Cowichan Valley distilleries help combat COVID-19 with hand sanitizer

Ampersand and Stillhead making hand sanitizer during shortage

Distillers in B.C. are now authorized to make hand sanitizer to help combat a worldwide shortage because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but operations in the Cowichan Valley had a jump on the announcement that was made on Sunday.

The Ampersand and Stillhead distilleries both started making hand sanitizer last week in their local facilities.

“There’s a certain amount of alcohol that’s not sellable, not drinkable,” Stillhead owner Brennan Colebank explained, adding that his operation has sufficient quantities of that product on hand.

Colebank himself was in 14-day isolation after returning from a vacation to California a few days earlier.

Stillhead’s plan was to give out sanitizer to health care workers, seniors, and other vulnerable individuals as soon as it could be bottled. The distillery announced on its Facebook page on Sunday that it had bottled and distributed 330 litres of sanitizer over the weekend.

Ampersand had started making sanitizer last Monday, and was able to donate some in bulk to community service workers and organizations by the middle of the week.

“We wanted to respond in the moment and act as quickly as we can,” Ampersand spokesperson Jessica Schacht said. “We’re trying to respond to that need as best we can.”

Both distilleries followed a recipe provided online by the World Health Organization. It requires at least 60 per cent alcohol, and photos of Stillhead’s sanitizer indicated that they used an 80 per cent formula.

For more information about acquiring sanitizer, Ampersand can be reached via Facebook and Instagram, where they are @ampdistillingco. Stillhead is @stillheaddistillery on both platforms.

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