Bethany Whymark Gin News

The gin distilleries making hand sanitiser (and more) amid coronavirus outbreak

As the coronavirus outbreak tightens its grip on the world, the spirits industry has been doing its bit to help.

For many distilleries, this has involved repurposing their production lines to make hand sanitiser utilising leftover or waste alcohol – with some even stopping production of their spirits to give over more production space to sanitiser as shops and suppliers report crippling shortages.

Those distilleries in the UK giving over production space to sanitiser were given a boost by the government on 24 March, as HMRC agreed to lift a duty on alcohol used in hand sanitiser production.

Here are a few gin distilleries which have turned their hand to sanitiser:

  • London distillery 58 Gin is totally switching production from gin to hand sanitiser. Following a one-off run of ‘Hand Gin-itizer’ made for a charity event, after organisers struggled to source the product, the distillery has halted gin production to focus on sanitiser. 58 Gin hopes to have 3,000 200ml bottles of sanitiser ready next week (from 23 March) for sale in places where supplies are running short, such as supermarkets. It will be donating 10 per cent of sales to drinks industry charity The Drinks Trust (formerly known as The Benevolent).
  • Bristol-based Circumstance Distillery and its sister site Psychopomp microdistillery are making a hand sanitiser with gin botanicals, including juniper, coriander seed, angelica root , fennel seed and grapefruit zest. After first creating it for its distillery teams, the producer is now offering the sanitiser to the public in exchange for a donation to the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity.
  • Surrey distillery Silent Pool has been making sanitiser for its customers to use free of charge. It was among a number of distilleries in the UK which called on the government to lift a tax on alcohol used in sanitiser production, to make it more cost-effective for distilleries to produce.
  • Copper Rivet Distillery in Kent is producing hand sanitiser from the neutral grain spirit it makes for its gin and vodka. It hopes to issue its first batch of sanitiser on 3 April, which will initially be for emergency services and public authorities including the Metropolitan Police Service.
  • Adnams, the Suffolk-based distiller and brewer, is providing alcohol from its distillery to the University of East Anglia in Norwich for its hand sanitiser programme. Led by the university’s health and social care teams, the programme will help the NHS and local organisations which are in greatest need.
  • In Ireland, Listoke Distillery has repurposed its stills to make sanitiser, which is in short supply across the Republic as it is in the UK. The distillery in Tenure initially began making the sanitiser with gin botanicals for in-house use, but is now selling to the public as well as donating bottles to frontline homelessness charities.
  • Leith Gin, near Edinburgh, has also completely suspended gin production in order to dedicate its stills to making hand sanitiser. Owners Karin and Derek Mair have set aside 1,000 litres of high-strength alcohol to make the sanitiser, which they have been giving away for free to the local community in Leith.
  • Scotland’s Deeside Distillery, maker of the world’s strongest gin, is shifting some of its production to hand sanitiser. It is mixing its 87% ABV Still River Uncut Gin with aloe vera and vegetable oil to make 4,000 bottles of sanitiser that it is handing out to local schools and foodbanks.
  • The Isle of Wight Distillery is producing hand sanitiser – dubbed Wight Wash – for locals in need on the island. It expects to have the first batch ready by the Easter weekend.
  • Over in the US, Vermont-based distillery Caledonia Spirits has started making hand sanitiser to keep its team busy after the closure of its on-site bar and store. The distiller of Barr Hill Gin and Vodka will donate its sanitiser to local non-profit organisations, with its first donation going to the Vermont Foodbank earlier this week, and it has also committed to make 1,500 units for emergency first responders in the state.

As well as making hand sanitiser, distilleries are lending a hand to the coronavirus fight in other ways:

  • Sipsmith is offering support to the UK’s beleaguered bar and pub workers. On 20 March many were told to close their doors until further notice – putting thousands of jobs on the line as businesses scramble to find financial stability. The London-based distiller has joined forces with support organisation The Drinks Trust (formerly The Benevolent) to help drinks industry workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – and is asking its fans to do their part too. Those who pledge £20 or more to Sipsmith’s Go Fund Me page will receive a code to order 12 complimentary cans of Light Sipsmith G&T from its website, including free delivery. 100 per cent of the donation will go to The Drinks Trust.
  • Ramsbury Single Estate Distillery has pledged to help the spirits industry with its new Ramsbury & Friends ‘Virtual Tip Jar’. Buy a voucher for your favourite drinks venue – be that pub, restaurant or bar – and Ramsbury will match every pound you spend, donating it to the business as a tip. Vouchers bought through the scheme are valid until the end of 2020, so can be something to look forward to in brighter days ahead. As well as this initiative, Ramsbury has also jumped on the hand sanitiser bandwagon: it is supporting its Wiltshire community with bulk five-litre bottles of the stuff, and has plans to expand nationwide.
  • Nelson’s Distillery and School in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire is distilling a limited-edition charity gin to give thanks to and raise funds for the NHS and its staff helping in the battle against Covid-19. In tribute to the NHS the gin will be blue in colour, £10 from each sale will be donated to the NHS and it will pay heed to its beneficiary on the label. Like many others, Nelson’s Distillery has also been producing hand sanitiser to help the vulnerable in its community. 

Do you know of any other gin distilleries giving their production lines over to hand sanitiser or offering their services to the drinks industry? Let us know in the comments below.

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