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Spirits Distilleries Around the US Now Producing Hand Sanitizer

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2020

Barr Hill Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer, a necessary tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has been difficult to come by in stores the past few weeks (or months, depending on your location). Last night, I read in a local email newsletter here in Vermont that Mad River Distillers is producing hand sanitizer and giving it away for free to local residents. They’ve set up two pick-up stations for today — it’s BYOB and limited to 6oz per person. Earlier this week, workers at Barr Hill’s closed distillery made hand sanitizer and distributed it to local food shelves. Green Mountain Distillers and Smuggler’s Notch Distillery have also begun producing hand sanitizer.

These Vermont companies join dozens of other distilleries around the country (and world) that have started using high proof alcohol to produce hand sanitizer that meets the CDC’s recommendation of 60% ethanol needed to inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19: Texas, Alabama, Florida, Connecticut, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oregon, and many more. From Bloomberg:

Basic recipes include aloe vera for moisturizing; distilleries will also add the botanicals or flavorings from their signature spirits as a twist. Portland, Ore.-based Shine Distillery & Grill isn’t treating its formula like a trade secret. “I have fielded some calls from Seattle and suggested they contact their local distilleries to tell them what we are doing,” says general manager Ryan Ruelos. “Because any distillery can do it.”

The one thing they cannot do, though, is sell their sanitizers: Sales of distilled spirits are strictly regulated by the government and could jeopardize business licenses. Instead, distilleries are giving them away to customers who come through their doors. In some cases, such as at Psychopomp Microdistillery in Bristol, England, donations from customers who take the sanitizer are being given to charity.

Around the world, alcohol is often used in toasts that relate to health: the Irish “sláinte” (health), the Mexican Spanish “salud” (to health), the Russian “vashe zdorov’ye” (to your health), the Persian “be salamati” (good health), and the Hindi “achchee sehat” (good health). These distillery-produced hand sanitizers are a toast of health from them to us, and I am very grateful for it.