Here’s Why Tennessee Residents Are Worried About ‘Whiskey Fungus’

The invasive mold is covering just about everything in the area. Here’s Why Tennessee Residents Are Worried About ‘Whiskey Fungus’ Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for New York Magazine

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Jack Daniel’s whiskey is an American institution with deep roots in the area of Tennessee where its spirits have always been distilled.

In recent years, however, some of the locals have started to wonder if the company is making them sick. After six barrel houses were built in Lincoln County about five years ago, nearby residents started to notice black mold growing on surfaces of all kinds and they think a variety of newly acquired health problems could be related to what has become known as “whiskey fungus.”

What causes it?

According to some experts, the ethanol that is vaporized during the aging process can accelerate the growth of the fungus, which is scientifically known as Baudoinia compniacensis.

Although it was first discovered in 2007, it wasn’t until the new barrel houses were built more than a decade later that officials and residents alike started paying close attention to the issue.

The company currently plans to build another 14 such facilities in the area. Despite the added revenue this would bring to the county, concerned locals aren’t happy.

Residents push back

Whether they have developed any health problems or not, many people in the area are outraged that the company has caused an infestation of whiskey mold that covers porches, cars, traffic signs, and almost anything else it can find.

A group of concerned citizens filed a lawsuit seeking, among other things, an improved air filtration system that will limit the ethanol vapor allowed to escape the barrels and a study of the local environment aimed at finding out the extent of the problem.

One of those locals says he spends $10,000 annually to powerwash his home with bleach water to remove the mold.

For its part, the company claims it’s in compliance with all environmental regulations.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee March 2nd, 2023
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