While the idea of drinking human urine conjures up images of adventurer Bear Grylls relieving himself in some exotic part of the world, one British designer has taken things to the next level by brewing his own whisky blends fermented with urine.
Drawing on his own experiences living with type 1 diabetes, James Gilpin has distilled a range of whiskies using the sugar-rich urine of type 2 diabetics. Part of his MA designer project for the Royal College of Art, Family Whisky explores the commodification of our bodies through the production of a high-end single malt whisky made from human waste material.
As diabetes affects the body’s ability to control its blood glucose levels, higher concentrations of sugar can be found in the urine of those who have diabetes.
The Gilpin Family Whisky website explains: “Large amounts of sugar are excreted on a daily basis by type-two diabetes patients, especially amongst the upper end of our ageing population. As a result of this diabetes patients’ toilets often have unusual scale build up in the basin due and rapid mould growths as the sugar put into the system acts as nutrients for mould and bacteria growth. Is it plausible to suggest that we start utilizing our water purification systems in order to harvest the biological resources that our elderly already process in abundance?”
Gilpin’s first donor was his grandmother, which allowed him to get the ball rolling and iron out any kinks in his process ahead of wider production. However, not all of Gilpin’s collaborators were diagnosed with diabetes, with some having endocrine systems that were not as efficient simply due to old age.
To create his unique product, Gilpin first filters the urine using techniques similar to how our mains water is purified. The remaining large crystal-shaped sugar molecules are then removed and purified again, before being combined with a mash stock to speed up the fermentation process.
Once added to a clear alcohol spirit, whisky blends are mixed into the liquid to give the drink its colour, taste and viscosity. The final product is bottled and for a more personal touch, labelled with the name and age of its original ‘donor’.
Sadly, the whisky is no longer available to purchase. Although, with a basic understanding of the distillery procedure and the right equipment, it would (not that we’d recommend it), be possible to brew your own urine whisky.
Having diabetes does not mean you can’t enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink, with some beverages containing higher amounts of sugars than others. Some factors you may also need to consider are how under control your diabetes is, the quantity of alcohol in a drink and the effects it may have on your blood pressure. A useful guide on alcohol and diabetes can be found here.