Some Saskatchewan distilleries are putting together a spirited effort in combating the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Lucky Bastard (LB) Distillers and Stumbletown Distilling have started creating alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as people across the world look for ways to avoid contracting the highly-contagious virus.
They’re keeping their efforts local, offering sanitizer to first responders and emergency workers for free.
“If I was to write a business model for getting into the hand sanitizer business, this wouldn’t be how to do it,” said Michael Goldney of LB Distillers.
“We just really want to help out.”
Using its regular bottling line and 1,140 ml bottles, LB is following guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) released to address emergency situations.
Saskatchewan Blue Cross is covering all packaging costs, while couriers have offered to deliver the product and suppliers have helped with ingredients.
Stumbletown owner Craig Holland said he was inundated with phone calls over the weekend. People were asking if they could produce hand sanitizer.
“We made the decision to work together and pool our resources a bit,” Holland said.
He admits the process is new and they don’t consider themselves hand sanitizer manufacturers.
“The people that are out there trying to help stop this . . . are the people that we want to make sure have the resources they need to do their jobs,” Holland said.
Troy Davies, director of public affairs for Medavie Health Services West, picked up a case for each of the company’s ambulances on Friday.
“It’s local helping local and that’s what we love to hear,” Davies said.
While the paramedic service has enough sanitizer right now, he said the additional resources will help with Medavie’s long-term planning.
The distillers are still awaiting approvals from Health Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency and the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority. The product is not being sold, and the distilleries are moving ahead anyway.
Brownlee, Sask.-based Smooth 42 Distillery is marketing its 70 per cent “emergency vodka” as a substitute for rubbing alcohol. The company has taken out a $100,000 loan and diverted its liquid assets toward the product, according to CEO Sacha Elez.
The company’s efforts are also focused on front line workers.
“It was really an awakening for me that I am in a unique position here to be able to help out the health care industry and emergency services,” Elez said.
The company recently started selling 90 per cent alcohol, which required them to upgrade their equipment. The changes allowed Smooth 42 to make its emergency vodka.
For Elez, it’s also personal, as he and his wife are expecting their third child.
“It would be in my best interests for my family for me to do everything that I can to keep our health care industry running,” he said.
Back at LB Distillers, Goldney has some advice for people not working in health care. Also a medical doctor, he urges the importance of proper handwashing.
“We’re really lucky because the COVID-19 virus has a lipid envelope. It is easily destroyed with soap and water,” he said.
“Hand washing is the best defence.”