How distilleries are actually producing hand disinfectants

While alcohol is still a great elixir to help people survive these times of self-quarantine, some distilleries are now diverting their wares from spirits to an even larger market: hand sanitizers.

In Colorado, Marble Distilling found it easy to use its disinfectant manufacturing facilities and raw materials instead of spirits. "We only needed one additive to make a hand sanitizer," said co-founder Carey Shanks, whose company offers a free bottle of sanitizer every two bottles of marble schnapps. "The transition was very quick."

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While the company is still producing its spirits, Shanks says making a high-strength, lint-free disinfectant was the main concern.

Photo: Courtesy of Marble Distilling

The World Health Organization (WHO) prescribes that hand disinfectants must consist of at least 60 percent alcohol, which means starting with a distillate that is much stronger before. These are then mixed with rubber agents such as glycerin or aloe vera gel. Fortunately, this alcohol regulation fits perfectly with the remains of the distilleries.

Connie Baker, co-founder of Marble Distilling, takes whiskey and vodka in hand and says that it takes about three hours to make a 5-gallon bucket of "craft disinfectant", mostly due to the mixing time, the mixing of the alcohol and the rubber is. They soon hope to still make the disinfectant in their 500 gallon stripping. "Our hope is to produce it on a large scale," she says, adding that they have reduced it from 185 to about 170 proofs.

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Shanks came up with the idea after seeing a distillery in Portland, Oregon that did something similar. He says they are handing over the liquor disinfectant to the police and nurses on site and are in talks with a retail chain and local health care providers. "We also had people knocking on our back door with their own bottles," he says.

The only hiccup that they encountered affects the bottle supply chain, although they expect to receive another delivery of around 400 soon.

Nearby, Steamboat Whiskey Co. also got on the hand sanitizer and launched Ski Town Homegrown-Hand. "body could find it in stores," says co-owner Nathan Newhall. "It was something we could do to help the church."

Hand disinfectantPhoto: Courtesy of Steamboat Whiskey Co.

Newhall adds that the process is relatively simple. "If you do alcohol, you get alcohol residues that are not good to drink," he says. “We distill it again and then mix it with glycerin and some hydrogen peroxide. This means that a normally wasted by-product can be used sensibly. "

In early March, the Office for Alcohol, Tobacco, Commerce, and Tax issued a recommendation that allowed distilleries to make hand sanitizers legally and tax free. Newhall says they made theirs long before the directive was introduced. The early jump allowed them to secure ingredients that are difficult to find. It gives free bottles of its disinfectant to the public and also distributes it to grocery stores and long-term care facilities. "We will do this for as long as is necessary," he says.

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Distilleries across the country have begun to burst the cork on freshly-disinfected disinfectants from Portland, Oregon to the Bronx.

"I never thought in my life that I would be in the hand sanitizer business," said Stephen DeAngelo, founder of Brooklyn's Greenhook Ginsmiths, in a recent interview with "It helps to keep my employees busy and we also do a lot of good for the hospitals." DeAngelo's distillery recently placed 4,200 gallon orders from local hospitals and more are in preparation.

Elsewhere, the Brooklyn Navy Yard-based bourbon and moonlight maker Kings County Distillery also sings the tune of the disinfectant and adds a third distillation to turn its spirits into sterilizers. "All of the alcohol we have will end up being hand sanitizer," said co-founder Colin Spoelman to NYeater.

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