The next time you hear someone say that their drink tastes like piss, you might want to have them check the label, because Gilpin Family Whisky actually is. The completely drinkable, single-malt alcohol is distilled from the urine of elderly diabetics. Yum?
In a world where homebrew beer is all the rage, and home distilleries are starting to take off, James Gilpin decided to take DIY alcohol to a whole new, much weirder level. You could call him a pee-pee pioneer. Propelled by an urban legend and his own type 1 diabetes, Gilpin began to wonder if diabetic’s sugar-rich urine could be used to create a high-end whisky. Gilpin, a designer who finds himself drawn to biomedical tech, recruited his grandmother and built a homemade distillery. Turns out, it works, and the whisky ain’t bad either.
First Gilpin purifies the urine into water, removes the excess sugar molecules from Granny’s pee, then adds it to the mash to help speed up the fermentation process. The end result is a clear white alcohol that Gilpin blends with another whisky to give it the proper color and barrel-aged taste. The final step involves bottling the pissky and labeling it with the name and age of the diabetic its derived from. The result is Gilpin Family Whisky, which, believe it or not, is suitable for export.
Initially, Gilpin hoped he could start a conversation with healthcare professionals by proposing the idea as an art project, but then he heard an urban legend that led him to actually produce the product.
“I then heard a story about a pharmaceutical factory based in a community of elderly people and they would send representatives door to door exchanging cushions and soft toys for tubs of urine,” Gilpin said in an interview. “The factory would then take the urine and process it to remove all of the chemicals that they had originally been selling their customers on the shelves of pharmacies. I took this model and adapted it for my own purpose.”
Don’t worry, you won’t find Gilpin Family Whisky on the shelf at your local bar anytime soon. It was only ever exhibited a handful of times (complete with a tasting session) in London, and served as more of an art piece than anything. For now, the only way to try urine-derived whisky is to attempt to make it yourself.
“The fact that I am associating alcohol with a severe medical condition has upset some medical professionals that I have met during the process of my project,” Gilpin said. “This was a very deliberate provocation on my part as I wanted to have a dialogue with health care professionals about the real complications of living with diabetes. People still want to drink, eat unhealthy food and experience the messiness of everyday life. In my personal experience this is often overlooked by professionals who can give the impression that theses things simply should not be a part of life as a diabetic patient but they are. I am interested in finding ways in which designed systems can help overcome these very social problems.”
For more about Gilpin Family Whisky and James Gilpin’s other fascinating art projects, check out his online portfolio.