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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- What began with a handful of distilleries has now blossomed into an industry-wide trend. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has made disinfectant products difficult to find, over 600 spirit-makers are now making and distributing hand sanitizer.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has compiled a list which shows that distilleries in every state have joined the effort -- producing an estimated thousands of gallons every day.
“All of us, our whole industry, has taken a massive beating in terms of the economics. Many of these distillers have had to shut down their tasting rooms and tours,” Chris Swonger, president and CEO of DISCUS told Fox News. “There’s a recognition that the sooner we can play a role in combating COVID-19, the sooner we can get back to normal course of business."
The list includes some of the industry’s most popular brands. Bacardi, whose facility in Jacksonville, Fla., has bottled 24,000 gallons alone — equating to 120,000 units of 750 ml bottles — which will be going out to each of Florida’s 67 counties.
“Our goal was to really target those that are on the frontlines of this pandemic and interacting with the public probably the most. That lends itself to our first responders and our medical professionals,” Darrin Mueller, director of operations for Bacardi Bottling Corporation, told Fox News. "So, those throughout hospitals that are running short on supply, those out on the field.”
Well-known for its rum and other products such as Grey Goose vodka, Bacardi Botting Corporation, as of Wednesday evening, had made over 400,000 gallons of sanitizer across 10 facilities around the world, a company spokesperson told Fox News. The Jacksonville site will also be donating 6,000 gallons of alcohol to other nearby manufacturers to assist them in producing hand sanitizer.
“You look at what we’re doing as an industry, take the competition aside, and we’re all striving for one goal right now,” said Mueller. “And that’s really to give back to our communities and help those in need.”
Mueller affirms that the move will not disrupt the supply of Bacardi rum.
Other industry mainstays, such as Tito’s vodka, are working to make and distribute hand sanitizer as well.
But it’s not just the big-name brands that are stepping up to help. Local spirit-makers such as Swamp Fox Distilling Company in Buena Vista, Ga., are on board as well.
“When I left work on a Friday evening, I was in the whiskey business," co-owner Britt Moon told Fox News. "[Then I] woke up on Monday morning and I was making hand sanitizer."
Located in a city of just over 2,000 residents, the company shut down its whiskey production and scoured for resources to get the ball rolling on making hand sanitizer. Ultimately, they sacrificed and distilled down barrels of already-made whiskey, as well as donated wine from the nearby vineyard Wolf Creek Plantation.
Since then, they have found a supplier of bulk ethanol to amp up their production, estimating that they can pump out roughly 10,000 750 ml bottles a week.
Yet still, the demand has no end in sight.
“Every morning, every day our phones are ringing from large companies that need it,” co-owner Angie Moon told Fox News. “UPS, FedEx, hospitals, VAs, Georgia Parks and Recreation, sheriff’s departments from all over the state.”
“Literally we’ve set up an impromptu call center to take calls every day,” added Britt Moon. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
He adds that seemingly every day, the list of distilleries making sanitizer and other disinfectant products in the fight against COVID-19, grows longer.
"When we look back at this, all of us as American citizens will be very proud of how the industry rose to the task,” said Swonger.