Two Brooklyn-based distilleries in Industry City, including Barrow’s Intense and Standard Wormwood Distillery, have converted from producing inventive spirits to hand sanitizers for the time being, amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This is not gonna make up for the loss in income that we have,” said Josh Morton, founder and owner of Barrow’s Intense, who sells around 100 bottles a day, adding “this is really just a band aid to help out the community and people’s needs.”

While alcohol is highly regulated, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau that regulates alcohol products within the U.S. modified the rules in late March to make it easier to supply an ever-increasing demand of sanitizers.

“Eventually major manufacturers like Purell will come back online and have products available for everybody,“ said Sasha Selimotic, co-founder of Standard Wormwood Distillery. He said distilleries are here to fill in the gap, as “primarily we are not in the hand-sanitizer business, we are a spirit distillery.”

In addition to its hand sanitizer, Standard Wormwood Distillery has also launched a Vapour Scented Aromatic, for which 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to help local bartenders and bars. The aromatic is available for $15 through the company’s website

Photo: Courtesy of Standard Woodworm Distilleries

As far as the ingredients used in the sanitizers, the distilleries must follow strict guidelines set up by the World Health Organization, including a concoction of 80 percent alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerin and water. “It’s kind of applying the skillset of what we know how to do just under a different context,” said Selimotic.

Customers can either drop-in to their Barrow’s location to get hold of the 4 oz. sanitizer bottle for five dollars or they can order them online as long as they live in the U.S. “We are also selling to small retailers like Sahadi’s, a popular Brooklyn establishment on Atlantic Avenue,“ said Morton, who makes deliveries himself.

They also are donating products to bars, restaurants and liquor stores for frontline workers.

Small businesses have been hit the hardest in the crisis, said Morton, adding that sales at his tasting room are down by approximately 60 percent. “We have just been having a harder time getting a line of communication with the state website,” said Morton, attesting that although they have applied to federal, state and city loans, they haven’t received a dime.

“We will continue to make it, as long as we feel that we are being helpful in the community. But ultimately, I imagine that it wouldn’t be something we would do once the situation calms down,” said Selimotic.

Both distilleries have had people inquire and not follow up. “They have an immediate need, and if you can’t satisfy them all right then and there…” said Selimotic.

But he admits there’s a silver lining: “It is going to be more of a norm for people to use hand sanitizers post this event, versus prior.”


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Gia Ramesh

Striving to tell stories that matter. Previously @GothamGazette @Bold

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