Story at a glance

  • U.S. distilleries are using high-proof alcohol and other ingredients to manufacture hand sanitizer amid shortages.
  • Most products will be donated to hospitals and charities or made affordable to consumers.

Hand sanitizer is in short supply as people around the country prepare to self-quarantine as the coronavirus spreads. Some are even taking advantage of the situation and gouging the prices of necessary supplies. Now, though, U.S. distilleries are stepping up to bridge the gap between supply and demand. 

ABC reports that multiple American distilleries are temporarily converting their operations to create hand sanitizer from high-proof alcohol. 

One of the first distilleries to be profiled was Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in Pennsylvania. Chad Butters, the founder and owner of the distillery, was increasingly frustrated with high prices and limited inventory of commercial hand sanitizers, so he took matters into his own hands and created a batch of hand disinfectants from company supplies. 

The first 20 bottles Butters filled were donated to charity on Monday, but consumers can find homemade sanitizers at local farmers markets. To get the consistency and chemical makeup right, he uses ingredients such as high-proof alcohol, aloe and glycerine. Butters will let the public decide what to pay, calling the price a “donation.”

“We are in a national emergency,” Butters explained to reporters. “What’s the right thing to do? The right thing to do is support this community by providing something that is in desperate need. We’ll flood the valley with hand sanitizer and drive that price right down.”


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Similar small distillers, such as Green Mountain Distillers and Smugglers’ Notch Distillery in Vermont and Durham Distillery in North Carolina are making craft sanitizers products to support public health. Their products will either be donated to charity and hospitals or be given to the public at low prices. 

The food and beverage industry has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. States like New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Colorado and New Jersey have closed all dine-in operations at restaurants and bars until further notice, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended cancelling social gatherings including 10 or more people for the next 15 days to avoid community spread. These new restrictions have taken a large toll on the alcohol and food industry, tourism and events. 

Speaking with ABC, Brad Plummer, a spokesman for the American Distilling Institute and editor of Distiller Magazine, confirmed that many U.S. distillers are open to converting operations toward producing hand sanitizer. For distilleries, this is a way to strengthen community health and curb the impact COVID-19 has had on business. 

“The hospitality industry is going to be decimated by this and they are our primary clients. We’re looking for ways to help in the response to this, but also to find other ways to look for revenue streams,” Plummer said.

The government is reportedly aware of distillery efforts. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, an advocacy and trade group headquartered in Washington, D.C., is reportedly communicating with both regulatory bodies and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, headed by Vice President Mike Pence. 

The goal is to “make sure we can be quick and nimble and fill a need in the marketplace,” according to The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States President and CEO Chris Swonger. “We all want to do our part.”


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Published on Mar 17, 2020