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Two Spokane distilleries producing hand sanitizer

UPDATED: Fri., March 20, 2020

Don Poffenroth, founder and president of Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, fills donated bottles with hand sanitizer, which he calls Spokanitizer, on Thursday, March 19, 2020. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Don Poffenroth, founder and president of Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, fills donated bottles with hand sanitizer, which he calls Spokanitizer, on Thursday, March 19, 2020. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Neither Mikel Lenox of Dry Fly Distilling nor Richard Clemson of Warrior Liquor thought they would be in the business of making free hand sanitizers, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

After hand sanitizers were wiped from the shelves in a locust-like fashion because of coronavirus concerns, the demand was so high that “recipes” for homemade sanitizer proliferated on the internet, to the extent that Tito’s Homemade Vodka had to issue a statement informing the public its alcohol should not be used for this purpose.

But for some alcohol, this can work, and both Dry Fly and Warrior Liquor are on board.

Dry Fly will have the hand sanitizer available to first responders, senior citizens and those at-risk as soon as possible. On Monday, the distillery will have an email list, and that will prompt scheduling for pickup.

“The last thing we want to do is have everybody come down and rush down here and break all of the criteria for the quarantine to try and get hand sanitizer,” Lenox said.

Clemson said his supply should be ready by March 27, and people can come down to the tasting room – no longer used for tastings – and pick it up.

“Our corporate motto is ‘Be a warrior, conquer life,’” Clemson said. “It’s more appropriate now to think about our meaning for it, which is everybody’s got obstacles in their life. If this isn’t an obstacle for everybody to try to overcome, I don’t know what it is.”

And there were obstacles for both Clemson and Lenox to overcome. For Lenox, it was the containers themselves and purified water. For Clemson, it was sourcing key ingredients, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin.

But the first step for both distilleries was determining if it could even be done.

Both men went to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to determine what would be necessary if they were to attempt the venture.

Tom Hogue, bureau spokesman, said he hasn’t kept count of how many requests he’s received, partially because most of his time is devoted to fielding them. He’s never seen anything like it, and the bureau went as far as issuing guidance Tuesday night for distillers who wish to make hand sanitizer.

“Right from the get-go, our approach has been that we’re trying to leverage every authority that we have to, frankly, get out of the way,” Hogue said. “We want to make this as easy as possible for our regulated industry members to help their communities.”

Both Clemson and Lenox said it was important for them to help Spokane right now.

“We’ve just been having a lot of people reach out, offering their time, their help, which is great,” Lenox said. “We have to keep the hands-on to a minimum for it. We can’t really have a lot of volunteers down here.”

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