How a distillery went from making vodka to hand sanitizer
With states around the country shutting down all but essential businesses, WePrint customer Blinking Owl Distillery stepped up to help. Wanting to keep as many workers employed as possible and help out the community, when county supervisors came calling, the business decided to switch from making spirits to hand sanitizer for first responders and medical professionals on the frontline of COVID-19.
Brian Christenson and his wife Robin, who own the Santa Ana, Calif.-based distillery, normally make handcrafted spirits like vodka, gin and whiskey. They’re one of the first in the state to hold the Type 74 Craft Distillers License. This allows the business to operate a tasting room and sell some bottles.
Initially, they were unsure if they wanted to wade through the regulations required to make hand sanitizer. However, with the government’s guidance and easement of restrictions to allow faster production, Blinking Owl decided to move ahead.
“As the need for sanitizer grew we decided that it was a great opportunity to keep some of our staff working, provide a product to people in need, and donate as much as we can to those in need,” said Brian Christenson.
Putting a temporary business plan in place
Switching their systems to make the hand sanitizer wasn’t difficult. However, logistics including sourcing bottling and packaging supplies has been tricky because of the high demand. Avery WePrint, who has been providing the company with its custom product labels since our launch, was happy to do a small part by donating the custom labels to Blinking Owl for the hand sanitizer. The distillery has already had requests for tens of thousands of gallons. They hope to be able to produce 2,000 gallons a week for bottling and distribution.
To make the hand sanitizer to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organization (WHO) requirements, the distillery first makes a neutral spirit. This ethyl alcohol, which is the base of vodka, is also the base for hand sanitizer. So instead of adding water as they normally would for vodka, they are now adding hydrogen peroxide and glycerin.
“It is going to be a rough ride that will take quite some time to recover from. Do your best to stay healthy physically and mentally. Try to think outside the box for business opportunities that will allow you to make income during these uncertain times.”Brian Christenson
The distillery has started producing everything from 2-ounce pocket-size hand sanitizers up to 55-gallon drums. They have already committed most of the supply. The large tubs and drums will head to local hospitals, fire departments, police stations, and other medical facilities.
The pocket bottles will be passed out among the homeless population by county officials. And with scarcity among the general public, the company is also selling some 12-ounce pump bottles to the public.
More about Blinking Owl
Brian Christenson’s great grandfather, Fred P. Armbrust, was a bootlegger who had a still hidden on his dairy farm in a basement behind secret passageways. He secretly provided the local farmers with his homemade brew. Brian wanted to carry on that passion by providing legal “good spirits” to his community.
The distillery has been a WePrint customer since our launch ordering, custom labels for its products.
“The service has been fantastic for our small business and the quality is great,” Brian Christenson said. “And we were amazed about Avery donating so many labels to support our efforts.”
If you would like to help the distillery in their effort to provide hand sanitizer to volunteers, first responders, elderly care centers and restaurants, please visit BlinkingOwlDistillery.com to donate.
For other ideas, read Things Your Small Business Can Do During the Pandemic.