Devin Flickinger was distilling a batch of vodka at Hook & Flask Still Works when he and co-owner Mark Farrell decided to switch over to another hot commodity.
“What we’re trying to do from Hook & Flask’s perspective is bring out the spirit of the community,” Flickinger said.
The process of making hand sanitizer is similar to what they do every day at Hook & Flask. The primary difference is the high alcohol content that is needed for hand sanitizer.
“We need 180 proof and above,” Flickinger said. “It does take a little bit of science or a little bit of work behind the scenes with the still to get it that high.”
The alcohol then has to be mixed with peroxide and glycerine or a binding agent, Farrell said. In some batches, they will use xanthan gum to give the sanitizer the consistency with which most people are familiar.
Supplies in demand
The challenge now is getting supplies. Orders have been made but shipments have been delayed. In anticipation of potential shortages, Hook & Flask has already put in additional orders.
Farrell ordered sample size liquor bottles and plastic containers. He also went to the restaurant store for 8 oz. containers similar to ketchup bottles. They’ve also told doctor’s offices to save their containers so that they can be refilled.
Farrell hopes the supplies will start coming in Thursday or Friday, and the distillery will have “a decent amount” made by the end of the week.
Farrell said the project isn’t about Hook & Flask but about the whole distiller community, which has engaged in similar projects across the country. For example, one of the owners of Midstate Distillery in Harrisburg was instrumental pulling the distilleries together to share information on how to make the sanitizer to World Health Organization standards, Farrell said.
“The distiller community as a whole is trying to step up here and fill a void,” Farrell said. “It’s not about Hook & Flask. Tattered Flag (in Middletown) is already making hand sanitizer. They’ve been making it for the last week.”
Midstate Distillery is close to producing if they aren’t already, and Crosswater Distillery in Lewisberry is trying to do the same thing, he said.
“All these distilleries that are trying to get their businesses to survive in this are also stepping up to a need in our community,” Farrell said.
Both men have backgrounds as volunteer firemen and Devin is a full-time paramedic so their immediate focus is on emergency services.
Carlisle Police Department has asked for bottles for each of its 33 officers. Farrell said if the distillery supplies them each with a two-ounce bottle, the officers could come back and fill it up when they need more.
Around the time Hook & Flask started researching hand sanitizer, Dr. Deb Taylor reached out to them to see if they could help provide hand sanitizer to the medical community. She’s not only provided information on making hand sanitizer, but also has served as the liaison to the medical community.
Taylor also provided seed money to start. Farrell said they have talked about asking for donations to recoup costs, but they are hesitant to do that because they don’t know yet if they can produce enough hand sanitizer to offer in return for the funds.
“As a business, we’re very down right now because of what we can do,” Farrell said. “We’re not trying to make money off of making hand sanitizer. We’re just trying to cover costs.”
Once first responders and medical personnel are equipped, Hook & Flask may set up a community fill station at which people could fill their own bottles.
“We’re trying to focus on seeing what we can produce to meet the initial need locally first and then see what we can do beyond that,” Farrell said.
The distillery has had plenty of support from the community as they announced the transition to making hand sanitizer.
“The phone is ringing off the hook. Text messages and Facebook messages,” Flickinger said. “It’s just amazing how people are positively reacting to the assistance that we’re trying to give.”
An updated compilation of Sentinel and Cumberlink coverage of coronavirus issues in Pennsylvania and Cumberland County.
Email Tammie at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.
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