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Big Spring Spirits Makes Hand Sanitizer for First Responders

by on March 21, 2020 8:06 PM
Bellefonte, PA

BELLEFONTE — Hand sanitizer has been nearly impossible to find in stores for weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic, and some craft distilleries around the country — with their ability to produce the needed ethanol — have begun to try to fill some of the void in their communities.

Among them is Big Spring Spirits, 198 Match Factory Place in Bellefonte, which this past week began making its own hand sanitizer. On Friday, the distillery delivered large bottles of the product, labeled "Ain't Got No Sink Hand Sanitizer" to Bellefonte EMS, Bellefonte Police Department, Spring Township Police Department, and Logan and Undine fire companies.

Head distiller Philip Jensen said Bellefonte EMT Rachel Burris connected Big Spring with the agencies and drove him around to make the deliveries. 


"While we made the sanitizer, it was she who helped us get it into the right hands," Jensen said.


The effort got started about a week ago.

"[Big Spring owner Kevin Lloyd] was messing around with it last weekend," Jensen said. "Then when I got in during the week we started to work on it some more and figured out some recipes for it."

Jensen explained they're essentially making use of waste product from the normal distilling process. The finishing run, before the actual consumer products are made, has three fractions: heads, hearts and tails. The hearts is "the good stuff," but before that is the heads, "which has a number of things in there that just don’t taste good and also includes some ethanol," Jensen said.

Typically the heads are collected and Big Spring works with a farmer who burns them to heat dairy barns. This week, though, Jensen made an extra cut, removing methanol from the heads. The remaining product was then put through an activated charcoal filter to remove the odor and finally mixed with the other needed ingredients to make hand sanitizer.

In addition to donating it to first responders, Big Spring also is including small amounts of the hand sanitizer with customers' regular purchases. Though the tasting room is not open because of statewide shutdowns on dine-in service, customers can place online orders for curbside pickup of the distillery's spirits and bottled ready-to-drink craft cocktails. 

"They drive-up, give us a call and someone brings it out to them and included with their purchase is a vial of hand sanitizer," Jensen said, adding that customers will be required to show ID when picking up.

Local delivery is also available, and spirits are available for free shipping in Pennsylvania.

Jensen said that at the moment Big Spring isn't planning to produce large quantities of hand sanitizer for sale. 

"Right now we’re just donating it and giving it away for free," he said. "If it comes to that, that the supply is that desperate, then we might do that."

All of the agencies that received donations expressed their appreciation.

"A big thank you goes out to our friends at the neighboring Big Spring Spirits today for donating several bottles of locally made hand sanitizer (external use only!)," Bellefonte EMS wrote on Facebook. "We greatly appreciate the donation since this item is currently difficult to obtain from our normal suppliers or retailers."

"Officers of the Bellefonte Borough Police Department are grateful to have a community that is involved in our safety," Bellefonte police wrote on Facebook. "The Department is very appreciative of BIG SPRING SPIRITS of Bellefonte PA for their donation of custom distilled hand sanitizer to keep officers as safe as possible during this time of social distancing. Please remember: support your local businesses, as they support YOUR community."

Jensen added that Big Spring is looking at the possibility of also using highly-concentrated neutral spirits for making hand sanitizer as well, but for now he is glad for the distillery to spend some extra time making a product for those who need it.

"At this point, all it costs is labor and we’re happy to donate that to first responders," he said.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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