Distilleries revamp to combat coronavirus
Two local distilleries are doing their part to give back to the community that supports them.
Garrison Brothers and Hye Rum are among the distilleries around the United States now making hand sanitizer to help control the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus).
Hye Rum was the first in the area to turn their alcohol into hand sanitizer and Garrison Brothers wasn’t far behind.
“This is the way we try to operate,” said Garrison Brothers Master Distiller Donnis Todd. “It is very important to us to support our own community.”
Garrison Brothers Distillery at Hye started making hand sanitizer less than two weeks ago, and by now has made and distributed at no charge to the recipients, over 400 gallons to hospitals and clinics, first responders and law enforcement personnel here and around the state.
“We firmly believe in community first and we have the utmost respect for our first responders and medical and law enforcement personnel who do what they do,” Todd said. “They are always putting their lives on the line and anything we can do to help them we will always do.”
And that’s why they keep doing what they are doing.
“We are making a 50-gallon batch of hand sanitizer every morning,” Todd said, and requests are coming in so quickly that they deplete the supply every day. “I would like to do a 50-gallon batch every day until this goes away.”
While they started out filling two- and three-gallon containers, Todd said that now they fill most orders in five-gallon increments.
In addition, the distillery is waiting on a shipment of 6,000 four-ounce bottles to fill with the hand sanitizer.
Not the first ones
When the idea was first presented to Todd and Garrison Brothers founder Dan Garrison, the two were reluctant because of all the red tape involved. But when state and federal agencies took all of the paperwork out of the equation, they decided it was time to do their part.
“We felt like this was the right thing to do, so we decided to run the stills on the second shift a little different to make a higher proof ethanol,” Todd said. “We want the alcohol to be at 75 percent, which is 150 proof. Instead of making a couple of extra barrels of whiskey every night, we thought it would better to take care of our community and make a batch of hand sanitizer once a day.”
In fact, the two are so passionate about the project, they are funding it themselves.
At Garrison Brothers, they call the alcohol that comes off the stills the White Dog. The White Dog is what is barreled to become bourbon.
“If we weren’t doing this, we would run the stills a little different and bring the White Dog off at a lower proof and it would go into a barrel,” Todd said. “Five to six years later that 50 gallons would be about 250 bottles of beautiful bourbon.”
To get started, Garrison Brothers reached out to their neighbor, Hye Rum, for help in getting the ingredients to make the hand sanitizer since they were unable to get the hydrogen peroxide and aloe vera gel right away.
“Now we have all the ingredients,” Todd said, adding that H-E-B and others have donated a large amount of the needed products.
For those who might be concerned about the mixture, Garrison explained that they are following a “recipe” from the World Health Organization. For each 50-gallon batch, they mix 46 gallons of 150 proof White Dog, 300 ounces of hydrogen peroxide and 104 ounces of aloe vera.
Making the hand sanitizer at Garrison is a family affair with everyone in the organization pitching in.
“This is definitely a team effort. It is not just Dan and me,” Todd said. “Everybody is helping.”
Todd and Garrison are handling the requests and making every effort to fill them in a timely manner.
Once an order is filled, it is left at a designated location for a representative to pick up without having to interact with one another.
While most orders are now picked up at the distillery, Garrison and volunteer Larry Lindsey delivered some of the first containers of hand sanitizer in Gillespie and Blanco counties.
Among their stops were the Blanco County Law Enforcement Center, Weinheimer and Son, Hill Country Memorial Hospital, Advantage Care Services, Bluebird Beginnings Learning Center and Main Street Urgent Care.
Since those first deliveries, the list of recipients continues to expand to include law enforcement departments around the state, medical centers, medical schools and more.
“Good bourbon can change the world,” Garrison said, “and now we make good bourbon and hand sanitizer.”
(Note: Calls to Hye Rum’s founders for comment were not returned by press time.)