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St. Albert distillers boiling up hand sanitizer

Black Diamond, MD Distillery and DaVinci Gelato kicking it into high gear to address hand sanitizer shortage.
hand sanitizer black diamond distillary CC 9968
St. Albert's Black Diamond Distillery has begun production of hand sanitizer to address shortages across the province and the country. Here, pails of sanitizer are stacked and ready to be shipped to a work camp in the north of the province. CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

Local booze creators are kicking their stills into high gear to help solve a shortage of hand sanitizer.

A familiar face at farmers markets around the region, Black Diamond Distillery has now begun working around the clock to produce its latest product: 65 per cent alcohol hand sanitizer.

Co-owner David Scade said the distillery saw the shortage in hand sanitizer and “jumped on board.”

“If us running our still twice a day helps them, that's what we're going to do,” he said. So far, Black Diamond has produced 400 litres of the precious goods and is running its still in two shifts, double the production levels compared to pre-pandemic.

Initially, the distillery’s focus was producing personal-use hand sanitizer for frontline and essential service workers, but it is now seeing some “fairly sizable” corporate orders.

Scade said the local distiller is filling orders across the province, including for security companies, Correctional Service Canada, local health care providers, STARS Air Ambulance and Edmonton International Airport.

The process to create hand sanitizer is almost identical to how Black Diamond produces vodka. But rather than cutting their alcohol flowing from Black Diamond’s still to 40 per cent using water, they cut it to slightly above CDC-recommended concentrations for hand sanitizer at 65 per cent.

Not made for consumption, Black Diamond de-natures the sanitizer with essential oils of lemon grass, sweet orange, grapefruit, peppermint, eucalyptus and some tea tree.

RELATED: St. Albert distillery shifts to crafting hand sanitizer

Demand for the hand sanitizer has been “pretty huge” and “overwhelming” Scade said, with people emailing and calling non-stop.

“We're just trying to keep our heads above water,” Scade said. “People are really understanding with that and have been really generous with their donations.”

On Sunday, Black Diamond started a GoFundMe to purchase upgraded equipment to triple its hand sanitizer production, aiming to raise $25,000.

Another brand-new local distillery, MD Distillery, had not even cut the ribbon to open its doors as COVID-19 began sweeping across the globe. Owners Marcin Hrehoruk and Darin Turyn thought about postponing their opening date, but decided people need hand sanitizer and booze.

“Not everybody can really do it, but we can, and we figured we don’t want to charge anybody,” Hrehoruk said in a phone interview, trailing off because he said so many customers were knocking on his door.

MD Distillery is not charging anything for its hand sanitizer and is distributing to health clinics in St. Albert and Edmonton. So far, they have given away over 1,000 60-ml bottles of hand sanitizer and have 5,000 more ready to go.

Over a year ago, DaVinci Gelato got a licence to produce its own alcohol for boozy gelato, and later due to demand, its own T-Rex Platinum Vodka. Now, the St. Albert company is also responding to demand for hand sanitizer, and on Monday chief executive officer Yvonne Irnich said “people are desperately waiting” for their product.

Irnich was just waiting for imminent approval from Health Canada to distribute, and once given the green light, has 30,000 bottles ready to go out to local stores, pharmacies and health clinics.

DaVinci has also set aside 100 cases of the stuff to give away for social causes, to places like the food bank and front-line workers.

Irnich said the company did not give it a lot of thought before deciding to jump into producing hand sanitizer from the gelato shop.

“It’s a certainty that we as a business help out in a crisis or in a situation like this,” Irnich said.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Follow our COVID-19 special section for the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.

The U.S. Centre for Disease Control identifies hand washing as the best method to remove certain types of germs but recommends using 60-per-cent alcohol hand sanitizer when soap and water is not readily available.

Orders for Black Diamond’s hand sanitizer can be made by emailing [email protected], or ringing the doorbell during business operations between 12 and 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday (#200 16 Renault Crescent)

MD Distillery’s hand sanitizer can be acquired by calling 780-906-7177 or emailing [email protected]

While product was not yet available at print deadline, DaVinci Gelato can be reached at 587-686-0288.

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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