Mystery of ‘whisky black’ may soon be raised in the House of Commons

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP, a house affected by ‘whisky black’ and a bonded warehouse complex near Dumbarton.

By Bill Heaney

Householders across West Dunbartonshire are becoming increasingly concerned about “whisky black” – a fungus believed to blacken the exterior walls of houses near Scotch whisky bonds.

These bonds abound in sites from Vale of Leven to Dalmuir and Dumbarton, which was formerly known as the whisky capital of the world.

That was until Allied Distillers closed the landmark red brick distillery – said to be the biggest in Scotland – which had stood in Castle Street, Dumbarton, since 1938.

Bonded warehouses though still exist near Dumbuck Country House Hotel on Glasgow Road, near Milton, which was famous for many years for the fact that the thousands of barrels of whisky there was guarded by geese, inevitably known as the Scotch Watch.

These warehouses also have a presence on the Lomond Industrial Estate in Alexandria and in Dalmuir, off the A82 near Erskine Bridge, where Auchentoshan whisky is distilled and bonded.

There has been controversy for years over “whisky black” and what can be done about it.

Now, Martin Docherty-Hughes, the MP for West Dunbartonshire, is to launch a bid to secure a debate in the House of Commons about its environmental impact and whether or not it is a health hazard.

Concerns expressed by residents have been raised with the MP about property – including homes, garden furniture and vehicles – being affected by the black fungus material.

Baillie Jackie MSP fishingBut one woman, Fiona Gillan, said: “I’m not sure what else can be done. Jackie Baillie, pictured right,  [the Dumbarton and Lomond MSP] discussed this with the distillery and got tests done over ten years ago when we lived in the area.

“All results came back saying it’s a natural phenomenon caused by the venting during the distillery process releasing the ‘angel’s ashes’/angel’s share’. It very unsightly, we hated it.”

In a survey of West Dunbartonshire residents conducted by Mr Docherty-Hughes, a majority (85 per cent) of respondents said that their property had been affected by the fungus which is notoriously difficult to clean off.

Hundreds of local households responded to the survey, with residents citing various concerns about ‘whisky black’, including potential damage to property; expensive cleaning costs and questions over its impact on health.

Mr Docherty-Hughes has told constituents he will raise concerns directly with local distilleries and that he hopes to secure a parliamentary debate on the issue in the House of Commons in the coming weeks.

The MP wrote: “It’s been evident for a number of years now that properties located close to whisky maturation sites are being affected by a stubborn black fungus material.

“This isn’t a problem unique to West Dunbartonshire, but the feedback I’ve received from my constituents clearly shows that ‘whisky black’ is causing a nuisance for many households.

“Eighty-five per cent of respondents to my survey said that their property is being negatively impacted, with many voicing concerns about the unsightly fungus which is notoriously difficult to remove from walls, vehicles and brickwork.

“I will be raising concerns directly with the management of local distilleries in the coming weeks. I also hope to secure a parliamentary debate to seek clarity on the issue of ‘whisky black’ from the UK government and other bodies.

“Local residents are understandably frustrated by these ongoing difficulties and I’m determined to do all I can to help find a solution. Anyone living in West Dunbartonshire who would like to be kept updated on the progress of my enquiries can contact my office on martin.docherty.mp@parliament.uk or 0141 952 2988.”

The fact that fears are real about this cannot be ignored and came across immediately on social media where one post said “Levenbank Terrace” in Alexandria is “a cancer zone with this”.

John Bell added: “Every single tree on the banks of the River Leven is black [which is] not very pleasant to the eye but don’t know what damage it does if any.”

One woman, Shona Yule, said cars are covered “in black tar spots!”

William Sproul said: “It’s a real problem. If that’s what it does to the houses you have to wonder what’s going in the lungs of people living nearby?”

Martin Penny added: “If you take a run through Dumbarton or Alexandria, the houses in the vicinity of whisky buildings are covered with black mould on the walls facing the buildings. It’s been going on for years though, so nothing new.”

Leonora James McFarlane said: “Imagine the cost to the local whisky bonds if they told you it was harmful or toxic? I wouldn’t believe any results that say its fine when its turning brick black.”



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