The Houston Distilleries Making Hand Sanitizer
Neutral alcohols — especially isopropyl and ethyl — have become highly desirable substances during the coronavirus pandemic. This compound, which is found in hand sanitizers, surface cleaners and many other products, helps neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19, helping slow its spread. As concerns about the virus grew, our nation’s shelves began to run dry of these normally ubiquitous products. The result is a serious problem, not only for a public struggling to stay safe but also for nurses, doctors and other first responders who are exposed to the virus in their high-risk jobs.
Across the nation, distilleries are coming to the rescue, including in Houston. Most area spirit producers are no longer bottling booze. Instead, they are producing hand sanitizer to meet the tremendous need. The distiller variety could use either ethyl or isopropyl. “We have two formulas approved by FDA — 80% ethyl alcohol and 75% isopropyl alcohol,” said Travis Whitmeyer of Whitmeyer’s Distillery. “We have used both formulas, but the large majority is ethyl-based.”
The Centers for Disease Control’s number one recommendation for personal hygiene during this crisis is washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, the CDC recommends using a solution that is at least 60% alcohol.
Because of the tremendous shortage, most of the locally produced hand sanitizer is going straight to first responders via nonprofit organizations. However, a couple of distilleries are hosting drive-throughs so that the public can pick up bottles of sanitizer, and some are distributing the product through local stores. Here are Houston-area distillers producing those solutions.
Grateful Dane Distilling Company: 5250 Gulfton, (281) 636-8001: At a recent drive-through event, this distillery distributed over 400 bottles of hand sanitizer in the first hour. Though it sold out, people stayed in line for Grateful Dane Rum, the first rum made in Houston. (The long-established Railean Rum is made in San Leon.) Since then, a global bottle shortage is forcing this small distillery to focus on bulk orders for local first responders.
Gulf Coast Distillers: 5610 Clinton, (713) 670-3003: Houston’s largest distillery, which normally makes BJ Hooker’s Vodka and Giant Texas Whiskey, has produced over 300,000 gallons of C4U Hand Sanitizer, which has been distributed in 1.2 million bottles. Most of this has gone directly to hospitals, clinics, nonprofits and first responders.The rest can be purchased by the general public at Kroger, HEB, Village Liquor, Specs and Saint Arnold Brewing Company, where a $10 bottle benefits the Texas Children’s Hospital. In addition, Gulf Coast recently hosted a drive-through, which benefited the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Watch for more events on its Facebook page.
Whitmeyer’s Distillery: 16711 Hollister, (713) 623-1637: The maker of Straight Rye Whiskey, Sassafras Texas Gin, Space City Vodka and other spirits has been handing out free bottles of Hand Sanitizer at its Tasting Room via a drive-through. The current distribution events are happening from 1 to 9 p.m. through April 25. The distillery is giving away 32-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer with a limit of one bottle per vehicle. For more details and future events, please check the posts on its Facebook page. Organizations in need of bulk orders can contact Whitmeyer’s via email.
William Price Distillery: 970 Wakefield, (713) 364-9225 This new distillery in Garden Oaks hasn’t even yet had the chance to make its first bottle of whiskey, but it opened nearly five months early to distill sanitizer for front line workers and first responders. A suggested $10 donation per bottle helps keep sanitizer flowing to the needy. For bulk orders or donation requests, send the company an email. Otherwise, look forward to trying William Price’s rum, vodka and gin in December.
Yellow Rose Distillery: 1224 North Post Oak, (281) 886-8757: Known for producing Outlaw Bourbon, Houston’s first legal distillery, has pivoted to producing hand sanitizer. It’s donated almost 500 gallons to the Houston Fire Department and Houston-based charities. To pick up a complimentary bottle, stay tuned to Yellow Rose’s website. Proceeds from these sales allows the distillery to continue sponsoring local charities in their fights against COVID-19.