From vodka to hand-sanitizer, local distillery steps up to provide a much needed product to meet the needs of the health care industry during the coronavirus pandemic. Grayson County distillery Ironroot Republic has answered the call of the local health care industry to turn it's bourbon making facility into a hand-sanitizer production operation for the foreseeable future.

Co-owner Robert Likarish said when he got the call to help out the health care providers in the area he immediately knew it was the right thing to do.

“We've spent the last 24 hours making high proof alcohol base for the hand sanitizer,” Likarish said. “The other components that go into hand sanitizer are limited to get our hands on. We told the hospital we could make the alcohol part. Fortunately they have a compound pharmacist there and the chemicals they need to make the sanitizer. We were able to meet their needs. We will donate to the fire and police department sin the area to make sure they are equipped with hand sanitizer.

Likarish said he was contacted earlier in the week by some of the local health care workers saying they were dangerously low on hand sanitizer. He said he worked with them to find a way to provide a hand sanitizer that would meet their needs.

He said the first batch went out Friday afternoon. He said they spent 24 hours straight distilling the alcohol to get the needed material to the hospital in order to provide for their needs.

“It is one of those things it is a huge honor for us to be able to contribute,” Likarish said. “Alcohol is more of an enjoyment item of life. For us to have everything here necessary to create these life-saving chemicals for us we're glad to be able t contribute. The medical staff, the first responders are the ones on the front lines. For us to be able to support them n some way and try to make sure they are as safe as they can possibly be is something when you get asked to do that you step up.”

He said the hand sanitizer is the focus on the short term. He said the good news was the bourbon that was already in production was easy to convert to the needed alcohol base quickly. The focus is to ensure the local health care providers have the materials they need.

He said not every distillery has the equipment but the ones that do are stepping up.

“We're not shipping to retail, we're doing this all for free at no cost, we're bearing the burden,” Likarish said. “It is the right thing to do. Everything is strained right now. This is a way we can help.”

He said it is keeping his business fully staffed. He said based on the community support they are able to keep employees paid. He said it is going to rely on that community support to keep the business going while it shifts over to this new public service area.

“We're starting with Grayson County,” Likarish said. “We've been contacted by numerous federal agencies and companies down in the Dallas area. One of the agencies doing the actual testing have called us asking to get them some hand sanitizer as well. There are a lot of complications we're working on everything we can as far reaching as we can while also making sure our local hospitals and first responders don't run short.”

Likarish said it has taken some alterations to the normal procedures to produce the product. He said because they had the equipment to make Vodka and his brother had the expertise he does it wasn't a difficult shift to pivot when they were called to.

It bourbon is normally double distilled up to 140 proof. He said the remaining work is to taste and watering it down. Hand Sanitizer is a more pure product. It uses a different distill. The cuts are tighter and it has to remain at a higher proof to ensure the sanitizers can be effective. He said hospital grade s different than the product sold at a local retail establishment.

One the alcohol production is done it goes to the pharmacist to add the additional chemicals needed to make it safe for human skin.

“We have no idea on how long his will last,” Likarish said “We're feeling out what the needs are. For the moment we're capable of producing enough and having enough for our local community nobody needs to worry if they go to the hospital there wont be hand sanitizer.”

Likarish said there is an increasing number of distilleries stepping up to take on the task at hand. He said Texas distilleries are leading the charge as of right now paving the way for the other distilleries.

He said once things return to normal it would take about a week to return to the core business. He said the products used and equipment are the same.

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