Give ‘Em a Hand: Short Path Distillery Switches Gears to Make Sanitizer

When life gives you alcohol, then make hand sanitizer.

That has been the theme at Short Path Distillery where the alcohol distilling company in the Fermentation District hit a wall with the COVID-19 response, but has reconfigured itself this week to make hand sanitizer in addition to selling to-go bottles of its popular hand-crafted spirits.

Short Path Co-Founder Zachary Robinson in the Everet distillery’s manufacturing floor during a photo in 2016 shortly after they opened to the public. The popular distillery hit a wall businesswise with the COVID-19 response but has re-tooled to manufacture hand sanitizer to help balance the business.

“We’ve had to lay off our entire workforce at the Distillery,” said Matt Kurtzman, co-founder of Short Path. “We certainly are, now, making hand sanitizer here. We’re also still open to the public now to sell bottles to go and hand sanitizer. We also want to do our part and donate some of the sanitizer to first responders and public officials. We’re trying to keep the right balance to keep the business afloat and do our part to donate some of the product as well.”

Short Path has been distilling its custom liquors in a converted warehouse off of Norman Street in what has become known as the Fermentation District. The distillery made all sorts of liquors for sale, had a tasting room/bar on site, and carried an impressive list of purveyors that either used their product in a restaurant or sold it in a store. That business, unfortunately, has taken a big hit. After the layoffs, Kurtzman said, they began thinking of what they could make that would be marketable and useful. Many distilleries were re-tooling to making sanitizer, and Short Path was ready, but government rules blocked them from making it.

“Our current facility allows us to be able to make sanitizer, but we were hampered by legal constraints that technically prevented us from manufacturing and selling it,” he said. “After last week, though, the federal government announced that other businesses, especially alcohol businesses, could manufacture hand sanitizer. As soon as the legal hurdles were removed, we said, ‘Let’s get started.’”

The first test run was very successful, and they sold out of all the product they made within 30 minutes. Now, they are ready to make even more.

Kurtzman said the three main ingredients are Glycol/Glycerin, Hydrogen Peroxide, and Ethanol. They have plenty of ethanol on hand as it is a distillery, but they are now just waiting to get more Glycol and Hydrogen Peroxide so they can make more sanitizer.

“We are currently waiting for more raw ingredients to come Tuesday or Wednesday,” Kurtzman said on Monday. “Right now, we’re able to make about 1,000 gallons and the goal is to ramp that up as we go so we can make even more with each batch.”

He said there wasn’t a lot of conversion necessary at their distillery. Really, they only needed to secure the other two ingredients and make sure they mixed it up correctly. One of the bigger challenges was finding the best containers to put it in once it was made.

“It’s really making sure we’re blending all the raw materials in the right proportions,” he said. “We’re already accustomed to that type of manufacturing, so there wasn’t a lot of reconfiguration that needed to happen…This kind of thing certainly hasn’t happened in my lifetime – the whole war-time effort mindset of making sure everything people need is available and to serve the greater good.”

Kurtzman said to stay tuned to their website or their Facebook page or Twitter handle (@SPDistillery) for information on when their next batch of sanitizer is ready.

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