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Distillers turn their attention on a spirit of togetherness by producing hand sanitiser


By Matt MacPherson

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Whisky distillers have been turning their attention on producing hand sanitiser to help the fight against Covid-19.
Whisky distillers have been turning their attention on producing hand sanitiser to help the fight against Covid-19.

The health and wellbeing of your employees should be the primary concern for any employer right now. As a result, the whisky industry has substantially reduced production in trying to protect its staff during Covid-19.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) 87 per cent of production sites are either operating at a reduced capacity or have closed entirely. One-third of employees continue to work at company premises with all other staff not required to leave home.

It all sounds pretty gloomy but, in fact, I’m very proud of what the whisky industry is doing. Let me explain.

The virus has led to a global shortage of hand sanitisers, with such an unpredictable and colossal spike in demand for the product, it was only a matter of time before the shelves lay bare.

The alcohol in hand sanitiser is the key component for killing germs you pick up during day-to-day life through your hands. With the equipment in place, distilleries can produce something called “grain neutral spirit” which sits around 70 per cent alcohol by volume, normally used in the production of vodka and gin.

With the approval of HMRC, distilleries can distribute the liquid, instead, as antibacterial hand sanitiser.

The SWA has launched an online portal which helps distillers source the necessary ingredients and organisations in need of sanitiser to specify their requirements. The response has been overwhelming and they have received a great deal of positive feedback from users.

“A number of companies are either manufacturing hand sanitiser on-site or providing high strength ethanol to other manufactures; the latest figures show that over the next two months we expect the industry to provide 13.5 million litres of ethanol – enough to make around 54 million bottles of hand sanitiser. This is in addition to the hand sanitiser that many distilleries are producing to meet local needs.” (scotch-whisky.org.uk)

From producing “uisge beatha” – which translates as the water of life – I am proud to see that the industry is supporting health services and local communities in producing hand sanitiser.

Right now, this liquid means much more than any whisky and can quite simply help save lives. Thank you to the SWA and distilleries which are taking part in these efforts.


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