Local distilleries supply community with hand sanitizer during COVID-19 pandemic


A bottle of Desert Door's Texas Sotol sits beside a bottle of their in-house sanitizer inside the distillery. As of April 14, the distillery has donated 70,000 8 ounce bottles of sanitizer. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Desert Door Distillery

Brianna Benitez, Assistant Life and Arts Editor

Distilleries across Central Texas are raising a toast to those on the front line through the production and distribution of hand sanitizer in response to the nationwide shortage.

With the closure of restaurants and bars, many local distilleries are experiencing a decline in business as tasting and distillery tours came to a halt. Despite the setback, several distilleries stepped in to manufacture hand sanitizer. This response comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration implemented a temporary policy, allowing non licensed or non registered drug manufacturers permission to produce alcohol-based sanitizer.

According to the FDA, all manufactured hand sanitizer products must contain glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, sterile water and high proof ethanol alcohol, a common ingredient in both liquor and sanitizer. All manufactured hand sanitizers must contain an ethanol concentration of 80% at the end of production.

Texas State alumnus Steve Ison is the founder and co-owner San Antonio based Rebecca Creek Distillery. The distillery began donating its hand sanitizer Love, Distilled during the first week of April. Since then, Ison said the distillery has donated 16,000 liters of sanitizer to first responders across the state in cities such as Houston, Dallas and New Braunfels.

Rebecca Creek Distillery also donated 25 gallons of Love, Distilled to Texas State’s University Police Department.

“I just thought it was an easy decision to immediately help them out as fast as possible,” Ison said. “I was in a position where I could give back and help my fellow Bobcats.”

The distillery is now in the process of manufacturing its second bulk of hand sanitizer. Ison said each bulk takes three days to make and is equivalent to 16,000 liters of sanitizer. Organizations and companies deemed essential by the federal government can request a donation or purchase an order of Love, Distilled through an online form located on the distillery’s website.

Desert Door located in Driftwood is another local distillery with an intent to support those in need during this time. Ryan Campbell, co-founder of Desert Door, said the distillery learned how to produce hand sanitizer through instructions presented by the World Health Organization. He said the distillery produces anywhere from 2,000-5,000 bottles of sanitizer a day.

“We’re not really people that like to sit in the sidelines when there’s a need,” Campbell said. “We’ve been blessed to be able to be part of putting all of these hand sanitizers out and in a lot of ways, create new connections with people.”

The distillery offers community pick up days where individuals can drive up and receive a free bottle of hand sanitizer. Times and dates of community pick up days are announced @desertdoor on Instagram.

As of April 14, Desert Door donated 70,000 eight ounce bottles of sanitizer, nearly 4,400 gallons, to first responders throughout the state including the San Antonio Police Department, Hays County Sheriff Department and Austin Travis County EMS.

Wesley Hopkins, Austin Travis County EMS division chief, said Desert Door and Tito’s Vodka have collectively supplied the division with around 300-400 bottles of sanitizer as well as a 55-gallon sanitizer drum. Empty bottles of sanitizer are taken to the Austin Travis County EMS central supply warehouse where they are refilled by the 55-gallon drum.

In his 19 years as a paramedic for Austin Travis County, Hopkins said they have never dealt with a disease where the demand for hand sanitizer was so high.

As the coronavirus outbreak escalated, Hopkins said the division implemented a new procedure that requires paramedics to wear two pairs of gloves while on duty. To limit the risk of contamination, paramedics are to remove their first pair of gloves and apply sanitizer to the second and then take off their gear once they return to the station from a call.

Hopkins said it has been a huge relief to receive donations from Desert Door and Tito’s Vodka. He said figuring out where they would be able to source hand sanitizer became one less thing for the division to worry about as they could now focus their attention on ensuring their paramedics were supplied with the proper masks and safety gear.

“It’s rewarding that a local company steps up to help you in the fight,” Hopkins said. “These are local companies that we know and now they’re helping us do our job.”

The University Star’s COVID-19 coverage can be found here.

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