Dumbarton Whisky Black Fungus

Dumbarto Whisky Black FungusWhisky giants Chivas Regal have angered many residents of Dumbarton in Scotland after announcing that they are not responsible for the deposit of black fungus that is plaguing parts of the town according to the Lennox Herald.

Whisky black fungus grows in, or near to, whisky distilleries and warehouses and is a real nuisance to anyone whose property is affected. It grows on all sorts of hard objects including roofs, garden ornaments and furniture, cars and trees and results in a mess to hands and clothing and potential damage to whatever it attacks.

It is extremely difficult to shift, and grows back fairly quickly. The value of property is of course affected, with a noticeable drop compared with surrounding areas.

What Does Chivas Say?

Chivas Regal carried out tests in July after being approached by the local MSP, Jackie Baillie, but has announced that it could find no link between their facility and the black fungus (Baudoinia compniacensis, see Wikipedia). In a statement by Jack Gemmell, the public affairs manager at Chivas, he said it was caused by

“a complex range of micro-organisms found occurring naturally in the environment across the UK”.
He added: “As we have stated previously, based on the scientific evidence we have, Chivas Brothers does not accept that environmental blackening, as found in the Mary Fisher area of Dumbarton, is caused by our spirit maturation activities.

“Such micro-organisms and blackening are found in areas where there is no maturation activity.”

Chivas have offered to carry out further tests but so far the situation seems to be at stalemate.

What Causes it?

The fungus certainly seems to be fairly widespread but one theory is that ethanol may accelerate it growth and encourage it to germinate more rapidly, thus accounting for the rapid spread. Ethanol vapour is released as a result of whisky distillation, and a certain amount evaporates from barrels during maturation and storage (the angel’s share fungus is also a name used).

The complaint is not just restricted to the Scotch whisky industry either, there are several legal disputes in parts of the United States, related to the production of bourbon, where the fungus has also been found.

Residents of the affected area of Dumbarton are currently trying out chemicals to prevent the regrowth of the black fungus. I sincerely hope that they find a solution, it sounds particularly unpleasant.

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