March 23, 2020
Responding to a new and urgent patriotic call-of-duty, craft distilleries are adding a new product to their lineup of gins, whiskeys, and rums. They are gearing up to make scads of free hand sanitizer, The New York Times reports.
Many are reporting extraordinary demand for the product, which has been hard, if not impossible, to find on store shelves. In response, distilleries are giving away hand sanitizer for free, despite losing sales of their traditional spirits because of the closing of restaurants, bars, and their own tasting rooms.
“This is not an economic lifeline for distilleries,” Brad Plummer, a spokesman for the American Distilling Institute and editor in chief of Distiller Magazine, told the Times. “We live in these communities. We know these people. We’re watching them suffer, and we have the ability to help.”
Litchfield Distillery in Litchfield, Connecticut told the news outlet that it had been inundated by hundreds of calls from people clamoring for a few of the roughly 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer it produced this week-incorporating the very same alcohol it typically uses to make gin, bourbon, and vodka.
“Right now, we’re down to a couple hundred bottles, which will probably be gone by midmorning tomorrow,” Jack Baker, an owner of the distillery with his brothers David and Peter Baker, said on Thursday night, March 19.
He said the calls had come from health care workers, police departments, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. “And then we have people walking in with just desperation on their faces, and old people calling up, crying,” Baker said. “It’s just a mess.”
Many distillery owners said they were proud to be stepping in to fill a national need during a time of crisis and didn’t see hand sanitizer as a potential source of profit. Baker said he had been giving away the bottles he makes without charging customers.
“The community has supported us, so it’s an obligation, if you have a product that could be helpful,” he said. “It’s what you do.”
Mr. Plummer said early responses to an industry survey suggested that three-fourths of the nation’s 2,000 craft distilleries were considering making sanitizer as a way to help health care workers, law enforcement officials and the general public.
The distilleries, which had been following a recipe recommended by the World Health Organization, were having a hard time finding plastic containers to bottle the product, Plummer said. Many were asking members of the public to bring their own bottles from home.
Research contact: @nytimes