, claimed that their property would get covered in soot, and it would cost them $10,000 a year to wash their house with a mix of water and Clorox to keep the fungus away.

Spread of 'whiskey fungus' halts Jack Daniel's distillery in Tennessee
A Jack Daniel's Distillery in Tennessee.

The Longs have demanded an air ventilation system to block the alcohol vapor seeping from Jack Daniel's barrelhouses, but this is not the first time that an alcohol brand has landed in legal trouble over the notorious fungus. Similar complaints and lawsuits have also been filed in Scotland.

Angel's share or devil's fungus?

Whiskey makers often describe the evaporation process as "angels' share," meaning when some amount of whiskey evaporates during the maturing phase and escapes into the atmosphere. Long's lawyer, Jason Holleman, in an interview with BBC, said, "Unfortunately, that also results in the devil's fungus."

According to a 2019 report by the Indiana State Department of Health, B. compniacensis, or "whiskey fungus," doesn't pose any health risks from short or long-term exposure. But at the same time, the report recommended people use N-95 masks, goggles, and gloves during the removal of "whiskey fungus" from the surface.

The same report also says that there is little research on how this black fungus impacts to soil and water. If found in a private water well, the well should be disinfected and examined by a licensed well professional.

According to the Herald-Leader, residents in at least three other counties in Tennessee - Henry, Franklin, and Anderson - have fought against the expansions of distilleries, arguing that the fungus would harm property values.

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