James Scott encountered that scent for the first time a decade ago in a town called Lakeshore, Ontario. Just across the river from Detroit, Lakeshore is where barrels of Canadian Club whiskey age in blocky, windowless warehouses. Scott, who had recently completed his PhD in mycology at the University of Toronto, had launched a business called Sporometrics. Run out of his apartment, it was a sort of consulting detective agency for companies that needed help dealing with weird fungal infestations. The first call he got after putting up his website was from a director of research at Hiram Walker Distillery named David Doyle.
Doyle had a problem. In the neighborhood surrounding his Lakeshore warehouses, homeowners were complaining about a mysterious black mold coating their houses. And the residents, following their noses, blamed the whiskey. Doyle wanted to know what the mold was and whether it was the company’s fault. Scott headed up to Lakeshore to take a look.
When he arrived at the warehouse, the first thing he noticed (after “the beautiful, sweet, mellow smell of aging Canadian whiskey,” he says) was the black stuff. It was everywhere—on the walls of buildings, on chain-link fences, on metal street signs, as if a battalion of Dickensian chimney sweeps had careened through town. “In the back of the property, there was an old stainless steel fermenter tank,” Scott says. “It was lying on its side, and it had this fungus growing all over it. Stainless steel!” The whole point of stainless steel is that things don’t grow on it.
Friday, June 3, 2011
"Unraveling the Mystery of the Canadian Whiskey Fungus"