Photo courtesy of Durham Distillery
From spirits to sanitizer
These craft distillers are hospitality heroes, selflessly stepping up to the plate to help save our country from COVID-19 at a time when they are in imminent danger of going out of business. With the raw materials needed already on hand, they're racing to make alcohol-based sanitizers for their colleagues, first responders and community.
Photo courtesy of Caledonia Spirits
Although they had to close their on-site bar and retail store, Vermont-based Caledonia Spirits has started making a hand cleaning product, making their first delivery to the Vermont Foodbank last week. The distillery is still paying its staff in full, including benefits.
"Making hand sanitizer started out as a fun exercise a couple weeks ago," says VP of marketing Harrison Kahn. "Just to provide some juniper-scented hand sanitizer to our team. But that was before the word 'pandemic' started being used to describe COVID-19. We asked ourselves, 'Can we keep our team working and employed – all while providing hand sanitizer to those who need it?'"
Caledonia Spirits is currently making another 1,500 units for first responders and the State of Vermont will be paying for the raw materials. To that end, the distillery’s team will be looking for more raw materials (glycerol and small bottles) so that it can keep the project going. If any businesses out there have large volumes of either, Caledonia Spirits is asking that they reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Tango Distillery
Hotel Tango Distillery
Hotel Tango Distillery in Indianapolis is temporarily adding a new 68% ethyl alcohol-based product to their line of craft spirits that can be used as hand cleaner to its production line. So far, they've produced 4,000 bottles to donate to Indianapolis homeless shelters, schools, nursing homes, local delivery stations, fire stations, the USS Indiana and an Indiana National Guard unit stationed overseas.
"Since we already have facilities and equipment geared toward producing high-proof alcohol, which is a common cleaning and anti-bacterial agent, it feels like we have a duty to help wherever we can," says CEO and founder Travis Barnes.
Hotel Tango Distillery is the first combat-disabled, veteran-owned distillery in the U.S.A. and the first artisan distillery to open in Indianapolis since Prohibition.
Photo courtesy of Durham Distillery
Durham Distillery is currently making a 70% ethanol and 30% water sanitizing spray for the hospitality industry, but will be pivoting to hand sanitizer shortly due to overwhelming demand from emergency management personnel.
"As a distillery, we have the proper permits that allows [the company] to purchase a 95% ABV (alcohol by volume) corn-based ethanol that can be mixed with water to make a CDC-recommended 70% ethanol sanitizing spray," says head distiller and co-founder Lee Katrincic.
"This solution can be used to sanitize high-touch areas and surfaces quickly and effectively. We have been making and donating this solution to the hospitality industry. For us, it is really about helping out businesses that really supported us by carrying our products when we got started five years ago," he explains.
They quickly received requests from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, local and regional emergency management agencies and consumers. Currently, Durham Distillery is working with the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) task force and federal agencies to generate guidelines and procedures for American distilleries to legally pivot from making spirits to WHO (World Health Organization) approved hand sanitizer during this crisis.
"We hope to be able to start hand sanitizer production in the next week or so, and distribute shortly after," Katrincic says.
Photo courtesy of Destilería Serrallés
Ponce, Puerto Rico-based Destilería Serrallés shifted its Don Q rum production and, for the time being, is focusing on manufacturing ethyl alcohol with a 70% concentration for free distribution to hospitals and multiple health providers.
"The current emergency situation we are experiencing is critical," says president and CEO Philippe Brechot. "Given the critical outlook and our strong production capabilities, we quickly took on this task and have distributed thousands of gallons of this much-needed high-proof alcohol suitable for sanitation and disinfection, which is vital to prevent the spread of the virus."
Last week alone, Destilería Serrallés distributed nearly 10,000 gallons to hospitals and primary care facilities island-wide. A small crew is working according to strict hygiene and safety protocols and the remainder of employees are on full payroll at home.
"Over the last few years, Puerto Rico has experienced unprecedented emergencies, including devastating hurricanes, earthquakes and this impending health crisis," Brechot says. "Puerto Rico is a resilient community and we are confident in our ability to recover from this collective challenge and rise again."
Photo courtesy of Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.
Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.
Blaum Bros. in Galena, Illinois has begun producing hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer per WHO recipe – neutral grain spirit (ethanol), glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and demineralized water.
"We are the only ones in our area with the ability to do this, so we knew we needed to help and do whatever we possibly could", says Mike Blaum. The Blaums will be offering their hand sanitizer free of charge at their distillery to those in need and gifting a significant portion of sanitizer to first responders.
"We urge everyone to only accept what is necessary, and to further share with those in need," he says. "While not necessary, we will also accept donations at the distillery to help offset the costs."
Photo courtesy of KOVAL Distillery
Chicago's first distillery since Prohibition is now focusing all of its efforts on providing hand sanitizers in bulk to the medical community, retirement homes and those on the front lines fighting against COVID-19. KOVAL Distillery is fully independently-owned and family-run, and they're committed to ensuring sanitizer stays free for those who need it most.
"At KOVAL, we are lucky to be in a position to help those on the front lines," says president & co-founder, Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart. "We have seen our business shift completely, yet in a time of war – which is what this clearly is – everyone needs to do their part to push forward into a future where we can once again celebrate together en masse."
They have set up a GoFundMe to help support production – purchasing necessary supplies, paying staff, and keeping the lights on while they work around the clock to serve the hundreds of organizations in need. Choose Chicago has stepped in to help with delivery logistics and local breweries such as Temperance Beer, Urban Renewal, Metropolitan Brewing and Great Central Brewing Company are donating fermented beer for distillation.
"KOVAL is honored to do its part," Hart says. "We look forward to a day when we can once again focus on spritzers over sanitizers."
Photo courtesy of Westland Distillery
“As of today, we are no longer a whiskey distillery," says master distiller Matt Hofmann. "Westland Distillery is now dedicating itself to the production of hand sanitizer indefinitely, for as long as the community needs us, be that days, weeks, or months. We have received urgent requests from hospitals, community centers and individuals. We all have a role to play."
The Seattle distiller will begin distributing hand sanitizer this week, working with Washington State Department of Enterprise Services, and focusing on King, Pierce, Snohomish, Island, and Skagit counties to start.
"We believe we have the capacity to make about 200-250 gallons a day, but we don’t truly know our true output until we get into production next week," Hofmann says.
Westland will do this for free up to the first $50,000 in purchase costs, roughly a month’s worth. After that, they will charge 50% of purchase costs, which will be between $5-6 per gallon, with no charge based on overheads.
Photo courtesy of 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits
10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits
After receiving a call from Eagle County Emergency Operations Center saying they were looking for hand sanitizer, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits founder Ryan Thompson realized he was in a unique position to fill a need in the community with a byproduct of distilling.
"It was an easy decision to make," Thompson says. "The biggest challenge we’ve had is getting bottles!"
10th Mountain has 700 bottles on order, but in the meantime, they're offering hand sanitizer free to the public and encouraging first responders and members of the community to bring their empty bottles to be filled.
Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Distillery
Breckenridge Distillery has been inundated by requests for much-needed hand sanitizer from fire stations, banks, grocery stores, delivery drivers and more.
"Up to this point, the limiting factor has been regulation, availability of non-ethanol components, and packaging," explains marketing manager Jessie Unruh. "In order to make the gel format that most people are used to, we need glycerol to use as a thickener, but the suppliers are sold out of this item. Also, essentially all possible packaging configurations are sold out and on back order."
Right now, Breckenridge Distillery is producing 1 oz. bottles because that's the only size they can find, and offering hand sanitizer free of charge at the distillery while asking patrons to donate to the Bartenders' Guild.
"The FDA and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) are not allowing bulk sale or distribution of these products and they are enforcing excise tax on us at the same rates as spirits even though we're donating 100% of the product," Unruh says.
On March 20th, the FDA published a new set of enforceable standards and guidelines requiring numerous registration points, product codes, labeling requirements, legal reviews, insurance provisions and complaint tracking.
"We’ve answered the call and spent several thousand dollars on incoming supplies to provide hand sanitizer as fast as possible during a pandemic, but the only bottle size we’re able to get can’t even fit all the required legalese and disclaimers. We would love to see these agencies dramatically simplify the process and allow us to help our community."
Photo courtesy of Jeff Dow
Last week, Frey Ranch Distillery in Fallon, Nevada, began producing hand sanitizer in addition to its regular whiskey production. After a local hospital reached out to ask if the distillery was producing hand sanitizer, the team expedited production in order to meet the immediate needs of the community.
At this time, a handful of employees from the distilling team have shifted their focus to producing hand sanitizer and will continue to do so as needed.
"As farmers, it’s in our nature to lend a helping hand to our neighbors and the greater community in times of need," says CEO and co-founder Colby Frey. "When we realized there was an opportunity to assist by producing hand sanitizer at Frey Ranch Distillery, it was a no-brainer for us."
The first batch of 500 units will all be donated to the local bar and restaurant community, and as of now, Frey Ranch plans to continue donating all additional hand sanitizer they produce rather than selling it.
Photo courtesy of Jordan Hughes
New Deal Distillery
New Deal Distillery in Portland, Oregon is being contracted for pay to make hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer for Portland General Electric's 12 line stations in the Portland Metro Area.
"Even though this is an extremely difficult time for our business, it feels good to use our expertise to help anyone working hard to keep people safe during this pandemic," says owner and distiller Tom Burkleaux. In such uncertain times, this mutually beneficial pivot is necessary for the distillery's survival.