Local distillery making hand sanitizer for residents and first responders

NILES, Mich. (WNDU) - Local distilleries are changing their ways to help meet the needs of residents and first responders. One of those needs is hand sanitizer.

It's almost impossible to find on any store shelf. That's why Howard Tuthill is taking the temporarily closed Iron Shoe Distillery in Niles and using it to give the community what it desperately needs.

"We started producing hand sanitizer," Tuthill told 16 News Now Tuesday.

With a shortage for hand sanitizer and the Iron Shoe having to shut down amid coronavirus concerns, Tuthill says it all made perfect sense to start making sanitizer knowing he has the equipment to do it.

In fact, Tuthill plans to have 1200 8 oz. bottles of hand sanitizer ready for sale by the end of the month.

It requires three key ingredients: alcohol, glycerol, and hydrogen peroxide. It's a recipe approved by the FDA that allows Tuthill to make it in-house at the distillery.

"The FDA has given pretty strict instructions to distilleries on how they can make the sanitizer. We have to follow the recipe given by the World Health Organization.

In order to make it, raw grain must be taken into a mash tank and mixed with water. It is then transferred over to ferment.

"Once it's done fermenting, we put it into the still where I heat it up in the kennel. As I heat it up in the kennel, the alcohol turns into a vapor first. The vapor climbs up through the column, and comes over in the condenser, pulls back into a liquid, and then I collect it when it comes off a still," Tuthill explained.

Once it's off the still, it's bottled up and ready to distribute to residents and first responders in need.

"This is our current source of revenue. Not only that, just being able to help out the community, We've been having a bunch of hospitals and healthcare facilities reaching out asking for sanitizer. Being able to help when it's most needed, that's the most important part," Tuthill says.

Bottles of hand sanitizer will be sold in 8 oz. bottles and 5 gallon containers. Tuthill is still working on pricing each product but says he is refraining from any price-gauging.

"We're going to keep the cost low. We want to help people out," Tuthill said.

For more information on how you can order, head to the Iron Shoe Distillery Facebook page for any updates.