Jack Daniel's warehouse blocked due to ethanol vapors, black whiskey fungus infestation

FILE - Whiskey fungus grows on a road sign along Owenton Road near the Peaks Mill Road in Franklin County near Buffalo Traceâs bourbon warehouses. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

A Tennessee court has ordered Jack Daniel's to temporarily halt construction for another one of their distilleries due the release of ethanol vapors into the air which causes the growth of black whiskey fungus, according to a recently filed lawsuit. 

Christi Long, who owns an events venue situated right next to six Jack Daniel's whiskey barrel warehouses in Mulberry, Tennessee, filed the lawsuit in earlier this year. 

The method in which Jack Daniel's ages their whiskey can result in a black, soot-like fungus growing on building surfaces, porches, traffic signs and even trees, according to an Insider report. 

The fungus is difficult to clean and Long says she spends roughly $10,000 a year to powerwash not only their business, but their home as well. 

"If you have any decent nails on you and you rode it down the side of a tree or a property within a quarter of a mile to a half-mile of these barrel houses, your entire finger will be covered in black fungus," Long told Insider. "You can't see the tree limbs anymore. Our house, we have to have it pressure-washed four times a year now." 

The Lincoln County Department of Planning and Zoning approved the site plan for the distilleries in 2018 but Jack Daniels’ parent company, Brown-Forman, did not "acknowledge that ethanol was a hazardous material," the lawsuit claims. 

Since then, four more distilleries have been built and Long’s lawsuit against the planning and zoning department claims the facilities fail "to meet the building requirements for a structure to house a hazardous material." 

Long and her husband, Patrick, have asked that the distillery implement a ventilation system which would essentially remove the ethanol vapors and consequently, stop the fungus growth.  

"My clients are pleased with the court's ruling directing a stop work order to be issued against the Jack Daniel's barrelhouse currently under construction, and we are hopeful that their ultimate concerns about air quality and building safety will be addressed as the distiller now moves through the proper planning and building approval processes," Jason Holleman, Long’s attorney, told FOX TV Stations.  

What is black whiskey fungus? 

The fungus, also known as Baudoinia compniacensis, is a common occurrence when distilleries utilize wooden casks to age their alcohol. 

The ethanol vapor released from the barrels as the alcohol ages is known as "angel’s share" because it was said the vapor might bring a smile to the heavens, according to The Guardian. 

Despite its heavenly nickname, the black whiskey fungus likes to feed on these vapors, which can lead to the fungus coating not just the distilleries but anywhere the vapors may reach. 

"What I think is interesting is in Middle Tennessee and Central Kentucky, if you go on a distillery tour, they proudly reference the angel’s share. But the angel’s share results in the devil’s fungus," Holleman told Lexington Herald Leader. "Distilleries and barrel warehouses used to be farther apart, in more rural areas, making whiskey fungus less of a factor. "Now they are not. We have to find ways that they more peacefully coexist." 

So far, no harmful health impacts have been associated with Baudoinia compniacensis, it is suggested that when removing the fungus, proper PPE should be worn such as masks, goggles and gloves, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.  

This story was reported from Los Angeles.