Shelter Point Distillery has won awards for producing spirits, and now it’s turning its attention to a cause.
The operation in the Oyster River area announced on its Facebook page it is temporarily suspending distilling operations to switch production capacity for the manufacture of medical grade sanitizer to help medical professionals in their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company notes that it has retooled in a matter of days to make the change. It will be supplying the sanitizer in 750-ml bottles and 20-litre containers. Distillers expect to be working double shifts in the weeks and months ahead to produce sanitizer for as many hospitals, medical centre, health authorities, municipal and provincial services as possible.
“Our number one priority is to ensure that first responders have ample supplies in order to do their jobs and save lives,” the company states on its Facebook post.
Initially, the company had planned to start small after hearing about some other distilleries producing sanitizer using their excess spirits on site.
“We were just going to use what we had available,” Shelter Point manager Jacob Wiebe told The Record on March 26. “Then the medical clinics started calling and telling us how much trouble they were having procuring sanitizer.”
At the point, they made the choice to immediately halt whisky production and make hand sanitizer. Their head distiller contacted the World Health Organization to make sure their formula would be approved, and the approval process went through at a dizzying pace.
“The government really did help us push it through quickly. Usually it can be like a three, four-month process. We did it in a night. We just kept calling,” Wiebe says. “We wanted to make sure we could help out the locals as quickly as possible.”
The plan is to start locally by supplying Island towns, communities and First Nations Health Authorities. After this, Shelter Point expects to expand production and distribution to supply other parts of the province as needed. Another social media update noted they were able to ship 2,000 bulk litres to the Vancouver General Hospital on March 25 with the help of Coastal Transportation and Storage, which meant Shelter Point did not worry about the shipping arrangements.
“CTS delivered it for free, which was wonderful,” Wiebe says.
In the first week, the company produced a thousand litres. This was up to 4,000 litres the following week when Wiebe spoke to the newspaper. He expects they will be up to about 30,000 litres the end of the first week in April.
“That’s going to the front lines first, so it was really focused on making sure the fire department, the ambulance station, the medical clinics, the grocery workers … the people who really aren’t allowed to stay home or able to stay home, we wanted to make sure they were safe because everyone’s having trouble getting the sanitizer…. The phone rings every five minutes with someone looking for more.”
The company also announced on the Facebook post its product is still available through its online shop and in private liquor stores in B.C. and Alberta.
For more information about the sanitizer from Shelter Point, email firstname.lastname@example.org .