Arts & Entertainment

They Did What? Distillery Switches To Making Hand Sanitizer

Many alcohol producers across the nation are using the alcohol they already have on hand to make something that people really need right now.

What was once essentially a waste product created by distilling rum is now proving to be more valuable than the rum itself.

"It's general knowledge if you do work in this industry that you're producing ethanol, which is the main ingredient [in hand sanitizer]," says Tim Russell, founder of Allegheny Distilling in Pittsburgh, PA, best known for producing Maggie's Farm Rum. "It was kind of a no-brainer to start making our own [sanitizer]."

With hand sanitizer in such high demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tim and his company are doing everything they can to produce as much sanitizer as possible for police and other first responders. Watch here as Tim walks me through the process:

Their first foray into making sanitizer yielded 70 gallons, which they donated to the Pittsburgh Public Safety department for use by police, firefighters and paramedics. Tim credits fellow distilleries, Quantum Spirits and Boyd & Blair Vodka for helping develop guidelines to make sure that this homemade sanitizer is as close as possible to W.H.O. and FDA specifications.

"We are very appreciative of Tim's efforts," Pittsburgh Police spokesman Chris Togneri told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Public Safety has learned from experience that in times of need and in times of uncertainty, Pittsburghers always rise to the occasion and do whatever they can to help. This is another example of our residents pulling together."

70 gallons of hand sanitizer ready to be delivered to the Pittsburgh Public Safety Department.Maggie's Farm Rum/Facebook

While Tim would certainly like to be producing a more... drinkable type of alcohol, he is grateful to have the means to help out during this crisis. "It's a little bit of a release," he says. "It's been helpful to me just to keep my mind off the bad stuff and just focus on a new challenge."

"And I know it's also doing something good at the same time."

How can you start something good?

The best way you can help contribute to this cause (unless you, too, own a distillery) is just to stay home as much as possible to help contain this disease. You can also support the many service industry workers who are affected by this crisis by seeing if there's a virtual tip jar set up for your area.

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