Okanagan distilleries make free sanitizer during coronavirus pandemic

Some Okanagan micro-distilleries are stepping in to help combat hand-sanitizer shortages by using alcohol waste product from the distillation process to create a disinfectant.

At Legend Distilling in Naramata, the owners are filling 300 250ml spray bottles to distribute to anyone who needs one — free.

“I’ve got a big tank full of this stuff and I’ve been wondering what to do with it,” said owner Doug Lennie.

“When we heard that there was a shortage of sanitizer, that’s essentially what this is — just high proof alcohol. We cut it down so it is not flammable, and it was just a way to get rid of product and help the needs of the community.”

Lennie has closed the business’ restaurant and tasting bar to protect his staff from the spread of COVID-19, but he’s been forced to lay off most employees, and said he’s lost 90 per cent of his business.

“We are in a small town, so there are not any tourists right now,” he said. “So in the wintertime, we rely on our sales reps, and they are not working right now. Unless a store just puts in an order themselves, that is what we are relying on. Things are pretty scary.”

Lennie said their sanitizer, cheekily named “Surface Sanity,” is infused with rosemary and lemon zest.

In Summerland, Simon Buttet of Alchemist Distiller is also handing out free surface sanitizer.

The micro-distillery usually produces apple-based absinthe, gin and apple liqueur, but given the global health crisis, Buttet is doing what he can to help.

“It just makes sense,” he said.

Buttet has applied to the federal government for a license to mass produce and sell the disinfectant to help cover his losses.

“We are equipped to make alcohol, to make hand sanitizer,” he said. “It’s just we now have to be allowed to make it. In the meantime, I will just give away my waste product.”

 

Tyler Dyck, president of the Craft Distillers Guild of BC, said he’s aware of at least a dozen distilleries in the province who are producing and distributing free sanitizer.

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