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Ironroot Republic recognized for efforts during COVID-19

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Representatives with Ironroot Republic Distillery are presented with a certificate of recognition by the Daughters of the American Revolution for their donations of high-proof alcohol that was used to produce hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the age of COVID, many local organizations have had to change their business models to adapt to the changing world. During the spring, Denison's Ironroot Republic Distillery answered the call by using its stills and equipment to begin producing high-proof alcohol that could be used to create hand sanitizer.

As the region experienced a shortage of hand sanitizer and other medical supplies, the world-reknown whiskey producer changed its focus to producing, and donating one of the key components for hand sanitizer.

"When something like this happens, as a community we need to work together. It never was a question for us. It needed to be done," Ironroot Republic co-owner Robert Likarish said of the decision to donate the alcohol to local pharmacies, hospitals and other health organizations to produce hand sanitizer during a shortage this spring.

Just recently, Ironroot was recognized by the Martha Jefferson Randolph Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for it's efforts to produce over 300 gallons of high-proof alcohol during the pandemic. 

For Ironroot, the call to help starting in mid-spring when the company switched some of its production of Bourbon and other distilled spirits to the production of high-proof alcohol to help meet the local medical need. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a shortage of many supplies including hand sanitizer, paper towels, masks and gloves, among other items.

"Especially the very stuff we were making at first was not made with the intention of making hand sanitizer," Likarish said. "We really got started when we got calls from local hospitals that they were within a couple days or running out of sanitizer potentially."

Likarish said it can take about 14 days to make the alcohol that was needed for the sanitizer. However, there was not enough time to produce the alcohol from scratch and meet the need.

Denison's Ironroot Republic Distillery temporarily switched its efforts from producing award-winning Bourbon and spirits earlier this spring to producing high-proof alcohol during a local shortage of hand sanitizer.

So, to meet this immediate need, Ironroot converted about $80,000 worth of prepared  Bourbon into high-proof alcohol.

"When something like this happens, as a community we need to work together. It never was a question for us. It needed to be done," Likarish said.

Likarish said the distillery was one of a few who started producing high-proof alcohol early on in the pandemic. However, after a few weeks, many distilleries throughout the industry stepped up to meet this need.

"It became kind of a nation-wide effort," he said. "We were probably one of the first few to start helping, but that was because we got an emergency request. Within a week or so after this, the need became apparent and a lot of smaller distillers went to work to get hand sanitizer out as much as we could."

The built-up demand led many of the industries larger producers to partner with smaller distilleries to meet the need.

"It is one of those things that if this happened a decade ago, there were not enough small distilleries around the country to do what needed to be done," Likarish said.

It took about 10 weeks before Ironroot was able to return to its normal production as other sources of sanitizer hit the market. During this time,  Likarish said the distillery was supported not only by donations from the community, but also a recent award that brought new attention to the brand.

A worker at Ironroot Republic Distillery prepares a new batch of distilled alcohol at the company's Denison facility. The distillery temporarily switched its efforts from producing award-winning Bourbon and spirits earlier this spring to producing high-proof alcohol during a local shortage of hand sanitizer.

In February, Ironroot's Harbinger Straight Bourbon was named the "World's Best Bourbon" in the 2020 World Whiskies Awards.

"It has been a crazy year. For us, we have personally been blessed by having our Bourbon win best Bourbon in the world," Likarish said. "So we've been able to string that along and because of that it gave us the ability to donate as much as we did.

"Without that award, and people locally and across the country buying our stuff, it would have been more difficult for us to take up something like this."

This effort by Ironroot did not go unnoticed in the Texoma community, and the Daughters of the Sherman American Revolution chapter petitioned the national body to recognize Ironroot with its Community Service Award.

 "The fact that they saw a need and totally changed what they were doing to supply it to the community," said Janet Wagnon, representing DAR. "That embodies what we are looking for when we are handing out these awards."

For his part, Likarish said he was surprised by the recognition. While he was honored, he said he just wanted to help out where there was a need.

"I didn't know that they had sent off for that. It was a big surprise this weekend," he said. "It is always nice to be recognized, but that is not why we do this."