David Wood, left, and his son, David Wood II, at the Wiggly Bridge Distillery in March. The Woods have scaled back a proposal to expand their business, but neighbors still argue that the growing presence of whiskey fungus in the area is too much of a risk. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York is scaling back its expansion plans after its first design was rejected over concerns about a fungus spreading through the area.

The distillery’s original proposal to build two new storage buildings faced significant pushback from neighbors and ignited a debate about whether the presence of baudoinia compniacensis – known colloquially as “whiskey fungus” because it feeds on alcohol vapors – was connected to the distillery. Ultimately, those objections derailed the expansion.

David Woods Sr., who founded the distillery with his son, could have appealed that decision but the family decided to move forward instead with a smaller expansion that they believe addresses some of the earlier concerns. But neighbors say they will still oppose any expansion because the fungus is still a problem.

Whiskey fungus is a byproduct of the whiskey-making process that clings to surfaces and creates a black film, which can be removed by power washing. Near large distilleries, it can be found in such heavy concentrations that it creates a soot-like crust. Researchers have so far not found any health risks.

“While Wiggly Bridge Distillery maintained confidence that their original project’s size and scale would not pose an issue to their abutting neighborhood based on expert review and ethanol monitoring, they have chosen to further align their plans with neighborhood sentiments,” the Woods family said in a prepared statement.

Adam Flaherty, who lives in the neighborhood and opposes any expansion, said neighbors are already preparing to push back against the new proposal because their concerns have not gone away.


“The town has not done anything that I’m aware of to remedy the issue of the existing whiskey fungus,” he said. “I’m not sure how anyone could justify allowing them to build a second barrel house on that property.”

The revised project includes adding a kitchen to the existing barn and constructing one new building to store barrels. The York Planning Board was scheduled to begin a sketch plan review on Thursday but that was pushed back to March because of a scheduling conflict.


In 2022, Wiggly Bridge applied for permission to build two rickhouses to age the whiskey on a vacant field next to the distillery, about 25 yards from the property line and within 200 yards of some homes. The distillery itself is about 150 yards from the nearest houses.

Neighborhood resistance emerged soon after the proposal became public. The town fielded dozens of public comments and on social media, neighbors posted photos of black film on their houses and circulated a petition against the expansion.

Beth Downs stands next to her home, where she and her husband just put in a new fence and pool in August. Downs and some of her neighbors are concerned about the presence of whiskey fungus, which testing shows is likely coming from the distillery. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The town ordered multiple rounds of testing. While initial tests were inconclusive, later tests by the University of Maine at Machias showed the distillery was likely producing the fungus found on buildings and fences near Wiggly Bridge. That conclusion has been disputed by the Woods family and their attorneys.


The distillery, which has not been cited for any local code violations related to emissions, has taken steps to prevent ethanol from leaving the property and purchased monitoring equipment, according to Woods. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Air Quality, which oversees ethanol emissions, inspected the distillery and found it did not require an air emissions license and would remain below the threshold if it added the new rickhouses.

Ultimately, the planning board voted 4-1 to reject the application after determining the project would have violated a town ordinance that prohibits “dust, fumes, vapors and gases” from affecting neighboring properties.


The new plans include building a kitchen to allow the distillery to resume serving food, which it did from an outdoor food trailer prior to pandemic shutdowns.

David Woods Sr. said it has long been part of his vision to create a culinary experience for customers.

“We’re genuinely excited about the prospect of providing thoughtfully paired food choices to elevate the overall experience, presenting a menu to accompany our tastings and cocktails,” he said.


The family also wants to build a 2,736-square-foot storage building to store barrels, grains and packaging equipment. They estimate that the building will accommodate up to 1,500 barrels, but it will take three to five years to fill the building because they don’t plan to increase production.

“Our aim is to enhance our facility in response to customer preferences and demand and contribute to the positive growth of our town. We understand the importance of striking a balance between meeting the desires of our customers and addressing the concerns of our neighbors,” David Woods II said in a statement. “We are confident that our adjusted plans accomplish both.”

The siding of a real estate office building next door to the Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York, photographed in March, was confirmed to have a fungus on its exterior known as whiskey fungus. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Because the previous application was denied, the planning board must review how the new application is different, town planner DeCarlo Brown said in a memo to the board. That includes the addition of a parking lot.

The family is in the process of creating its formal application to the planning board, said Amanda Woods. She said the previous debate over expansion plans took an emotional toll on the family.

“The discourse went from disagreeing about a project, which I believe everyone has a right to disagree about, to a personal attack and circus,” she said.

Woods said she is excited about the smaller proposal, but recognizes that it still won’t make everyone happy.

Flaherty, the neighbor, said he anticipates many people from his neighborhood and across York will attend public hearings to speak out against the project.

“Baudoinia is popping up in other areas of the country,” he said. “I hope the town takes note of that and realizes it’s not something that’s just going to go away.”

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