SOU chemistry graduate Molly Troupe (2012), the master distiller at Portland’s Freeland Spirits, is setting aside drinks and helping to make hand sanitizer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SOU alumna is using her academic training and a World Health Organization-recommended formula to help her community in a time of crisis.
“Spirits are about community,” said Troupe, a member of the American Craft Spirits Association Board of Directors. “As shortages arose with hand sanitizer, we saw that we could help by providing the community with our own.”
Freeland has allowed community members to pre-order and pick up a maximum of two bottles per day of the sanitizer since the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau announced in late March that it would waive certain provisions regarding distilled spirits regulations. That move allows distilleries that produce alcoholic beverages to pivot their production to ethanol-based hand sanitizers.
As social distancing and quarantine measures continue, distilleries around the U.S. have taken the lead in addressing a shortage of germ-killing hand sanitizer. Troupe and the Freeland Spirits distillery have joined big industry names such as Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey in altering their business operations to support healthy communities and slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of this industry,” Troupe said. “Our own businesses are at economic risk and rapidly pivoting due to physical distancing, and instead of falling victim to the whiplash, the distilling community has stepped up in a large way, postponing their own projects to help while the need is there.”
To shift production to hand sanitizer, distillers have to denature the ethanol they would otherwise have used to make spirits, then blend it with hydrogen peroxide and glycerin. In spirits, the ethanol is not nearly as potent. The ethanol used for hand sanitizer is sometimes too strong for normal distillery machinery to handle, which slows the process, but distilleries such as Freeland Spirits continue to fill the need for their communities.
Sanitizer and spirits can be ordered from the Portland distillery at freelandspirits.com. All Portland orders are delivered to customers’ car windows with minimal contact.
Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer