Distilleries Switch to Hand Sanitizer Production

On March 20, Merrilee Kick, the CEO and founder of BuzzBallz, LLC/Southern, decided to adjust distillery operations from solely cocktail production to add the creation of hand sanitizer. This product would then be donated to health care facilities, municipalities, and retail personnel in Texas. That day, Kick contacted the Dallas-based hospital group, Texas Health Resources, to see if they needed hand sanitizer. Three of their 14 hospitals were in dire need of hand sanitizer. “We also had a call and request for product from ProPath, which handles laboratories in North Texas,” Kick said. The COVID-19-induced shortage and the consumers’ run to stockpile hand sanitizer has caused real issues for hospitals and essential workers.

distillery hand sanitizer
Plano, Texas police officer picks up donated hand sanitizer from BuzzBallz

That day and evening, Buzzballz staff members volunteered to deliver manually 100 gallons of hand sanitizer to the hospitals in need. This woman-owned business is the USA leader in pre-mixed cocktails in the US, so their major production shift to focus on serving first responders’ needs is admirable.

Since then, the Buzzballz team has produced 18,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and distributed them to the North Texas first-responder medical community, fire and police units, US postal workers, and essential personnel at Southwest and American Airlines.

The estimated value of BuzzBallz’s 18,000-gallon donation is $270,000. Join me in raising a glass of Buzzballz “Tequila ‘Rita” to thank the firm for their generous spirit!

How is hand sanitizer production possible in light of the insanely tight USA Alcohol regulations? The FDA, TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau,) and the CDC issued emergency allowances for distillery owners to create hand sanitizer, lifting customary regulations. Traditionally it is required to have a pharmacist on staff at a hand sanitizer operation to regulate production.

BuzzBallz and many other distillers–like Pernod Ricard USA’s Rabbit Hole Distillery, Kahlua, Absolut Vodka, Jameson Irish Whiskey, DryFly Gin, Budweiser’s, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Bacardi–are taking the CDC and WHO recommended recipes to make hand sanitizers. The basic recipe uses two-parts alcohol and one-part Aloe Vera gel or glycerin. Sometimes the resulting consistency is best for a spray bottle, which many of the Dallas police officers think is convenient. They use the sanitizer to spray down the inside of their squad cars. With many tasting rooms and restaurants now under lockdown orders, some craft distillers are turning to hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

distillery hand sanitizer
Mammoth hand sanitizer, Northern Michigan

The spirits business has always been known for its innovative branding, flavoring, and labeling. It’s not surprising that each distillery hand sanitizer offers its own twists in marketing. There is no lack of original, stylish packaging. DryFly Distilling of Spokane, WA names its hand sanitizer the “Spokanitizer.”  Mammoth Distillery, Northern Michigan, with its “Artisanal Hand Cleaner,” and Swamp Fox Distilling Co, Buena Vista, GA, with its distinct fox logo and muscadine smell, are prime examples of how novel and creative packaging can be. And sanitizer scents can be equally unique. Twin Creeks Distillery in the moonshine capital of Rocky Mount, VA does not hide the distinct, boozy scent of its product. Not to be outdone, Perry’s Tot Gin, Brooklyn, NY, has a hand sanitizer that contains gin-like botanicals and features a scent of juniper berries, citrus peels and spices.

distillery hand sanitizer
Tito’s Hand Cleanser

Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka is making Hand [made] Cleanser and reminds us all not to “use Vodka as a hand sanitizer,” Tito’s generous donations to communities in Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, California and Florida make us want to blend a Tito Cosmopolitan for our Zoom Happy Hour tonight.

We should be proud of those who work in America’s spirits industry. They have stepped up to the task of helping to protect our first responders and critical workers who put themselves on the line for us every day. Cheers to a resourceful industry and its resilient citizens!


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