Local Distilleries Help Pour Some Hope

| May 19, 2020 | Feature Drink Features National

With a multitude of spirits-makers retooling processes to support hand sanitizer production, even smaller-scale local distilleries are helping pour some hope by pitching in at home. Here are a few of the bright spots—and shots—across the country.

New England

Batson River Brewing & Distilling in Kennebunkport, Maine, with craft beers and artisanal gin, whiskey, rum and vodka products distributed all over New England, is using its resources to provide hand sanitizer to local communities at the rate of 5,000 bottles per week. Distillery partner Tim Harrington, who is also a partner at Kennebunkport Resort Collection, is bringing in displaced workers from that hotel operation to assist in the hand sanitizer project.


New England’s Batson River Brewing & Distilling’s hand sanitizer takes a lighthearted tone


Spirit-makers in the City of Brotherly Love are responding in kind: In addition to many distillers shifting to hand sanitizer and constituent alcohol production, Bluebird Distilling, New Liberty Distillery, and Stateside Vodka all offer new home-delivery services.


Windy City-based KOVAL Distillery, known for its organic, kosher line of spirits, also turns to bulk hand sanitizer production at its distillery, with thousands of gallons already delivered to community support organizations, public health offices and neighborhood action organizations with the help of donations from charities and privates sector partners like Chicago Beyond and Edelson PC. “I have been able to wake up each day knowing I have a fabulous team working diligently to make a difference in this fight. I am honored and privileged to work beside them,” says KOVAL Distillery co-founder Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart.


KOVAL Distillery co-founder Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart in its Chicago plant.


As part of global liquor group Pernod Ricard, Fort Worth-based TX Whiskey is among the group’s many U.S. distilleries that have switched to hand sanitizer production. At press time, TX Whiskey was on track to produce over 5,000 bottles in a variety of sizes, with first shipments going to local FEMA initiatives. “Though production is just beginning to ramp up, we are eager to see how the TX sanitizer process here at our distillery will supply those in need,” says TX Whiskey General Manager Paul Di Vito.

Driftwood’s Desert Door Distillery, which is usually busy creating the rare sotol spirit (akin to mezcal and tequila), is also producing hand sanitizer, donating it to first responders, restaurants, shelters, senior centers and community organizations across the Lone Star State. First deliveries went to the Houston Police Officers’ Union, and the plan is to produce about 20,000 8-ounce bottles for donation and public distribution.


The kind folks at Desert Door Distillery in Driftwood, Texas, have switched production from the intriguing and authentic sotol spirit to hand sanitizer for local first responders and agencies in the state.

Based in Austin, Garrison Brothers Distillery had originally planned to release its 10-years-in-the-making Laguna Madre special-edition bourbon to loyal friends and partners. Now, Texas’ oldest legal distillery is gifting the very special edition to the first 2,004 people who donate $1,000 or more to its Operation Crush COVID-19 initiative that benefits vet-led disaster support organization Team Rubicon.


The storied and sustainable Marble Distilling Co. outside Aspen in Carbondale, Colo., has transformed its on-site production facility into making hand sanitizer. Lines have formed on the town’s main street with people eager to get a bottle or two of the free sanitizer. The distillery has been giving away more than 30 gallons of hand sanitizer per day to community members. It has also produced some larger orders for businesses, asking that they only cover the basic production costs.

Down the road in Basalt, Woody Creek Distillers has shifted to making more than 1,000 liters of hand sanitizer each week, which is being given to first-responder agencies, healthcare facilities and essential businesses for free. It is also shipping across the state and region to serve first responders, healthcare and critical businesses.


Blue Clover Distillery, producers of artisan vodka and gin, was among the first local spirits-makers to transition into hand sanitizer production in Arizona, with many donated bottles going to the Arizona State Police. Plans are to make the sanitizer product available to the public and ramp up donations to other local organizations. “Scottsdale will bounce back fast. We’re a resilient, tightknit group here,” says distillery owner Weston Holm. “I love Scottsdale, and this place has a special place in my heart. Not only is it my home, but it’s a place I love to be a part of, and I look forward to helping rebuild in any way I can when this is over. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same.”

Las Vegas

The first 5,000 bottles of hand sanitizer have already been purchased by the City of Henderson from Las Vegas Distillery’s production pivot. At press time, owner Katalin Racz was only waiting for two additional ingredients to complete the process; the needed alcohol has already been distilled.


When Orange County called for help, “of course we said yes,” says Robin Christenson, co-owner of Santa Ana’s Blinking Owl Distillery, which makes its fine spirits from 100% organic California grains. “We didn’t know how, but we wanted to help and do our part to fight this pandemic while also trying to stay afloat as a business during these challenging times.” With the help of a donation from business partner and Criminal Minds star Kirsten Vangsness, the distillery is now producing on the order of 4,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week.


Orange County’s Blinking Owl Distillery owners and staff in their facility, which is now making sanitizer

Northern California’s Savage & Cooke in Vallejo has completely shut down whiskey production to focus solely on the production of hand sanitizer. It will produce 35,000 gallons of World Health Organization-approved hand sanitizer (a guarantee personally covered by distillery owner Dave Phinney, former owner of famed The Prisoner Wine Company). The operation is also hiring local bartenders who have been furloughed to help complete sanitizer orders and deliveries.

San Diego’s largest distillery, Cutwater Spirits—which manufactures a wide range of spirits, including whiskey, vodka, gin, rum and liqueurs, as well as canned cocktails—has mobilized its production resources and Miramar facility to create alcohol hand sanitizer that is donated directly to local nonprofits within San Diego County. The company committed to a donation to the San Diego Food Bank that provides 50,000 meals to those in need in the community.

Meanwhile, Seven Caves Spirits—makers of rum, gin and whiskey—and Liberty Call Distilling Co.—specializing in blended bourbon—have spearheaded a collaborative effort with other San Diego-based distilleries to produce hand sanitizer manufactured according to WHO standards, which is being provided free of charge to law enforcement members and firefighters in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, as well as to local hospitals, food service workers, delivery drivers, postal workers and other community members in need.


Savage & Cooke owner Dave Phinney has personally guaranteed the delivery of vital hand sanitizer from his wine country-based distillery in Northern California.


Photography by: