Located in the quaint town of Lynchburg, Tenn., the historic Jack Daniel distillery maintains a campsite feel while pumping out 119 million bottles of whiskey a year.
On a recent walking tour of the scenic facility, I couldn’t help but notice the trees looked like they had their bark blow-torched. The bark was extremely black and gave the trees a dramatic appearance. That’s because they have been tainted by Baudoinia compniacensis — a unique whiskey fungus, found near distilleries. This fungus attaches to warehouses and walkways at the 147-year-old distillery.
Larry Combs, Jack Daniel General Manager, said the fungus has been cleaned off a few of the buildings at the distillery for cosmetic purposes.
“The funny thing about distilleries, especially old ones like Jack Daniel, they are where they are because of the water supply. You’ll find these microorganisms near the water and so the mould just comes with the setting,” Combs said.
This particular type of black fungus is common near distilleries because it uses ethanol as a source of energy for growth. During the whiskey maturation process, at least 2% of whiskey escapes from a barrel as ethanol vapor — perfect for Baudoinia to thrive.
The mould doesn’t seem to bother the locals, Combs told me.
“We really don’t get any complaints about the mould. Every once in a while we will get someone to call in but more often than not people are just curious,” Combs said.
However, residents near another distillery have found the whiskey fungus to be a burden.
In 2012, Kentucky residents filed a lawsuit against Jack Daniel parent company Brown-Forman Corp. and three other whiskey producers because “the black fungus is very visible on homes, fences and cars and is unsightly.”
The Jack Daniels distillery has not been sued over its own black fungus, Combs told me.
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