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Whiskey Fungus Lawsuits Attract Attention of New York Times

Kentucky's whiskey fungus lawsuitsare getting some national attention. The New York Times ran a pieceyesterday about the fungus--scientifically called Baudoinia--that's prevalent on the outside of distilleries and homes near them. The lawsuit charges that the fungus germinates on ethanol which is released during fermentation.From the article:

In June, home and business owners in and around Louisville, part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, filed class-action lawsuits in federal and circuit courts against five major distilleries, charging property damage and negligence. In September, with the help of lawyers in Britain, the plaintiffs’ Louisville lawyer, William F. McMurry, plans to bring a similar suit in Scotland, where the fungus is so rampant that it almost seems like part of the architecture. “Every distillery that we’ve tested has had it, as far as I know,” said James Scott, the University of Toronto mycologist who helped identify and name Baudoinia. Mr. McMurry wants the courts to order distillers to simply “stop off-gasing ethanol,” he said, adding: “This is not going to affect their bottom line and the flavor of whiskey.”

When whiskey is aged in barrels, about 4 percent of the ethanol evaporates--that's commonly called the "Angel's Share." The class action lawsuit was filed against Brown-Forman, Diageo and Heaven Hill. They contend the fungus is naturally-occurring and unrelated to whiskey.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.