Coronavirus: Distilleries Diverting Operations to Make Hand Sanitizer

Coronavirus: Distilleries Diverting Operations to Make Hand Sanitizer

Distilleries nationwide are changing their operations to produce more hand sanitizer to combat coronavirus, the president announced at the White House on Saturday.

President Donald Trump used Pernod Ricard USA as an example of this development:

This is really an example where we are repurposing alcohol. They went out and repurposed their alcohol production capabilities in Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia to make hand sanitizer, and it’s a big difference.

“And they’ve been unbelievable,” Trump said. 

“Their first delivery will go out on Tuesday,” Trump said. “It’s going to go to various states.”

“They’re going to start I think in New York and they’re going to work their way around,” Trump said. “They’re making a tremendous amount of hand sanitizer.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires hand sanitizers to be at least 60 percent alcohol to make them effective.

Two distillers located in the nation’s capitol are also stepping up to the plate.

“We’ve got all this high-proof booze around, why not put it to use?” Cotton & Reed co-founder Jordan Cotton said in a DCist article.

“You can’t get [hand sanitizer], so therefore you have to make it. In order to make it, you have to have good, high-proof spirit,” Republic Restoratives founder and CEO Pia Carusone said in the same article. “These sort of crises demand innovation.”

The DCist reported on how that innovation is taking place:

Republic Restoratives’ cleanser is made from 140-proof ethyl alcohol, vegetable glycerine, and hydrogen peroxide. Cotton & Reed’s is made with 66 percent ABV rum (the only spirit they manufacture) vegetable glycerine, and essential oils like bergamot, lemon, and orange.

Cotton & Reed is also handing out free groceries and hand sanitizer to service and hospitality workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as part of the Friends and Family Meal initiative—a nonprofit that provides food from local farmers to those in need.

“The oils take over [the aroma], but there’s a certain rum-iness to it,” Cotton said.

An order from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser resulted in both distilleries shuttering their tasting rooms and bars, but alcohol retailers can still sell their products through delivery services or at their retail counters.

U.S. News and World Report also reported on this trend:

Distilleries must follow strict rules for the products they sell under the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, but many are working with state officials to legally make the switch to producing hand sanitizer.

The recipe “starts with ethanol, which is what we have plenty of in the distillery, then you add glycerin, hydrogen peroxide water and you mix it up,” Scott Jendrek, owner of Patapsco Distilling Co. in Sykesville, Maryland, told a local NBC News affiliate.

In Vermont, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery plans to release a hand sanitizer this week at its Waterbury and Jeffersonville locations. According to NBC News, part of the proceeds will be donated to the state’s efforts to combat the outbreak.

“I know I have a unique opportunity to help out a little bit and keep my staff employed,” Jeremy Elliott, the company’s co-owner, said in the article.

And in Colorado, Spirit Hound Distillers is storing its hand sanitizer solution in spray bottles donated from a local skin and body care company. Spirit Hound has donated its hand sanitizer to its local fire department, businesses, and a local home health care nurse. 

“Within two hours, we filled 1,000 four-ounce bottles and a bunch of gallon jugs and we are giving them out,” Craig Engelhorn, the company’s head distiller, told the Denver Post.

“Nearby in Boulder, J&L Distilling has also delivered handmade hand sanitizer to its local fire department and some senior care organizations,” World Report reported.

“There’s a need in the community and I’m uniquely positioned to fill it,” co-founder Seth Johnson said.

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