Local Distilleries Shift Operations from Spirits to Sanitizers

When hand sanitizers vanished off store shelves, local distilleries started producing their own. Some are even giving it away free to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Woodinville Whiskey, Glass Vodka in Seattle, Heritage Distilling Co. in Gig Harbor, and Wildwood Spirits Co. in Bothell were some of the local distilleries who have gotten into the hand-sanitizing spirit.

Members of the Washington Distillers Guild have banded together to make even more. Because of the group effort, thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer are being poured directly into the healthcare chain.

“I’m proud to represent the small distilleries of the state who have stepped in to change their production and meet this urgent need,” said Mhairi Voelsgen, founder of BROVO Spirits and president of the Washington Distillers Guild.

“Distilleries have had to learn new processes and buy new equipment to be able to do this, and it represents a significant commitment to their communities. We’re making thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to keep our nurses and doctors safer.”

Woodinville Whiskey’s co-founder Orlin Sorenson said it was clear that his team had to assist.

“Our team here at the distillery has jumped all in. Everyone in this region is doing their piece, staying at home and making sacrifices — and every little bit counts. If this protects and equips frontline teams in healthcare, and our neighbors who are high risk and in need of something as simple and vital and hand sanitizer, Woodinville’s committed to helping.”

Wildwood Spirits Co. went from producing its award-winning gin, vodka, and bourbon, to making hand sanitizer early on for King County Metro and the Seattle Police Department due to King County’s request.

Owner and head distiller Erik Liedholm, is also providing small bottles of their Rensa (Swedish for “clean”) sanitizer to customers. Those who are donating $5 or more will not only have clean hands but will support Big Table Seattle, a local nonprofit group supporting hospitality workers in need.

At Heritage Distilling, the hand sanitizer spray is so popular that the website lets people sign up for alerts for when more is available. The company also is accepting donations in order to get more sanitizer into the hands of the people who need it most, like first responders, hospitals, care facilities, and grocery store workers.

According to the folks at Woodinville Whiskey, the production and distilling process to make hand sanitizer at their facility includes mashing and aging products for about a week. They are distributing it in bulk to the medical community. They are joined in this effort by farmer Arnie Omlin who grows all Woodinville’s grain on his family farm in Quincy, WA where all the whiskey ages as well. The Omlin’s are donating all the corn for the Woodinville hand sanitizer.

Glass Vodka in Seattle was offering free 1-ounce bottles of sanitizer, and larger ones for sale, because clean hands help save lives.

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is the editor in chief at 425 magazine.
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