ST. MICHAELS — Hand sanitizer has been in short supply across America, and Talbot County has fared no differently. Windon Distilling is joining distilleries in Maryland and across the nation in producing safe, effective hand sanitizer for health care institutions, first responders and other organizations facing a shortage.
According to a newsletter from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, the acting administrator is providing exemptions allowing distilleries to produce hand sanitizer.
“Any existing distilled spirits permitee therefore can immediately commence production of hand sanitizer or distilled spirits (ethanol) for use in hand sanitizer without having to obtain authorization first,” the new guidance reads. “These measures are generally authorized under authorities that apply in disaster situations, and as a result, are initially approved through June 30, 2020, with the possibility for extension as necessary.”
Windon Distilling founder and CEO Jaime Windon also is the president of the Maryland Distillers Guild. She and other guild members have been working to figure out the logistics of making and supplying hand sanitizer.
“The FDA, the TTB who governs us and the World Health Organization have come together and have issued a standard,” Windon said. “We’re looking at piles of documents and Excel spreadsheets and formulas that we’re following.”
Windon said members of the distillers guild came together to help the community after seeing shortages reported across the nation.
“Distillers across Maryland, as well as throughout the country, are aware of their ability to serve their communities by using their facilities and equipment to produce hand sanitizer,” she said, “and that in this time of need, it’s important to understand the ways that our industry can contribute.”
Gov. Larry Hogan praised Maryland distillers in a press conference on Thursday, March 19.
“The worst time have a way of bringing out the very best in people, and Marylanders are a shining example of that,” Hogan said. “A number of our distillers across the state, instead of producing alcohol, are producing hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer.”
Grey Wolf Craft Distilling already had the right equipment to make the high-proof alcohol required for use in hand sanitizer. Owner RB Wolfensberger said his column-style stills are well-suited for the task.
“Our stills have the capability to get alcohol at a very pure level that in and of itself kills most all bacteria that it would get near,” he said. “I have one running right now with the intention of what we’re collecting, all of that is to go to hand sanitizer.”
He said the process is more complicated than just distilling the alcohol.
“You’ll use a little bit of hydrogen peroxide — a very small amount, and you add in a little bit of water also. Then you add glycerin or aloe or something that has a moisturizing effect because your hands would get very dry if it’s just pure alcohol,” he said. “Here at the distillery, we’re following the World Health Organization’s guidelines on making our hand sanitizer.”
Windon said the distillery is compiling the items needed for manufacture and figuring out how to distribute the product.
“We’re working on procuring the bottles and all the things we need that are different, because it is just a little bit different from our normal production,” she said. “We are planning to package this in larger quantities in order to be delivered to larger agencies for distribution,” she said.
Windon and Wolfensberger are committed to helping out the community during this time. They’re both grateful that the FDA, TTB and WHO have provided an avenue for them to do their part.
“I think everyone right now feels scared, confused and helpless,” Windon said. “With the approvals that came in last night, the blessings from the agency, and the guidance from the WHO to do this appropriately, it allows us to do what we do best. We are both so incredibly grateful that we got to wake up this morning with a purpose and a plan to be helpful.”