10 breweries and distilleries around the world making hand sanitiser
It is a strange time when some of our most read stories of the month have been about hand sanitiser.
With coronavirus infecting close to 1 million people worldwide to date, health authorities have suggested using hand sanitiser as one of the easiest ways to prevent the disease from spreading.
This has lead to panic buying the anti-bacterial gel and, now, supermarkets and chemists are starting to run low on hand sanitiser.
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a recipe for making hand sanitiser at home, but its guidelines recommend using a white spirit that contains a minimum of 60% ABV for it to be effective. Given that most spirits in the UK and Europe are sold at around 40% ABV, this kind of potency is hard to find for everyday shoppers.
As a result, dozens of spirits manufacturers have answered the call and started to make hand sanitisers or high-strength spirits of their own. Some are selling these to local supermarkets, some are asking for donations from their local communities to support charitable initiatives, and some are giving them away to those most in need.
We’ve taken a look at some of the companies making space in their still houses for anti-bacterial gel, from luxury goods giants like LVMH, to state-run alcohol distributors, and microdistilleries around the world.
Click through to see which companies have taken up the call so far.
Are you a small producer making your own hand sanitiser, or helping your local community? Get in touch at email@example.com and tell us what you’re up to.
Brewdog is one of the latest drinks groups to pivot to personal hygiene. The brewer’s spirits arm, Brewdog Distilling Co., is now making hand sanitiser at its distillery in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Watt posted a mock-up of the gel bottles on Twitter on Tuesday (17 March), and bare a striking resemblance to the company’s new branding, which was unveiled last month.
Brewdog co-founder James Watt said the company is not selling it for profit, but is instead “giving it away to those who need it.
In France, spirits giant Pernod Ricard said it would donate 70,000 litres of pure alcohol to produce hand sanitizer. The company is working with Laboratoire Cooper, which supplies hand sanitiaer to French pharmacies, according to an announcement from the group on Wednesday.
Pernod Ricard’s announcement came as French health officials warned the country could face a shortage of basic resources as it goes into lockdown, including hand sanitiser.
The decision could help pharmacies across the country produce the equivalent of 1.8 million individual 50ml vials of hydroalcoholic gel.
Sébastien Lucot, Managing Director of Laboratoire Cooper, added: “We are very pleased with this partnership with Ricard SAS. Since January we have been steadily increasing our production capacity. It has already increased five-fold in one month, with the demand of pharmacists and consumers being a top priority for us.”
Elsewhere, in Spain and Ireland, Pernod Ricard Spain and Irish Distillers will also put their technical, human and production facilities at the service of the authorities to produce hand sanitiser.
Meanwhile, Pernod Ricards subsidiaries have also turned their production to hand sanitizer.
Absolut Vodka has said it will distribute high alcohol neutral spirit in Sweden for use in hand sanitisers.
Paula Eriksson, communications manager for The Absolut Company, has said the vodka producer is “happy to help”.
“We can deliver the neutral alcohol by itself if the receiving authorities can help with the rest,” she tweeted.
She also mentioned on social media that the company had made contact with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and the Swedish Department of Health.
And in the US, Pernod Ricard’s Arkansas manufacturing plant and distilleries, which are dedicated to producing its whiskey labels Rabbit Hole (Kentucky), Smooth Ambler (West Virginia) and TX Whiskey (Texas) are producing hand sanitiser for the American market.
Psychompomp Microdistillery & Circumstance Distillery, Bristol, UK
While it is perhaps a simpler process for large drinks companies to lend their services to governments as impromptu sanitiser factories, smaller, independent distillers and breweries around the world have also been doing their part for the local community.
In Bristol, UK, Psychompomp Microdistillery & Circumstance Distillery set about making hand sanitisers with 65% ethanol (it is recommended that hand sanitiser contain an ABV of at least 60% to be effective). The gel is also made with gin botanicals already on-hand at the distillery, and aloe vera gel.
The distiller took action earlier this month after finding their local shops had run out due to panic buying in the local area.
Liam Hirt, co-founder of Psychopomp & Circumstance Distillery, said: “The team wanted some hand sanitiser and everywhere was sold out so we decided to made some.”
Rather than selling the rare commodity on for profit, the distillery offered to add a small bottle of sanitiser to every gin order, and placed a donation box at the still house.
Customers are being encouraged to bring their own refillable bottles to top up on hand sanitiser, and the donation box at the facility allows health-conscious locals to pay what they like.
Donations will be handed to Bristol children’s hospital charity, The Grand Appeal.
Annex Ale Project, Alberta, Canada
View this post on Instagram
As many people just heard on Alberta At Noon, we are going to be working with @raftbeerlabs and local distilleries to produce hand sanitizer as stocks in Calgary and Alberta are critically low. We will be scaling our operations as much as we can to meet demand. We will also be donating some of our stock to the food bank, homeless shelters and other charities they need these supplies. We are in a unique position to do this as a brewery because we have a license to acquire and warehouse distilled spirits and a packaging line to be able to put these products into cans. The product will be sold as sanitizer refills. You will need to pour it into a sealable container after opening (sanitizer bottle, soap dispenser, shampoo bottle, whatever) and label it as hand sanitizer. We hope to have this out by next week and we have commitment from a large local grocery chain for distribution. An announcement will be made once everything is in place. Also, Annex and @raftbeerlabs will be putting together a production package that we hope to share with other Canadian distillers and brewers that are legally able to blend spirit. If you’re a label supplier or a Calgary-based distillery or brewery who can to help meet demand please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s flatten that curve together. As ever, Annex
In Canada, local brewer Annex Ale Project has said it will make around 7,000 cans of hand sanitiser each week for the foreseeable future to supply a grocery store in Calgary, Alberta.
“There are these shortages of hand sanitiser all over the city and the World Health Organisation (WHO) put together basically a recipe for anyone that needs to make it, so I figured if I make alcohol most of the time anyway, why not just pivot a little bit,” owner Andrew Bullied told the Calgary Herald.
Annex will produce hand sanitiser based on the WHO recipe, which uses hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and 80 per cent ethanol. It will be made from the wash (the final stage of brewing before distillation), with the ethanol being removed and used in the end product.
In a post on Instagram yesterday (18 March), Annex said it hopes to roll out the product by the end of the week.
“We are in a unique position to do this as a brewery because we have a license to acquire and warehouse distilled spirits and a packaging line to be able to put these products into cans,” Annex said.
The product will be sold as sanitiser refills, so those who buy it will need to to pour it into a sealable container after opening, such as a soap dispenser or shampoo bottle.
The brewer is working with Raft Beer Labs, a Calgary-based company that does quality assurance for breweries, to create a production package that “we hope to share with other Canadian distillers and brewers that are legally able to blend spirit.”
New York Distilling Company, New York, USA
In the US, a number of distillers are also making their own contribution. Williamsburg-based New York Distilling Company is using its undiluted Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin to create bulk hand sanitiser.
The recipe is based on CDC recommendations, using two parts uncut gin (about 85% ABV) and aloe vera gel.
As it is based on their Perry’s Tot Gin, it also contains botanicals, providing a scent of juniper berries, citrus peels, and spices, according to the company.
The hand sanitiser isn’t available for sale, but will be offered to people from selected businesses that have existing relationships with New York Distilling, “as a way of offering solidarity, support, and friendship for the local hospitality industry.”
Yahara Bay Distillers, Madison, Wisconsin
Elsewhere in the states, Yahara Bay Distillers is making its own contribution to the hand sanitiser crisis.
Though it is not specifically making hand sanitiser, the distillery, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is working to bottle a super-strength version of its “Just Vodka,” which comes in at 70% ABV, in the hopes it could be used to kill bacteris.
Nels Forde, the general manager, said in a statement that the distillery doesn’t yet have an approved formula and label to make hand sanitiser, something that could take months to gain approval for from the American Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Instead, it is selling the high-strength vodka without added aloe or another moisturising element, and the first 75 customers who purchase it will get a free spray bottle or a roll of toilet paper.
The company hopes to start selling the new vodka today (19 March), reports Madison Magazine.
Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy
Luxury goods group LVMH has instructed its perfume and cosmetics division to prepare its facilities to produce “substantial quantities” of hydroalcoholic gel for the French authorities.
Its brands including Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy will start producing the product from today (16 March) in order to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
The gel will then be delivered free of charge to health authorities. LVMH said it will continue to honour this arrangement for “as long as it is necessary”.
Altia, Helsinki, Finland
A state-owned alcoholic beverage company in Finland, Helsinki-based Altia, has also pledged to help produce up to 200,000 bottles of hand sanitiser per day.
Altia will not be responsible for producing the finished hand sanitiser itself, but will instead produce large volumes of ethanol for use by other companies. In a statement sent on Tuesday (17 March), the company said it had delivered over 70,000kg of denatured alcohol.
Altia’s CEO Pekka Tennilä said: “For a long time, we have served several companies that produce hand sanitisers. In this critical situation, our focus is on ensuring the sufficiency of raw materials and continuing deliveries to our current customers, in addition to serving new customers as quickly as possible.”
Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation (TTL)
In Taiwan, the Tobacco & Liquor Corporation (TTL), the country’s largest manufacturer and distributor of cigarettes and alcohol in, has said it will temporarily halt the production line at the Yilan Distillery and start to manufacture rubbing alcohol instead to help counter Covid-19.
Longtian distillery in Tainan was TTL’s first distillery to help in producing rubbing alcohol. However, with high demand persisting, it has also been decided to use the Yilan Distillery as well.
At the beginning of February, the distillery began producing rubbing alcohol in small batches. It was reported that each batch, comprising 1,080 bottles, sold out in an hour.
The estimated production for each day is 42,000 bottles. TTL will centralise the products for state distribution.