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Last Of Us Is Happening For Real, Blame Jack Daniels Whiskey

Residents in southern Tennessee are upset over a whiskey fungus aggressively spreading everywhere

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A large amount of fungus covers a dead body on a wall as seen in The Last Of Us HBO show.
The Last of Us
Screenshot: Kotaku / HBO

In Lincoln County, Tennessee a Last Of Us-like situation is happening as a strong, heat-resistant fungus is spreading across trees, homes, cars, signs, and decks. And you can blame all of it on Jack Daniels and its warehouses full of whiskey, which this particular fungus feeds off of. Residents are so mad that at least one couple is suing the whiskey maker over the disgusting fungus spreading across large portions of the county.

Right now, one of the biggest shows in the world is The Last Of Us. The new HBO Max series is an adaptation of the popular post-apocalyptic video game series created by Naughty Dog and released exclusively on PlayStation consoles. While in the game the threat was spores, in the show it’s a nasty, tentacle-like fungus that grows rapidly and can even turn people into hideous zombie-like monsters that will attack humans and animals. And while monsters haven’t shown up (yet..) in Tennessee, people living there are dealing with a rapidly growing and hard-to-control Last of Us-like fungus that survives and grows off ethanol fumes, including the kind released during the whiskey aging process.


As reported by The New York Times last week, whiskey fungus has become a serious problem for the residents of Lincoln County who happen to live nearby the six different Jack Daniels barrelhouses—warehouses that store and age the whiskey—that dot the rural county of 35,000 people, bringing a lot of money via taxes. In areas near and around these barrelhouses, folks have reported a “sooty, dark crust” over everything outside. One resident even scraped the paint off her outdoor furniture trying to remove the fungus. Another couple is suing Jack Daniels as they maintain an old mansion they use for weddings and events, and now have to pressure wash and clean the outside of it frequently to fight the build-up of whiskey fungus.


“If you take your fingernail and run your fingernail down our tree branch, it will just coat the tip of your finger,” mansion owner Patrick Long said. “It’s just disgusting.”


Jack Daniels won’t help people clean up the fungus

Last year, according to The New York Times, Jack Daniels admitted that the whiskey fungus can be annoying, but claimed it posed no health threats to anyone or animals and that it can also be “easily” removed via washing. When people suggested the company pay to power wash nearby homes or businesses, Jack Daniels declined, saying it could be held liable for any damage caused during the cleaning process.


When others asked the company to add air filters to its barrelhouses to control the release of ethanol fumes, the company also declined, explaining that it could hurt the flavor of its popular whiskey.

A photo shows a stop sign covered in black whiskey fungus.
A stop sign from 2014 covered in whiskey fungus
Photo: Ivan Couronne (Getty Images)

While Jack Daniels seems fine with the whole situation, The New York Times spoke to Dr. James A. Scott, a professor who has studied whiskey fungus and he seemed to disagree.

“The fungus is pretty destructive, and the only way to stop it is to turn off its alcohol supply,” Dr. Scott said. “It wrecks patio furniture, house siding, almost any outdoor surface. I’ve seen trees choked to death by it. It is a small mercy that it does not also appear to have a negative impact on human health.”


Dr. Scott also added that the alcohol fumes actually make the fungus more resilient to temperature changes and the hot summers found in Tennessee. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like it can mentally alter human beings or lead to the end of the world. However, that’s likely not much comfort to the folks fighting back against this fungus in Lincoln County, especially as Jack Daniels continues to ignore their pleas for help or changes.