Jack Daniels Feeds Whiskey Fungi in a Tennessee Community: Population

A black, soot-like fungus coats the exteriors near Jack Daniels barrel homes in Lincoln County, Tennessee.
Courtesy of Patrick Long

  • Lincoln County residents are sick of the black fungus covering their homes and cars.
  • The stubborn “whiskey mushroom” feeds on ethanol vapor from Jack Daniels’ barrel houses.
  • Local residents demand an air filtration system and an environmental impact study.

Locals say that grimy black mold chokes homes, porches and cars. It obscures street signs and covers the leaves and bark of trees. It anchors itself to any stationary object, and makes residents question the safety of the air they breathe.

The out-of-control black “whiskey mushroom”, otherwise known as Baudouinia compniacensisFueled by ethanol vapor from Jack Daniels’ facilities, it has been a threat to locals in Lincoln County, Tennessee, since the iconic brew company began building six new barrel houses in 2018 and launched plans for 14 more, locals say. Now, outraged residents are demanding that the company and the county answer for the damages and values ​​of the sunken property, and prove that the ethanol-infused air is safe to breathe.

Patrick Long, who lives near the Jack Daniels Barrel Homes and whose wife Christie sued Lincoln County, told Insider that the community has two main requirements: an air filtration system that can prevent ethanol emissions and stop ethanol release. mushroom growth, and an environmental impact study to assess the amount of ethanol emitted from barrel houses and any health risks it may cause.

“I’m very concerned,” Long said. “My wife is having trouble breathing. A neighbor has cancer.” “It’s in the air. And you probably don’t really want to breathe it in. But no one’s done a test to determine if it’s actually toxic.”

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Long said the six homes in the barrels mean he has to spend nearly $10,000 a year washing his home with a potent mixture of water and Clorox. He also said that local officials have given up trying to clean up the fungus-covered street signs and simply replace them when they become too black to read.

“If you had any decent nails and you nailed them to the side of a tree or property within a quarter-mile to half-mile radius of these barrel houses, your whole finger would be covered in black fungus,” Long said. . “You can’t see the tree limbs anymore. Our house, it has to be pressure washed four times a year now.”

He said he alerted officials of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, which declined Insider’s request for comment on “potential or ongoing law enforcement activities or investigations.”

Christy Long’s recent lawsuit against the Lincoln County Planning and Zoning Board is asking the county to issue a stop-work order to halt construction on Jack Daniels, alleging that the company illegally built the facilities and lacked proper site plan approval and building permits.

Lincoln County did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment. But at a public hearing late last year he covered it Moore County News, Jack Daniels official Melvin Keibler expressed sympathy for a resident who complained of stage IV lung cancer and requested an air filtration system. The company already monitors air quality, Keibler said, and said the current air-filtering technology is for wineries, not whiskey and bourbon facilities.

A spokesperson for Jack Daniels told Insider that the company cannot comment on pending litigation but that Jack Daniels “complies with all local, state and federal regulations regarding the design, construction, and permits of our barrel homes. We are committed to protecting the environment and the safety and health of our employees and neighbors.”

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The “angel’s share” of whiskey feeds the fungus

Residents of Lincoln County, Tennessee, complained of damage to their homes and sinking property values.
Courtesy of Patrick Long

The black goo that spreads nearly a mile from the barrel houses is known as Jack Daniels Baudouinia compniacensis, a natural fungus that grows on outdoor surfaces exposed to ethanol vapor. Barrel houses such as Jack Daniels facilities can hold tens of thousands of mature barrels of whiskey, causing a percentage of that alcohol to evaporate through the pores of wooden barrels and into the air—whiskey makers call it the “angel’s share” of the product.

The fungus was first identified in 2007 by researchers who found that the “angel’s share” of distilled spirits was responsible for the black gunk.

Kentucky homeowners filed class action lawsuits against several Louisville distilleries in 2012, though they were ultimately eviction. and residents of Ontario, Canada, who have filed an ongoing report class action v. owners of the Hiram Walker distillery in the Lake.

Long said that when he and his wife first moved into their Lynchburg property in 2020, they were aware of the fungus and considered it minimal. But at the time, Jack Daniels only had two barrel houses in the area. Now, the company has six, and is on its way to 20.

Attorney Jason Holman, who is representing the Long family, told Insider that a judge is expected to make a decision within days on whether to force the county to issue a stop-work order for the new facilities.

“When we started looking into this, it appeared they had no site plan approval, no building permits for any of the buildings.”

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