Distillery Neighbors Sue Over 'Black Gunk'

Whiskey distilleries lead to gross-sounding fungus
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2012 11:37 AM CDT
But it looks so good...   (©Robert S. Donovan)

(Newser) – The good news when you live next door to a whiskey distillery is that … you live next door to a whiskey distillery. The bad news? Apparently those distilleries cause a fungus—or, as the New York Times calls it, a "sooty-looking black gunk"—to spread over houses, cars, and pretty much anything that sits outside. Baudoinia is a naturally-occurring fungus that germinates on ethanol—and since fermentation can produce ethanol, the area around distilleries is ripe for the stuff. Residents in Louisville and other places along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail initially figured the residue was caused by pollution. But now that they know the truth, some businesses and homeowners are suing the distilleries for property damage and negligence.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs wants the distilleries to "stop off-gassing ethanol," he tells the Times, adding that doing so will not "affect their bottom line" or the whiskey's flavor. But the distillers say the mold is natural and has occurred for centuries, so they're not responsible. "Some people say, 'Well, the distilleries were there before you were, so what’s the big deal?'" says one resident. Indeed, whiskey is a huge driver of the economy and tourism in Kentucky, so one plaintiff feels she is "going against something that the family's done all their lives" by suing. If you want to avoid the fungus—it's nearly impossible to eradicate once you've got it—you may also want to avoid damp climates and areas around commercial bakeries. (Read more whiskey stories.)

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