In a movement led by one forward-thinking Adelaide gin distillery, liquor producers around Australia have found a new income stream in an uncertain economic climate at the same time as patching a dire gap in Australian reserves of much-needed hand sanitiser.
Prohibition Liquor paved the way for Australian distilleries to produce bulk hand sanitiser
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“The efforts have been likened to wartime enterprise,” says Prohibition Liquor co-owner Adam Carpenter of his company’s adaptation to hand sanitiser.
“We are doing this because we can and we know the country needs it.”
Last week the award-winning small-batch distillery on Gilbert Street started making and selling hand sanitiser in a bid to fill a gap created from the drastically increased demand for hygiene products, and a personal obligation to do “the right thing” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Like many South Australian businesses, the Prohibition team were doing whatever they could to keep their operation afloat, and adapted to Federal and State social distancing laws by also transforming their tasting room and bar into a bottle shop.
Prohibition Liquor Co. originally produced 250 bottles of the 100ml sanitiser – 200 were sold to customers with a purchase of a full-sized bottle of gin and many were given to staff, bar customers, distributors and suppliers.
Adam and business partner Wes Heddles used the leftover “heads and hearts” of alcohol from the gin distilling process, and head distiller Hugh Lumsen says the sanitiser even retains some of the fragrant botanicals (but the hydrogen peroxide and glycerine means it’s definitely not for human consumption).
Their initial run of sanitiser ran out after two days but they’ve since been churning out the product in bulk and supplying it free to customers with the purchase of alcohol, and also to South Australian health professionals fighting the disease head on.
“We released the hand sanitiser as something to help our customers through a ‘drought’ of the product, but had no idea it would create such a buzz,” Adam says.
“Since starting we have also supplied essential services such as SA Health, SAPOL, allied health, Emergency Services and many other government departments with bulk sanitiser.”
But the pivot from gin distilling to hand sanitiser manufacturing wasn’t without risk.
Adam says they released the product without any concessions from the Australian Tax Office or approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) but took the punt as they knew they were bringing something to market which performed a necessary duty.
“Within two more days we had the blessing of the ATO, paving the way for them to allow distilleries all over Australia to do the same, and the TGA’s guidance on how to stay within the guidelines of the Therapeutic Goods Administration,” Adam says.
The TGA website stipulates hand sanitisers must be manufactured by TGA-licensed manufactures, in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice, because these products are used in high-risk contexts such as hospitals or aged care centres and make important claims – that they kill specific organisms – which must be verified.
Since Prohibition Liquor Co. launched their sanitiser, an avalanche of other national liquor and food and beverage manufacturers have joined ranks.
Bickford’s Group said they would start producing 60,0000 bottles of sanitiser from today, with a distillery in Queensland producing the alcohol and Adelaide’s Salisbury plant packaging the 250ml product.
“If you’d asked me two weeks ago would we ever make hand sanitiser I would’ve laughed at you… but currently it is saving our little gin business,” Adam says.
“I’m getting messages from the police force and health officials today, saying we really saved them, as the entire force was out of this essential product.
“Come in and see us at Gilbert Street to get a free hand sanitiser spray with every bottle of gin purchased, plus your tonics and garnishes to go. Or, of course, buy online with free delivery Australia-wide (as always), and a complimentary sanitiser with every bottle.”