During this time when people are washing their hands more frequently, some East Kootenay distilleries are using their equipment to shift over to producing hand sanitizer.

Wade Jarvis, co-owner of Bohemian Spirits in Kimberley said that the transition from making alcohol to making sanitizer was somewhat easy, as it is a similar process, just with a higher proof, around 80 to 90%.

“We essentially make a crude beer, then after it’s done fermenting, we boil it off again and collect the ethanol,” said Jarvis. “This rye that we were fermenting before all of this wend down would have probably been about a 220-litre barrel of whisky, but instead, it’s hand sanitizer.”

Normally, Bohemian Spirits makes gin, vodka, whisky, and liqueurs, but it has since shifted its focus to fit a growing need.

Jarvis said that the company has been monitoring their supply as they make it so they don’t run out when locals may need sanitizer.

“Right now, we’re sitting pretty well, but we’ve had some crazy requests for massive amounts from big companies, but we’re trying to make sure we have enough on-hand in case the local health authorities need some, we’re trying to make sure we don’t sell or give it all away in case the hospitals need it. We’ve turned down a lot of requests for large amounts because we don’t want to run out,” explained Jarvis.

Production of sanitizer takes about significantly more ethanol than would otherwise be used for alcoholic drinks.

“Our normal production is about 400 bottles of vodka or gin a week, and each bottle of sanitizer is essentially about two bottles of gin or vodka, because it’s 40% versus 80%, so we’re doing about 200 litres of sanitizer a week,” said Jarvis.

Jarvis is encouraging those that would like to purchase sanitizer from Bohemian Spirits to bring their own container to fill up.

Taynton Bay Spirits in Invermere has also started making alcohol-based sanitizer and said it has given the equivalent of about 600 bottles of vodka away in six days.