Distilleries make sanitizer during shortage

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Daniel Hedinger, owner, distiller and winemaker, center, his son, Treyton, left, and nephew, Ethan Zellers, 12, all of St. Meinrad, prepare the still and grappa base to make hand sanitizer at Monkey Hollow Winery and Distillery in St. Meinrad on Thursday. Daniel started making hand sanitizer this week to donate to the local fire station and other groups, and to sell to customers, using base ingredients that would have otherwise been made into other products like limoncello. He said it has been difficult to get the raw materials. "We have to use what's on hand," said his wife, Faye Hedinger.


Really, the process of distilling spirits and making hand sanitizer isn’t so different.

Don’t wipe your glasses — you read that right. Whether you’re shooting for moonshine or a clean shine on your cuticles, the steps are pretty much the same.

Grain- or grape-based alcohol is fermented and run through a still, after which it is mixed with other ingredients, labeled and ready for use.

The end products, though? Not quite the same.

Similarities aside, Faye Hedinger, event coordinator at Monkey Hollow Winery and Distillery in St. Meinrad, never could have imagined a few months ago that the business would trade in bottling wine and spirits for pumping out hand sanitizer in the midst of a worldwide crisis.

“It’s all new to us,” Hedinger said. “And we’re just all trying to pull together to respond as quickly as we can.”

Battle Monkey hand sanitizer made at Monkey Hollow Winery and Distillery is seen in St. Meinrad on Thursday. Owners Daniel and Faye Hedinger said it has been difficult to get the raw ingredients and materials such as bottles and lids. “We don’t want our volunteer fire stations’ budget to go towards hand sanitizer,” Faye said.

Monkey Hollow is following the trend of distilleries throughout the region — and the country — in producing the highly-coveted commodity, which won’t give you a buzz or pair well with a flavorful cheese.

As bottles of hand sanitizers fly off shelves at pharmacies and supermarkets, these are the local businesses that are stepping in to help lessen the blow.

They’re not getting rich off the anti-bacterial gold. But for those who are selling, it helps. And owners also see their operations shift as a way of helping their communities.

“I think our reasons for going forward and doing it are twofold,” Hedinger explained. “One, is we’re a really small business, and if people aren’t coming to listen to music and hang out at the winery, we can’t pay our bills. So we needed to find a way to survive through this. And then the second reason is that there’s clearly a need, and we have the ability to meet it.”

The business shift was made possible through the loosening of production regulations by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The World Health Organization released a recipe for the disinfectant, and that’s what Monkey Hollow, as well as French Lick Winery and Spirits of French Lick, are using as the guide for their new products.

Hedinger’s business is selling bottles of sanitizer from its spot in St. Meinrad, and it’s also donating batches to local post offices and police stations. Though they aren’t selling it to the public, the French Lick wine and spirits outfits are also giving their sanitizer to the organizations who need it the most.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Jolee Kasprzak, marketing director at both French Lick businesses. “A lot of time, the alcohol industry isn’t always looked upon as the ‘save the day’ type of industry.”

Base materials are dispensed into the still to start the process of making hand sanitizer at Monkey Hollow Winery and Distillery in St. Meinrad on Thursday.

Now, it is filling that role, which is allowing the businesses to introduce themselves to new audiences in a positive way that doesn’t involve what some might call “fire water.”

Even though it was never a plan for Monkey Hollow, Hedinger said being able to help those who work at businesses that are deemed essential is a blessing.

Kasprzak echoed that sentiment.

“In times of trouble, you pull together and you help out your neighbors and your family,” Kasprzak said. “And that’s what you do.”

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