How the alcohol industry is helping combat coronavirus

A rum distillery in Puerto Rico is donating the supply to hospitals.

March 19, 2020, 1:47 PM

Businesses around the world have come up with unique ways to help their communities amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the spirits industry has pivoted from providing stiff drinks to creating a health product in high-demand to help ward off infectious germs.

PHOTO: Bottles of hand sanitizer made at the Eight Oaks Farm Distillery fill a box at the distillery in New Tripoli, Pa., March 16, 2020.
Bottles of hand sanitizer made at the Eight Oaks Farm Distillery fill a box at the distillery in New Tripoli, Pa., March 16, 2020. The distillery's owner, Chad Butters, grew increasingly angry as he saw the skyrocketing price of hand sanitizer. So he's temporarily converting his operation into a production line for the suddenly hard-to-find, gooey, alcohol-based disinfectant.
Matt Rourke/AP

The distillation process can vary depending on the booze or the brand, but it all boils down to the same result -- alcohol. And with hand sanitizer and other medical disinfectant supplies in short supply amid the COVID-19 outbreak, many producers in the distillation industry have shifted gears to temporarily use their production lines to focus solely on making more of the highly effective alcohol-based agents.

Ireland gin distillery lifts community's spirits with fresh supply of sanitizer

PHOTO: Members of the public queue to buy bottles of hand sanitizer and gin, made and sold at Listoke Distillery and Gin School in Tenure, north of Dublin in Ireland, March 18, 2020.
Members of the public queue to buy bottles of hand sanitizer and gin, made and sold at Listoke Distillery and Gin School in Tenure, north of Dublin in Ireland, March 18, 2020. The gin stills of the Listoke Distillery have been repurposed in the fight against the coronavirus, producing precious hand sanitizer currently in short supply across Ireland.
Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

The gin stills of the Listoke Distillery in Northeast Ireland have changed course from crafting its juniper botanical-based spirit to make hand sanitizer, the company announced on Twitter.

Since Saturday, the team at Listoke Distillery has sold hundreds of bottles of the 62% alcohol hand gel at cost for customers who need it, including fire fighters and other first responders.

"Basically we're actually using the same ingredients -- so for all intents and purposes you could say it's a very, very strong gin," managing director and co-founder Bronagh Conlon told AFP. "We would absolutely not recommend anybody to drink it."

Conlon estimated that they have sold upwards of 4,000 bottles to provide a boost in the local fight against infection.

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Maryland distilleries shift to produce hand sanitizer

"A number of our distillers all across the state instead of producing alcohol they are producing hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer for the local communities," Governor Larry Hogan said at a press conference on Thursday.

Rum distillery in Puerto Rico donates ethyl alcohol supplies to hospitals

Destilería Serrallés, Inc., a Puerto Rico-based rum distillery, announced it has shifted production to focus on "manufacturing ethyl alcohol, with a 70% concentration on free distribution to hospitals and multiple health providers."

The company said it made the decision to help with "Puerto Rico's shortage of ethyl alcohol and as a way of proactively contributing to the emergency health crisis currently faced on the island."

The alcohol, which is not suitable for consumption, is recommended by the World Health Organization for its use in sanitation and disinfection protocols in patients and clinical environments.

PHOTO: Rum barrels from Destilería Serrallés, Inc. at the distillery in Puerto Rico.
Rum barrels from Destilería Serrallés, Inc. at the distillery in Puerto Rico.
Destilería Serrallés, Inc.

"This type of product is recommended to help prevent COVID-19 when used as a sanitary agent and disinfectant," Philippe Brechot, president and CEO of Destilería Serrallés said in a statement. "The company will be coordinating logistics with hospitals, eligible organizations and health providers throughout the island" to donate the supplies.

"The current emergency situation we are experiencing is critical. We must all contribute to stopping the spread of the virus by exercising prudent actions, discipline in our hygiene and promoting social isolation as requested by the authorities," Brechot added.

Puerto Rico officials have taken measures such as enacting an islandwide overnight curfew, limiting travel and are following recommendations by the WHO, CDC and the Puerto Rico Department of Health.

New Jersey distillery pumps out over 1,500 bottles of gel sanitizer for free

Claremont Distillery owner Tim Koether had a very simple philosophy behind the temporary production change.

"Since we do have that ability to make it why wouldn't we," he told ABC New York station WABC. "My son said to me -- 'can't we just make it?' -- And then we decided certainly we could make it."

The family-run operation has over 1,500 plastic bottles to fill with the alcohol and aloe vera gel mixture, which Koether said they will be released to the public for free.

"We have received calls from a lot of first responders," he said. "Considering the number of calls I've already received, it's going to be significant," he added of the production numbers.

PHOTO: Co-owner Alan Davis distributes free hand sanitizers at Chambers Bay Distillery, which is creating the product and giving it away, during the coronavirus outbreak, in University Place, Washington, March 17, 2020.
Co-owner Alan Davis distributes free hand sanitizers at Chambers Bay Distillery, which is creating the product with ethanol alcohol and giving it away, following reports of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country, in University Place, Washington, March 17, 2020.
David Ryder/Reuters

Pennsylvania distillery enlists in families to help sanitizer production

PHOTO: Distillery employees make hand sanitizer at the Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in New Tripoli, Pa., March 16, 2020. The distillery is temporarily converting to producing the suddenly hard-to-find, gooey, alcohol-based disinfectant.
From left, Caitlin Bagenstose, Logan Snyder and his wife Carly Snyder bottle hand sanitizer made at the Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in New Tripoli, Pa., March 16, 2020. The distillery's owner, Chad Butters, is temporarily converting his operation into a production line for the suddenly hard-to-find, gooey, alcohol-based disinfectant.
Matt Rourke/AP

Amid the hand sanitizer shortage, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery owner Chad Butlers has switched up their Pennsylvania production for the time being to help create more supply of the alcohol-based disinfectant.

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