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Distilleries producing hand sanitizers in light of COVID-19 crisis


A number of distilleries across Canada have switched from making gin, vodka and rye to mixing hand sanitizer in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corby Spirit and Wine Limited and its Walkerville Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery in Windsor, Ont., is one of the distilleries that are helping the cause. The venue typically distills 180,000 litres of alcohol every day, but is adding hand sanitizer to its production line.

“Corby is proud to support the efforts of the Canadian and Ontario governments and communities across the country in fighting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patrick O’Driscoll, chief executive officer of Corby, said in a press release. “In co-ordination with local and senior levels of government, we are utilizing our production capacity and Windsor distillery to help provide hand sanitizer to areas where it is in need.”

The sanitizer will be donated where needed in Windsor, and to the TTC in Toronto.

“In times like this, it is important that everyone, especially companies with strong Canadian roots, like ours, prioritize good corporate citizenship and step up in the name of the greater good, O’Driscoll said. “I am glad that we were able to form this public/private partnership and repurpose our spirits production facilities to meet a pressing need.”

The number of Canadian distillers producing sanitizer – for free for people working in essential services or for purchase to regular consumers – has grown dramatically in the past week.

Distilleries big and small across the country have jumped on the bandwagon.

Grit City Distillery in Medicine Hat, Alta., is dedicating its equipment and production area to create a mass amount of hand sanitizer for the city.

“OK Medicine Hat, we are ready for you,” the company said in an Instagram post. “Last night we met with first responders who reached out to us (RCMP, search & rescue etc.) and distributed hand sanitizer to their crews who where completely out. Today we are set up in front of our tasting room and ready to fill your small containers. Because we are working in an emergency situation, we have not had time to order containers, so please bring your own and we will fill it.”

The company said it will be filling bottles as long as supplies last.

In Toronto, gin distillers like Spirit Of York, Dillon’s Distillery and Reid’s Distillery are also producing hand sanitizer and disinfectants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Reid’s is giving away hand sanitizer in spray bottles for anyone willing to stop by their location at 32 Logan.

“We, along with the entire distilling community, want to do what we can to help during this time,” the company wrote in an Instagram post.

Spirit Of York, meanwhile, is selling its housemade hand sanitizer for $2.95, or giving it away for free to those who can’t afford it. Proceeds from the sale will go to local food banks, the company said on Instagram.

In British Columbia, Ampersand Distilling Co. has prepared bulk sanitizer for community organizations that need it, while In Edmonton, Alta., Hansen Distillery is working on making a hand sanitizer, and in Saskatoon, Sask., LB Distillers and Stumbletown Distilling are teaming up and retooling to start manufacturing alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

“We have started production and distribution of hand sanitizer to first responders,” LB Distillers said on its Facebook page. “We recognize there is a desperate demand but we wanted to provide sanitizer to those risking their own safety and don’t have access to a hand washing station.”



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