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Austin-Area Distilleries Pitch In to Produce Hand Sanitizer

How seven Central Texas spirit producers are making sanitizer during COVID-19

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Treaty Oak Director of Product Development Phillip Dormont making hand sanitizer
Treaty Oak Director of Product Development Phillip Dormont making hand sanitizer
Treaty Oak [Official]

Hand sanitizer is one of the key tools in the fight against the COVID-19 virus, which means there’s a major shortage of the disinfectant in America. As a result, Austin-area distilleries are taking it upon themselves to produce hand sanitizer for the community.

In order to help increase the dwindling supply, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is allowing distilleries to produce sanitizer just during the crisis through June 30, provided they follow the agency’s guidelines.

Bastrop small-batch distillery Violet Crown Spirits switched its focus from absinthe to sanitizer, offering the fairly priced product through free delivery . The distillery is providing gallon containers for health care facilities and clinics, among other essential personnel.

When people call into the distillery to place their requests, Violet Crown co-owner Jessica Leigh Graves says she “can hear the relief in their voice, and they express so much gratitude.” She adds that she is “moved that we have the privilege of bringing them some little pieces of hope, while the infection iceberg remains of unknown size and restrictions grow ever tighter.”

“So many of our friends in the service industry are hurting right now,” Graves continued, “and being able to serve people gives me some hope, despite all the pain and despair we share.”

Dripping Springs-based Treaty Oak Distillery started working on a sanitizer prototype last week, and has been tweaking its formula since then in order to achieve the desired consistency. The complimentary two-ounce bottles will only be given away alongside to-go orders of alcohol and food from on-site restaurant Alice’s.

Treaty Oak also provided some insight into its production process. The distillery is using high-proof grain neutral spirits from the production of Waterloo No. 9 Gin. Then, the team blends that alcohol with glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, and water. It’s registering the sanitizer it produces with the Federal Drug Administration to ensure compliance with all necessary guidelines.

The Heads & Hearts hand sanitizer from Milam & Greene
The Heads & Hearts hand sanitizer from Milam & Greene
Milam & Green/Facebook

Hill Country distillery Hye Rum started its sanitizer production process last week first as a DIY operation and now under those FDA guidelines.

The company is still selling its rum, but “[feels] a civic duty to provide sanitizer,” explained a Facebook post, “otherwise we would be at home flattening the curve.” The product is being provided to area hospitals, first responders, and the like for now. It’s accepting monetary donations as well as supplies in order to continue to make the hand sanitizer as well as pay its staff.

Over in Driftwood, sotol distillery Desert Door also added hand sanitizer to its lineup. Production started last week, and it’s already providing the community with 20,000 8-ounce bottles of sanitizer. While the bottles are free, the business is asking for donations in order to fund the production.

The distillery has already donated the product directly to organizations such as the San Antonio Police Department, Austin Police Department, and the City of Austin. It also plans to help the Austin restaurant and bar community by providing sanitizer to distribute along with to-go sotol orders.

”The three of us have never watched from the sidelines in our lives, and we are not going to start now,” said Desert co-founder Ryan Campbell. The distillery is making use of its resources to aid the community and cities as much as they can, while also following WHO and FDA standards.

Over in Blanco, Milam & Greene Distillery is creating its Heads & Hearts sanitizer by capturing alcohol released during its usual distillation process. These complimentary bottles are available for pick-up.

After initially discouraging people from using its product to make hand sanitizer on their own, Austin-based company Tito’s Vodka has committed to producing 24 tons of sanitizer and plans “to make more from there as needed,” though further details aren’t known at this time.

Saturday, March 28: This article has been updated to clarify how Violet Crown Spirits is distributing its hand sanitizer.