A mere week or so after the story of scientists turning whisky by-products into biofuel broke, another recycling whisky-based story has turned up – this time from the Couldn’t-Make-It-Up department (aka the chaps at Vinopolis who clearly must have too much time on their hands): it would appear that a diabetic biomedical researcher named James Gilpin is, literally, extracting the urine – and then making whisky out of it.
According to an article in Wired magazine (no, me neither – some kind of achingly zeitgeisty youth thing, apparently), Gilpin “…has started a project called Gilpin Family Whisky, which turns the sugar-rich urine of elderly diabetics into a high-end single malt whisky, suitable for export.”
So far, so WTF?!?! Yes, me too. It’s already clear that those cutting-edge yoofs with silly haircuts that presumably write this stuff aren’t quite sure about what single malt whisky actually is. This is confirmed in the next paragraph, when the secrets of this astonishing alchemy are revealed (italics added by myself for emphasis):
“The source material is acquired from elderly volunteers, including Gilpin’s own grandmother, Patricia. The urine is purified in the same way as mains water is purified, with the sugar molecules removed and added to the mash stock to accelerate the whisky’s fermentation process. Traditionally, that sugar would be made from the starches in the mash.
Once fermented into a clear alcohol spirit, whisky blends are added to give colour, taste and viscosity, and the product is bottled with the name and age of the contributor.”
Pick the bones out of that whole heap of wrong! Actually, no – please don’t.
OK, so we now know that it’s not single malt whisky, but something more like (admittedly piss-based) vodka with ‘whisky blends’ added. A bit like Thai ‘whisky’, perhaps, or those American whiskies that used to mix bourbon with grain vodka.
After a quick bit explaining the genesis of Gilpin’s idea - inspired apparently by a pharmaceutical company that bought a load of geriatric wee from an old people’s home and tried to filter the chemicals out of it (nb, You are not dreaming. I have really written that sub-clause and you did just read it) - the penultimate paragraph opens with a classic piece of understatement:
“The whisky, as you might have guessed, won’t be widely marketed conventionally.”
Finally, all is revealed:
“In fact, it’s more of an art piece, asking, Gilpin says, whether it’s “plausible to suggest that we start utilising our water purification systems in order to harvest the biological resources that our elderly already process in abundance”.”
Phew! The faintly-credible cloak of pseudo-science is finally blown away to reveal…a pesky artist!
But where, I hear you cry, can I get my hands on this incredibly collectable whisky/important piece of renal art?? (delete as appropriate).
This is where things get a little murkier. The article claims that Gilpin’s creation will be on display – with tasting sessions (form an orderly queue, please, gents) and accompanying films - at a design event in London and a film festival in Manchester. Worryingly, neither of the links I clicked to these events made any mention of Gilpin’s pissky, raising the question: Is there a shred of truth to this utterly bizarre story? Or has some very clever, incredibly funny, person pulled off the hoax of the year on the new-age numpties at Wired magazine, and elevated themselves to instant hero status?!
I mean, seriously – whisky recycled from widdle? The whole thing’s got more than a hint of the Chris Morris about it. Sure, it may be the ultimate alcoholic’s dream (insert your own joke about thrifty Scots here), but sadly the old cynic in me is really struggling with this one.
Admittedly, it’s something I once thought my own body had achieved (around the fifth morning of last year’s Feis Ile, although at the time I took that ‘new-make’ aroma as a warning to switch to beer for the day), but I can’t help feeling that we’re probably still at least a couple of generations away from some kind of perpetual-motion-based whisky self-sufficiency. Besides, even if the technology existed, something tells me that The Man (or at least Diageo and Chivas) would never allow it.
Breakthrough or Fake-out? What’s your verdict?? Read the article yourself here and let me know what you think.
Oh, and just in case this post isn’t causing enough schoolboy sniggers already, we’d better have a competition: what would you call your piss-based whisky? Answers in the comments section, please. I’ve got a few already, but at the moment my favourites are Whizzky, Eau de Me and Stream of Life.