Crystal Ridge Distillery in Hot Springs has joined the effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by turning its drinkable alcohol into hand sanitizer.
The distillery has received a temporary permit to follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for mixing and making the hand sanitizer for the public, said co-owner Mary Bradley.
"We have to denature the alcohol, add glycerin and hydrogen peroxide and proof it down to 80 percent. It is watery, compared to your hand gel that you usually buy at the store, but the CDC is saying that the hand sanitizers now need to be at least 70 percent to kill the virus, and ours is at 80."
Hand sanitizer has been difficult to come by, locally, and Bradley said that they decided to start making it after a local emergency room physician related that it is also difficult for the medical community to find.
After researching what it takes to produce hand sanitizer, Bradley said they decided to proceed, but it took about three weeks before they were able to make their first batch.
"We had to order truckloads of ingredients," Bradley said.
Switching from making moonshine to hand sanitizer, Bradley said, wasn't that big of a change. "It's pretty similar," she said.
Bradley said they were granted the temporary license to make hand sanitizer because they already had a license to distill. The temporary license expires at the end of June, Bradley said, but should the COVID-19 pandemic continue past June, she said that they can get an extension to continue making it.
The first shipment of ingredients came in on March 29. Bradley said they started making the sanitizer that day, "for a few hours," but the following day is when they really started producing the product.
Sales of the sanitizer over the first week, Bradley said, were strong. "Business has been good," and "we've gotten calls from all over the state," Bradley said. She also said that the Hot Springs community has been supportive of their efforts.
Through the first week of sales, Bradley said that most have been to local people and organizations. A large amount of this has been to nursing homes. "Had a lot of business from nursing homes," she said.
Crystal Ridge is selling the sanitizer in three sizes -- a 750-milliliter bottle, a 1-gallon jug and a 5-gallon container. The small size is $15, the medium is $50, and the large container is $250.
Bradley said that the hardest part of making the sanitizer has been finding containers to put it in. While they were able to find the 1- and 5-gallon containers, Bradley said they haven't been able to find the smaller ones, as they are made overseas. To solve the problem, Bradley said they are using their moonshine bottles for the hand sanitizer.
Another truckload of supplies to make the hand sanitizer is expected to ship to the distillery this week.
Bradley said that for the moment, there are four people working in the distillery, all family members. Bradley said they are "just helping us out until we can bring our employees back." She said that the four of them "are handling it pretty well," but they are "just putting in 18-hour days right now."
The distillery is open from Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Local on 04/05/2020