Ottawa craft distillers turn to making hand sanitizer

So far, most of the hand sanitizer has been sold to construction companies, but doctors, paramedics, firefighters, charities and ordinary people have scooped it up, he said. North of 7 does bulk orders, but also sells a maximum of four bottles to ordinary consumers.

“We’re trying to make sure people get it. People feel anxious. Their whole  demeanor changes when they find out we have it,” said Miall.

OTTAWA - April 7, 2020 - Co-owner Jody Miall producing hand sanitizer at North of 7 Distillery in Ottawa Tuesday. Tony Caldwell
Co-owner Jody Miall is producing hand sanitizer at North of 7 Distillery in Ottawa. Tony Caldwell/Postmedia Tony Caldwell/Postmedia

And word has spread.

“The amount of email I get is staggering. Between noon and 3 pm (Tuesday) I got 40 emails. We sell out every single day.”

Lipin and Miall, a pair of rock climbing buffs who also operate the Coyote Rock Gym, got interesting in distilling when they discovered bourbon distillers on climbing trips in Kentucky.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And if you distil craft spirits and life gives you little way to make money, then make hand sanitizer.

North of 7, Ottawa’s first micro distiller when it opened in 2014, has turned to making liquid hand sanitizer instead of artisan whiskey, gin, vodka and rum.

To be clear, if you buy a bottle of the company’s hand sanitizer ($12 for 500 ml, tax included) it won’t contain any of North of 7’s craft liquor. Instead, the company has devoted the production runs of all three of its stills to producing ethyl alcohol, the microbe-busting ingredient in its hand sanitizer.

The company’s craft products spends years aging in barrels, but the distillery can crank out a batch of ethyl alcohol in five days, said Jody Miall, who owns the company with partner Greg Lipin.

North of 7 has three stills, the largest at 750 litres and the other two at 500 litres. It takes three ingredients to produce ethyl alcohol: sugar, water and yeast. The alcohol is mixed with hydrogen peroxide and gylcerine, a standard formulation from the World Health Organization, said Miall.

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