Area Distillery Making Hand Sanitizer to Fight COVID-19

For original The Winchester Star article, click here.

Date: March 30, 2020

As crews around the country work to keep first-responders and medical workers stocked on their necessary supplies, Filibuster Distillery is pitching in to do its part.

The distillery, located in Maurertown in Shenandoah County, is producing its own hand sanitizer with its grain-based alcohol to help fill orders for workers around the region.

“If someone has the intention of helping, they should do it,” said Sid Dilawri, the distillery’s vice president. “I’m not sure in terms of business how good of a proposition it is, but it’s definitely the right time to help others.”

The first batch the distillery made went to first-responders and medical workers in Shenandoah County. Its next batch will go to groups in Fairfax and Fauquier counties, which called last week looking for products, Dilawri said.

Earlier this month, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau lifted parts of federal law to allow distilleries to make and sell hand sanitizer as long as the formula was in accordance with guidelines released by the World Health Organization.

The WHO provided recipes for two formulas — one using ethanol and another using isopropyl alcohol. Both formulas also include hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and sterile distilled or boiled cold water.

Distilleries like Filibuster are using the ethanol-based formula. In Filibuster’s case, the main ingredient is grain-based alcohol.

“We still use the same grain from our local farms, but we have to make certain adjustments to our current production,” Dilawri said.

The alcohol is what is used as the killing agent for viruses whereas hydrogen peroxide is meant to prevent bacterial contamination and glycerol is meant to slow the evaporation of the alcohol, allowing it to stay on the skin long enough to be effective.

When complete, the WHO said the sanitizer should contain 80% alcohol while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said formulas should be at least 60% alcohol.

Typically, alcohol made in Filibuster’s stills comes to about 130 proof — which comes out to about 65% alcohol. To make sanitizer, the alcohol produced needs to be around 180 or 190 proof, Dilawri said.

“It was very difficult. It took a lot of time and a lot of effort in getting it right because we were doing it for the first time,” he said. “When we keep doing it, it’ll get easy.”

According to the WHO, the alcohol made for the formula is poured into a large bottle or tank before hydrogen peroxide and glycerol is added. Then, the bottle or tank is topped off with sterile distilled or cold boiled water. A lid or cap is to be placed on as soon as possible to prevent evaporation, and then the solution is mixed by shaking gently or using a paddle. The solution should then be immediately divided up into containers and quarantined for 72 hours before using.

“At present, alcohol-based hand rubs are the only known means for rapidly and effectively inactivating a wide array of potentially harmful microorganisms on hands,” the WHO has said. “According to the available evidence on efficacy, tolerability and cost effectiveness, WHO recommends using an alcohol-based hand rub for routine hand antisepsis in most clinical situations.”

As of Friday, more than 570 distilleries nationwide were making sanitizer, including 14 in Virginia. Filibuster Distillery is the only establishment making sanitizer in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Dilawri said the distillery plans to make a commercial batch next week and see how sales go. However, the main goal of producing the sanitizer, he said, is to help first-responders and medical workers.

“We want to help our local first-responders; that was the whole idea behind it,” he said. “They’re happy so far. After a week, we’ll know how effective it was or if it was any good. Bigger companies have been doing this for generations and they’ve mastered it, but we believe ours is good to use and is effective.”

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