Spirit of York Hand San - © 2020 Spirit of York Distillers

Hand Sanitizer Revisited: Canadian Distillers Step Up

You’ll remember the story we posted a few days ago, about how well-intentioned but misguided recipes for homemade hand sanitizer were flooding the internet. Now, Canadian Beverage Alcohol distillers are stepping up to meet the sanitizer shortage challenge…

Hiram Walker Distillery - © Corby Spirits and WineThe Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario, produces most
of Corby Spirits and Wine’s liquor brands – and now World
Health Organization-approved hand sanitizer, too.

The earlier post told of recipes for homemade hand sanitizer concocted from Vodka, Tequila and other high-powered booze and Aloe Vera Gel. The problem is, Beverage Alcohol is usually 40 percent Alcohol, and the World Health Organization insists that commercial hand sans be at least 60 percent Alcohol – usually Isopropyl, or Rubbing Alcohol. Below that level, they aren’t going to be satisfactorly effective in killing germs and viruses.

But Canadian distillers are addressing the shortage of hand sanitizers by dedicating some of their production capacity to producing higher-proof plain Alcohol for use in sanitizer products.

They are actually making and packaging the sanitizer themselves, and distributing it free to first responders and other essential services workers according to need. But they are making enough that Walker’s, Corby’s and other booze-branded hand sanitizers are starting to show up on store shelves for retail sale. How much sanitizer can they produce? Corby’s alone typically distills more than 180,000 litres of Beverage Alcohol each day. Even if they dedicated only 10 percent of their output to hand san production, that would be equivalent to more than 36,000 500 ml bottles of the stuff a day!

Good corporate citizens

“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, CEO 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 distillers are framing their efforts as an act of good corporate citizenship.

“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’s statement 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.”

I won’t argue that the distillers are taking a hit by giving away free hand san to essential services workers. But they are also taking advantage of a retail market that’s crying for product these days. I’m thinking they’ll do just fine financially during the the pandemic.

Along with Corby’s and Walker’s, at least 8 other craft and regional distillers are also producing hand sanitizer. (The Spirit of York product is featured in the picture at top of page.)

Hand sanitizer tips and caveats

Health officials always warn that using hand sanitizer alone is not enough to keep you safe from any bacterial or viral disease. It’s always preferable to wash your hands in the approved manner with Soap and warm Water. Hand san should be considered a stop-gap measure to tide you over until you have the opportunity wash your hands.

Hand san made from Ethyl, or Beverage Alcohol is not safe to drink. Not only is it stronger than the most potent imported spirits (which are rarely over 150 proof, or 75 per cent Alcohol) but it contains Aloe Vera Gel and other, chemical additives you don’t want to ingest.

Thus endeth today’s lesson…

~ Maggie J.