Local distilleries switch to making and distributing hand sanitizer during shortage

In response to a shortage of hand sanitizer some alcohol distilleries in Winnipeg are making more than just spirits.

From small non-profits to WRHA and RCMP, organizations in need turn to distilleries for supplies

Brock Coutts (left) and Mike McCallum (right) bottle their hand sanitizer, which will be distributed for free to Winnipeg not-for-profits and those most in need during the the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by Brock Coutts)

In response to a shortage of hand sanitizer, some alcohol distilleries in Winnipeg are making more than just spirits.

Patent 5 Distillery on Alexander Avenue has started making hand sanitizer and providing it for free to Winnipeg not-for profits and organizations in need. 

"The best way to give back to the community is for us to distribute this for free," said Brock Coutts, co-owner of Patent 5 Distillery. 

"Our focus has been on not-for-profits that deal with the most vulnerable people today." 

Making hand sanitizer for those in need

2 years ago
Brock Coutts, founder of Patent 5 Distillery, started making the liquid hand sanitizer this week and has already been overwhelmed with requests but he wants to ensure those who need it most are prioritized. 0:41

The distillery is offering the liquid hand sanitizer to organizations like Main Street Project, Sunshine House and the Exchange District BIZ.

Following guidelines from the World Health Organization, the distillery is making its hand sanitizer base with glycerin and a base of 80 per cent alcohol.

Coutts says the request for hand sanitizer has been overwhelming and he has received inquiries from across Canada, including Ottawa.

Brock Coutts, one of the owners of Patent 5 Distillery, said the business started making hand sanitizer on Tuesday and since then have been overwhelmed with requests. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The decision to give the hand sanitizer away for free to those in need is something Coutts said he feels strongly about.

"Our plan is not to sell the hand sanitizer," said Coutts. 

He said that before the COVID-19 outbreak, the small batch distillery was just getting off the ground and since then have had to lay off their employees.

For now, Patent 5 has stopped making spirits but is still open for business, selling bottles at Manitoba Liquor Marts and out of the distillery. 

Health Canada has temporarily changed its regulations around hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment due to the urgent need for the products, allowing businesses like Patent 5 Distillery and Capital K Distillery to fill the void.

"We are going to try our hardest to make sure that everyone who wants some can get their hands on it," said Lindsey Gillanders, marketing manager for Capital K Distillery.

Gillanders said the small business is selling its larger bottles of liquid disinfectant for around $10, and will be shipping its first orders to Manitoba Corrections, as well as the WRHA. Capital K has also received inquiries from the RCMP and local fire departments.

"We are not looking to make money, but as a small organization we need to be able to recoup something in order to keep our lights on right now," said Gillanders.

Capital K Distillery hopes to acquire smaller two-ounce bottles from the public to make its liquid disinfectant available to first responders and people in need for free, Gillanders said.

Owner and distiller Jason Kang stands in the distillery room used to make the disinfectant. (Submitted by Capital K Distillery)

Locally made hand sanitizers and disinfectants still need to adhere to Health Canada standards, but requirements like labelling and packaging are being waived so the public can access these vital products.

The provincial government still recommends hand washing for at least 15 seconds as the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.