• Whiskey Acres Distilling Company will begin production of hand sanitizer to help supply local hospitals and authorities in DeKalb, Illinois
  • Co-owner Jamie Walters said the distillery will try to help meet demand for sanitizer outside of DeKalb
  • Walters cautioned that he wasn't sure how long the distillery would be able to maintain a steady supply of hand sanitizer due to supply bottlenecking

An Illinois whiskey distillery said Friday it would begin producing hand sanitizer to help supply local hospitals and authorities trying to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Whiskey Acres Distilling Co. in DeKalb, about 65 miles west of Chicago, planned to begin producing hand sanitizer after it was forced to close for the month due to the coronavirus panic. The visitor center and whiskey operations will remain closed for the rest of the month while it makes the most of its “downtime.”

“We've agreed to donate basically our entire supply to the front lines,” co-owner Jamie Walters said. Walters co-founded the distillery with his father, Jim Walters, on land the family has owned in DeKalb since 1941.

The decision follows the Illinois Health and Hospital Association’s request for “veterinarians, dentists and others” to donate what supplies they can to help protect workers at the state’s more than 200 hospitals from COVID-19 exposure.

“Hospitals all over the state are in jeopardy of potentially running out of critically needed protective medical supplies,” Illinois Health and Hospital Association President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi told reporters. “With continuing uncertainties about global and U.S. supplies of face masks, we urgently need to find alternative supplies, no matter where they are.”

Walters said Whiskey Acres was given approval Wednesday by U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin production of hand sanitizer. The distillery will be using a formula approved by the World Health Organization and production is to begin this weekend. Walters said he hopes to have “several thousand bottles” ready to give local EMS, police and Kishwaukee Hospital.

Whiskey Acres will try to meet local needs first, but will do what it can to meet requests from around the state.

“I was quite surprised by that,” Walters said. “When we first envisioned this, we thought it was a nice thing to do. Little did we know until the last 24 hours what kind of extreme demand.”

The whiskey produced at Whiskey Acres is normally 140-proof. Production will increase to 160-proof to make it effective as a hand sanitizer. Walters also said since the distillery doesn’t have a proper bottling line, they will need to bottle the sanitizer by hand.

Walters warned he wasn’t sure how long the distillery could keep producing a steady supply of hand sanitizer.

“We don't have anymore supplies,” Walters said. “We are all running into supply chain bottlenecks. One thing we could really use help with is bulk-type quantities of hydrogen peroxide and glycerin. And the containers are extremely hard to find.”

Hand Sanitizer
Hand Sanitizer Kelly Sikkema - Unsplash