While the current crisis might bring out the worst in some, in Vermont, it brings out the best in most. Already we see a growing swell of generous community spirit among Vermonters who are not only willing, but driven to reach out and help their neighbors. That’s Vermont.
As concerns about illness and transmission lead many of us to prepare for an unknown duration of social isolation, shelves have emptied of many of the products we need and want to nourish, clean and even entertain ourselves. Vermonters looking for toilet paper, hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, canned goods and similar items are finding shelves bare at local stores, big and small. But of all the goods that were in short supply, hand sanitizer, which helps us keep safe when when running water and soap aren’t available, was one of the hardest products to find. Enter our spirits producers.
Distillers have inventory of high-proof, neutral grain alcohol and they aren’t afraid to use it.
The award-winning SILO Distillery in Windsor, for example, is producing a 65% hand sanitizer solution by combining vegetable glycerin (typically found in cosmetics and sourced from plants) and the 180-190 proof (90-95%) ethanol head cuts from their distillery. They provide the sanitizers to guests in their tasting room and to local local food and beverage partners so they can also put their guests at ease.
They are also offering the sanitizer free of charge to members of the surrounding community who bring to the tasting room up to 2 containers (rinsed lotion, shampoo or soap bottles are best), which they will fill up to a total of 16 ounces per visit. They are working to source containers so they can provide sanitizer to those who are not fortunate enough to have extras. While they are not charging for the sanitizer, they do ask that those who can, please contribute to the donation boxes in the tasting room to pay it forward and enable SILO Distillery to help as many neighbors as possible.
SILO Distillery will not ship the product — you have to appear in person to collect it — but they will meet you at your car if you call the distillery upon your arrival. Hours and location can be found at www.silodistillery.com
Caledonia Spirits , producer of the lauded Barr Hill Gin, Barr Hill Vodka and Tom Cat Gin, has also started producing hand sanitizer for use by emergency first responders and the nonprofits in the central Vermont community. They delivered their first batch to the Vermont Food Bank last week and they’re working on producing another 1,500 bottles, which they will provide to first responders across the state of Vermont.
Green Mountain Distillers and Smugglers’ Notch Distillery have moved to producing hand sanitizer as well. Smugglers’ Notch Distillery is providing the product to municipalities and first responders as the leading priority, but as soon as they’re able to bottle in large enough quantities, they will make their sanitizer available to the public at their tasting rooms. Follow Smugglers’ Notch here and on Facebook for more.
Distillers operate under strict state and federal license restrictions and would not ordinarily be permitted to produce anything from their distillates other than beverages, but thanks to the efforts of Sivan Cotel, co-founder of Stonecutter Spirits and Vice President of the Vermont Distilled Spirits Council, who approached the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery to request a swift process to allow variances, distillers now have a path to follow so they can produce the sanitizers within the scope of Vermont’s law. Now, Mr. Cotel plans to bring together the distillers, cider makers and brewers in Vermont to cooperate in the effort.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, recognizing a trend of small private industry stepping into the breach in the time of crisis, has also telegraphed flexibility. The agency recently issued guidance outlining a temporary policy to loosen restrictions on the production of hand sanitizer. Briefly, the FDA will take no action to restrict firms from producing alcohol-based hand sanitizer, provided the sanitizer is produced using only United States Pharmacopoeia (USP)-grade ingredients:
- Alcohol (ethanol) (USP or Food Chemical Codex grade), (80% v/v) in an aqueous solution denatured according to Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulations in 27 C.F.R. part 20 or Isopropyl Alcohol (75% v/v) in an aqueous solution
- Glycerol (1.45%^ v/v)
- Hydrogen peroxide (0.125% v/v)
- Sterile distilled water or boiled cold water
The full guidance can be downloaded here.
If you are wondering what you can do to contribute to the effort, consider the following: if you are experiencing symptoms or if someone in your household is experiencing symptoms, please do not visit the tasting rooms. Be mindful of these extraordinary producers and of others in the community and send a healthy friend instead. What else can you do? Keep these small producers of exceptional local spirits afloat during these difficult times. Consider buying a few bottles of their handcrafted beverages to boost spirits at home at home as we navigate these uncertain times. Support them if you can – most are offering curbside pick up, so you can still help while also keeping yourself, your neighbors and your family safe.
Cin-cin, salud, santé, and good health to you all.