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The Black Fungus Conspiracy

by Oliver Klimek on April 22, 2011

You would think that Scottish distillers know what’s going on in and around their distilleries. After all they have turned whisky making into a science in recent decades. But anything happening beyond the distillery and warehouse grounds seems to remain an utter mystery for even the biggest whisky producers.

An article in the Daily Record highlighted the problem of the Scottish village of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire which is being infested by black fungus. Diageo happens to own warehouses in this place, so the locals are convinced that the alcohol fumes emerging from the maturing casks create excellent living conditions for the fungus. But the company has fiercly denied any “direct link” between their whisky and the fungus.

Now, virtually anyone who has visited a few whisky distilleries will have come across some strange black patches on the walls of distillery buildings. The fungus is called Baudoinia Compniacensis. The picture above shows a nice specimen photographed by me in May 2010 at the back side of Diageo’s Caol Ila distillery. All distillery tour guides will happily tell you that this goo thrives on alcohol vapours. If you enter black fungus distillery into the search engine of your choice, you will find an abundance of mentions. American distilleries seem to be haunted most by the problem, but Diageo’s Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry also has a reputation for a particlularly nice display of the fungus on Scottish soil.

Diageo consider themselves “not guilty” as they supposedly were not able to find a direct connection between fungus and whisky. It may well be the case that they just haven’t looked closely enough. But if the fungus really only was “just there”, wouldn’t they have to admit having big hygiene problems in many of their distilleries?

Read on how the story unfolds after an an interesting article in Wired magazine.

Thanks go to Johannes van den Heuvel of Malt Madness for pointing me to the article.

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