Local Distilleries Producing Hand Sanitizer to Assist in COVID-19 Response

Written by Nicholas Vetrisek

Due to the high demand for hand sanitizer in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, local distilleries have now taken it upon themselves to help ease the burden by producing some themselves.

Distillers such as Cutwater Spirits, Pacific Coast Spirits, and Malahat Spirits are all switching production to hand sanitizer in order to overcome the shortage. 

For the distilleries, due to the high alcohol content, making the hand sanitizer is not a drastic change from what they already do. According to Nicole Hammond of Pacific Coast Spirits, “This doesn’t impact production too much as it is alcohol-based and is similar to running any ‘batch’ of spirits.”

The FDA has officially approved facilities able to produce hand sanitizer to do so, going so far as to provide a recommended formula approved by the FDA. 

Hammond added that “it just takes hours on the still…we can produce four big barrels daily,” also noting that the distillery is working with local companies to fill orders and if demand exceeds their production capabilities, they may potentially look at partnering with other distilleries.

Ken Lee, a partner at Malahat Spirits, has said that his distillery switched its production to making hand sanitizer and has already started test batches, following the World Health Organization’s recommendations. 

“We have already run some test batches per the specifications of the WHO and look forward to getting some out to our community soon to help out with our county’s current needs,” Lee said. “The turnaround is relatively quick since we already make the alcohol in house.”

Cutwater Spirits has started donating their own hand sanitizer to nonprofits in San Diego, including the San Diego Food Bank. 

“In response to the COVID crisis, we are leveraging our production resources to make an ethanol and glycerin-based sanitizer that we will donate to local nonprofits including the San Diego Food Bank, our Miramar neighbors,” said Cutwater Spirits general manager Shreyas Balakrishnan.

Vista’s Misadventure & Co. distillery has also begun producing hand sanitizer and has plans to distribute nationally.

“Last week, our business in our Vista distillery and tasting room screeched to a halt. To survive we needed to change rapidly,” said co-founder Whit Rigali. “Because of our still and industry expertise, we were uniquely positioned to pivot and adapt. To help meet the public’s need in this difficult time, within one week, we were able to produce alcohol for hand sanitizer, bottle it, build a retail website, and ship out over 20,000 bottles of sanitizer to both consumers and wholesalers.”

San Diego County’s distilleries deserve commendation for their quick and decisive action in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.