Gilpin Family Whisky made from diabetics' urine
James Gilpin is a designer and researcher who works on the implementation of new biomedical technologies. He's also got type 1 diabetes, where his body doesn't produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
So he's 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.
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.
The original idea came from an (unverified) story he heard about a pharmaceutical company that supposedly set up a factory next to an old people's home and would swap cushions and soft toys for the residents' urine. They'd then process the urine to remove the chemicals that had passed straight through the dilapidated endochrine systems of the patients, which could then be put straight back into new medicine.
The whisky, as you might have guessed, won't be widely marketed conventionally. 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".
It'll be exhibited, with tasting sessions, at 100% Materials, a design and architecture event in London in September, and the Abandon Normal Devices festival in Manchester in October. If you're not keen on trying it yourself, then you can still go along and view the three films that Gilpin will be showing alongside the whisky, which each outline one aspect of living with the disease.