Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Judge Calls for ‘Just, Speedy and Inexpensive’ Action in Rum Fungus Case that Seems To Be Going Nowhere


Fungus on the warehouses at Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Over the years, I have written many times about Baudoinia compniacensis, the harmless fungus that grows well in the presence of ethanol vapor. It is commonly called the ‘whiskey fungus’ because it is found on or near whiskey maturation warehouses everywhere whiskey is made. You can find some of my past comments on the subject here, here, and here.

And it's not just whiskey, of course, but all aged spirits, including rum. Today the St. Thomas Source reported on a case there against Diageo, and Beam Suntory through its Cruzan subsidiary. As the Source reported, "the two manufacturers are accused of allowing rum fungus to migrate out of their plants and trespass onto residents’ homes and property."

Although the islands are part of the United States, these suits are filed in Superior Court, which hears cases brought under Virgin Islands law. The 'just, speedy and inexpensive' order actually was issued in 2018 and the case had been knocking around for several years before that. The order issued last Friday lays out some new action steps but the case really doesn't seem any closer to resolution.

All available scientific evidence says the fungus is harmless. It has been known and observed for more than a century. As the popularity of aged spirits has grown, so have aging inventories, which has led to more fungus in more places, and more awareness of it. For distillery neighbors it is an unsightly nuisance, but for distillers it can be a public relations nightmare.

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