In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, distillers across the US are halting or lessening the production of their spirits in order to create hand sanitizer.
With the support of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to ease the tax hurdles faced by distilleries to do so, it is hoped that over the coming days and weeks, more distilleries will be able to viably begin production to combat COVID-19.
In order to safely create the sanitizer, distilleries are using denatured or undenatured ethanol and following guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for safe production, which includes the use of grain neutral spirits, glycerine and hydrogen peroxide.
During a time of such deep uncertainty, on a global scale, it is more important than ever for the industry to come together in this manner. Distilleries such as Corsair in Nashville have been donating Gintervention, a sanitizer distilled from gin. In a statement on their Instagram, the Corsair team said: “In an effort to assist our community during this difficult time, we are donating our ‘Gintervention’: a sanitizer distilled from gin, to local restaurants, food service establishments, bottle shops and community organizations. We will be coordinating free dock-side pickups of this 70% alc sanitizer at our Nashville Headquarters location (601 Merritt Avenue), between the hours of 10am and 4pm. We plan to have smaller individually portioned sizes in the coming days.”
Plenty of other distilleries have been aiding their communities in a similar manner, including Silverback Distillery in Vancouver, with owner Christine Riggleman realising that distilleries are perfectly equipped to create sanitizer and swiftly ramping up production. The sanitizer is made from their Hooch Mama whiskey, using a rye distillate, which is initially being distributed to hospitals, first responders and volunteers during this period.
Despite temporarily closing its on-site bar and retail store, Vermont-based Caledonia Spirits has also turned its efforts to helping those in need, using the raw materials already on hand to create sanitizer. The team have come together to start up production for local non-profit organisations, with their first delivery to the Vermont Foodbank.
Harry Kahn, vice president of marketing at Caledonia Spirits commented: “It was the first thing that crossed our minds when we learned that there was a need for hand sanitizer among first responders, food shelves and others in need. The hardest part of this is figuring out how to distribute it safely and pay for the raw materials while we continue to keep our entire staff, even those who are home, on payroll with full benefits.
“Given the need for hand sanitizer, we’re shipping it as soon as we make it. While we don’t have an exact tally, we just recently partnered with the State of Vermont to make 1,500 more units for first responders We’re sourcing glycerine from local health and beauty manufacturers, as well as anywhere else we can find it. While we’re continuing to make gin, we’ve essentially turned our distillery into a hand sanitizer factory. We want to keep making it as long as there is a need.”
Moving forward it is hoped that legislations will be put in place for more distilleries to begin to produce sanitizer for those working in close contact with COVID-19 and the wider public, making a huge difference during this period of unprecedented demand.