MOUNT VERNON — With summer approaching, Valley Shine co-owner Ben Lazowski knows which of his distillery’s spirits will be especially popular: limoncello, gin and — as usual — its signature bourbon.
But with business slow because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lazowski and his employees have kept busy producing another product that’s badly needed: alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
While the distillery is still selling food and alcohol, it has also produced and sold hand sanitizer for the past month.
“We saw a need for it,” Lazowski said. “A lot of people called and asked if we were switching our operation to use our beverage alcohol for sanitizer.”
The distillery was well set up to produce sanitizer, he said, since it already produced alcohol. There were greater hurdles, however, in finding aloe gel and bottles.
For the latter, Valley Shine was able to use bottles normally used for its vodka for larger orders, and eventually found a supplier who could furnish smaller bottles.
Beside alcohol, aloe gel and tea tree oil are the other ingredients of the sanitizer, he said.
Lazowski estimates Valley Shine has produced more than 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.
Customers get a bottle with purchases of food or drink of $15 or more, while other bottles have been sold individually.
Lazowski said Valley Shine is selling sanitizer at a cost that will cover production and allow the operation to continue.
The distillery recently teamed up with the Seattle Seawolves professional rugby team to prepare meals for workers at Virginia Mason Hospital. The distillery donated hand sanitizer to that initiative.
And U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen visited the distillery last week to tour the hand sanitizer operation.
Valley Shine employee Xander Eutsler said that unlike some larger distilleries that may be able to produce sanitizer from by-products, Valley Shine specifically produces alcohol for that purpose.
He said some customers have turned down bottles of hand sanitizer, despite making purchases that earned them a bottle.
“They say they have plenty and want it to go to someone who has a need,” Eutsler said. “It’s been cool to see how people react.”