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Ethanol-driven building fungus colonisation: “Whisky Black” in urban built environments

Nigel Craig (School of Engineering and Built Environment, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)
Nick Pilcher (Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Edinburgh, UK)
Alan M. Forster (School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Craig Kennedy (School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)

International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation

ISSN: 2398-4708

Article publication date: 26 November 2021

Issue publication date: 8 March 2023




The spirits industry is a major economic contributor worldwide, often requiring years of maturation in barrels that is associated with significant release of ethanol into the surrounding environment. This provides carbon nutrition for colonisation of black fungal growths, one type being Baudoinia compniacensis, or Whisky Black. Although growth is localised in production areas, numerous sites exist globally, and this paper's purpose is to investigate the extent and implications of colonisation.


The paper presents and discusses the results of a visual survey of the area surrounding a site where whisky is maturing in nearby bonded warehouses. The evaluation considers radial zoning distance from the ethanol source and material substrate types and surface textures. Classical key stages of Building Pathology, namely manifestation, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy, are considered.


Key findings are that the colonisation of the fungus is non-uniform and dependent on the substrate building material. Additionally, rougher-textured building materials displayed heavier levels of fungal manifestation than smooth materials. Aspects such as distance, wind direction and moisture are considered relative to the extent and level of fungal growth.


This investigation provides the first assessment of the extent and nature of the fungal growth in properties built in surrounding areas to bonded warehouses. Such information can facilitate open dialogue between stakeholders that recognise the aspirations of values of corporate social responsibility, whilst balancing the economic importance of distilling with recognition of the fungus's impact on property values and appropriate recurring remedial treatments.



Craig, N., Pilcher, N., Forster, A.M. and Kennedy, C. (2023), "Ethanol-driven building fungus colonisation: “Whisky Black” in urban built environments", International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 238-257.



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