With many stores running low on different household items, Jimmy Sharp, owner of John Emerald Distillery in Opelika, said he wanted to use his resources to serve others during these stressful times.
The company recently began brewing its own hand sanitizer to distribute to the surrounding communities.
“We had considered making hand sanitizer before the virus spread, but we were under the impression that it would not be approved because you usually have to have a license," Sharp said. "But recently, we heard of other breweries around the nation distilling hand sanitizer because of the sudden shortage and essential need."
This isn't the first time the distillery has made their own hand sanitizer. They started by making spray sanitizers for restaurants and bars because they already had the ingredients in store, Sharp said. The only item they had to order was glycerin, which came in yesterday.
The hand sanitizer distillery process uses neutral grain spirit in alcohol, made from corn, as a base for gin production. It has 90% alcohol, and is itself a sanitizer. To make the hand sanitizer, the distillery adds a small amount of glycerin so it will spread around the hand, as well as a small amount of hydrogen peroxide.
The distillery made its first batch of hand sanitizer this morning, and Sharp said before they were done making it, there was a line outside the store. Everyone will have the opportunity to receive 10 ounces of hand sanitizer for free.
“We are asking for donations so that we can keep making the hand sanitizer," Sharp said. "The community can also show the distillery some love by buying our liquor."
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Auburn-Opelika tourism helped the distillery fund a portion of the initial ingredients, while also helping to spread the word about the hand sanitizer to the public. Sharp said he had heard of people using vodka as hand sanitizer, but there is not a high enough alcohol content to be effective.
“Of course, it’s better than nothing, but you really need at least 60% by the time everything is mixed together, and vodka is only 40% alcohol,” he said.
The distillery is still making its famous whiskeys, gins and rums.
“People have been generous to help us keep making our hand sanitizers," Sharp said. "A lot of ABC stores are closing and reducing their hours, but people buying our bottles curbside is helping our revenue stream and helps people stay employed."
The distillery has continued to order materials in bulk to ensure as many people as possible can have the sanitizer, including larger organizations, like blood banks, who have a great demand for it, Sharp said.
“Our plan is to keep going for as long as we can," he said. "We want to keep offering this to the community, and if we can help in some small part to help the community get through this thing, we want to help."
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