With an increased demand for hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, unconventional methods of making it have come out of the woodworks. Shire Distilling in Brookshire has switched things up …
With an increased demand for hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, unconventional methods of making it have come out of the woodworks. Shire Distilling in Brookshire has switched things up from making their usual liquors to making hand sanitizer to meet the need for first responders and residents.
“About three weeks ago, we got an email saying distilleries are now allowed to start making sanitizer, there's a shortage of sanitizer and there's an increased demand for it,” said Tim Raines, co-founder and master distiller at Shire Distilling in Brookshire. “What we started doing is we switched all our operations over. we shut down all our whiskey and vodka production and everything is strictly sanitizer for the past three weeks.”
The distillery has been pushing out 750 mL bottles as well as four-ounce bottles but last week Raines made a special delivery to the Sealy Police and Fire Departments to drop off boxes of sanitizers to those on the frontlines. The Katy Police Department came in asking for assistance April 20, and with the help of different rotary groups in the region, the distillery has committed to helping them as well said Shire Distillery cofounder and president, George Daher.
“We went in conjunction with two Rotary Clubs, the Rotary Club of Katy and the Brazosport Rotary Club,” Raines said. “They’re a bunch of great folks that volunteered to help us with a lot of the bottling and together we got a lot of a lot of 750-milliliter bottles bottled up. Those are all going the first responders, fire stations, EMS; just anyone that's strictly in need of it and are on the frontlines. We're doing everything we can to get this product in everyone's hands, literally.”
He added four-ounce bottles are also on sale for $2.50 at the distillery where it has been a hand-made process. The main bottling line has been moved into what usually serves as a taproom and the crew bottles the sanitizer by hand now, Daher said.
“The rotary clubs for these big batches have been a tremendous help,” Raines said. “(They) were able to raise enough funds to go in parts with us to put basically all of our funds to sanitizer. Not only did they help financially, but they helped volunteer-wise as well. We scheduled days where they would come out to the distillery and we'd set up a big old bottling line. … It’s all done by hand; we are a small distillery so we don't have the big automated machinery where you just press a button and everything gets made on its own.”
Shire Distillery was formed in 2017 and Raines said they’ve been learning plenty over the last few years but all of that learning has shifted a bit as they’re now being forced to create concoctions they’ve never had to deal with before.
“It was difficult because we were in our normal trend of our whiskey operations,” Raines said of the transition from drinking alcohol to sanitizing alcohol. “Now we're here learning recipes we'd never thought we'd be learning before, mixing ingredients we never thought we'd be mixing before; glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, near 80% ethyl alcohol.”
The beginning stages were certainly trial and error but they’ve been able to produce enough to start handing out to local entities in small towns that sometimes get forgotten during a crisis, Raines said.
“The first few batches of making this (was in) very small batches, and then from there we've learned how to optimize the process and start scaling things up,” Raines said. “Now here we are doing larger bottles, getting them out to as many folks as we can. A lot of the small towns get forgotten, you know. We're in a small town so we want to make sure that everyone's taken care of.”
The distillery itself is in the small town of Brookshire, located at 505 Bains Street suite 303, and is open Monday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.
“Any of our liquor sales, the money we're making from that is going right back into the sanitizer operation,” Raines said. “The sales we're making from our front door are just helping push this project and grow it and get it in more folks' hands. Everyone be safe, keep your hands clean and the quicker we all do our part and do it right then the quicker we'll get through this.”
R. Hans Miller contributed to this report.