PEI

P.E.I. distillery pivots from liquor to hand sanitizer

The owner of Deep Roots Distillery on P.E.I. says normally at this time of year, he’d be making spirits and liqueurs for the summer tourist season. Instead, he is making hand sanitizer.

Biovectra also producing hand sanitizer to meet COVID-19 demand

David Beamish of Deep Roots Distillery works on making hand sanitizer. (Stacey Beamish)

The owner of Deep Roots Distillery on P.E.I. says normally at this time of year, he'd be making spirits and liqueurs for the summer tourist season.

Instead, he is making hand sanitizer.

It's a sign of the times, says Mike Beamish, as everyone adapts to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Normally we'd be gearing up for summer tour season."

The Warren Grove distillery is one of at least two P.E.I. companies rushing to fill the demand for hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Biovectra in Charlottetown has made 1,200 litres of bulk 70 per cent ethanol sanitizer to support health care workers and essential services in the province. The company normally manufactures pharmaceutical ingredients. 

Mike Beamish says he'd like to continue making hand sanitizer at the distillery. (Stacey Beamish)

Unlike Deep Roots Distillery, Biovectra is not yet equipped to supply the product to the consumer market. Their sanitizer is provided to the province which then repackages and distributes it.

Family 'stepping up'

Beamish sells his product at the Charlottetown Farmers Market among other places. They can also be reached through their website and Facebook page.

Beamish's daughter, Stacey, said it's been all hands on deck for the family business. She takes the orders and handles the social media, her brothers Greg and David help make and bottle it, and her parents, Mike and Carol, do the labelling and deliveries. 

"Everyone's been stepping up," she said.

Normally, Deep Roots Distillery would be making its other alcohol products at this time of year. (Stacey Beamish)

Mike Beamish said making hand sanitizer is not that different from making alcohol, though he joked that he wished he'd paid more attention in his high school chemistry class.

"A big part of what we do is blending. We take product X and blend a certain quantity of it with product Y ensuring that we're keeping the right proportions," he said.

Back in high school we didn't always pay attention, wondering why we would use those skills but here we are.— Mike Beamish

"So when you're adding stuff in you've got to make sure you're doing your little high school science skills. Unfortunately I had to relearn a lot of that. Back in high school we didn't always pay attention, wondering why we would use those skills but here we are."

Beamish said he uses the same ingredients, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, as recommended by the World Health Organization. He said the biggest challenge was to find spray bottles.

Beamish said he'd like to continue making the hand sanitizer and add it to his product line "so we're not caught off guard if it happens again."

But like many companies that rely largely on tourism, he's hoping the COVID-19 situation ends soon so business can return to normal.

 "We are kind of worried for our income for this coming year."

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.

 

With files from Mitch Cormier and Angela Walker

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