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Kentucky distilleries make, donate badly needed product to fight coronavirus

Lexington Herald-Leader logo Lexington Herald-Leader 3/21/2020 By Jeremy Chisenhall, Lexington Herald-Leader

Some distilleries in Central Kentucky and Louisville have temporarily shifted to making hand sanitizer to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., Old Forester and Woodford Reserve were expected to donate sanitizer to medical and municipal groups Friday. Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville announced Friday it was joining the sanitizer effort. The product is in very short supply.

Lexington Brewing & Distilling used its alcohol to make free hand sanitizer. the company said Friday. The first 200 bottles were expected to be delivered to Lexington city hall on Friday, and more will be delivered early next week, the company said in a news release.

“As the community rallies together amid the adversity caused by COVID-19, we want to do our part,” said Mark Coffman, master distiller at the company’s Town Branch Distillery. “In this small way, we are able to help our neighbors and support the ongoing effort to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

Lexington Brewing & Distilling plans to produce at least 2,000 bottles, but the final production amount will depend on resources, according to spokesman Peter Weiss.

“We will be producing as long as we have the raw ingredients and packaging to do so,” Weiss said in an email.

The sanitizer is 80% alcohol and is bottled in recyclable glass, according to a news release.

Deirdre Lyons, the co-founder of Alltech, Lexington Brewing & Distilling’s parent company, said the Lexington community was very welcoming and the company wanted to help out.

“The efforts of our city and state leaders, numerous organizations and the people of Kentucky during this difficult time exhibit the collaborative spirit and endurance of our neighbors,” Lyons said in a statement. “We want to do our part to help those working on the front lines to overcome this adversity and help our community emerge stronger than ever.”

Brown-Forman generates thousands of bottles

As part of a Brown-Forman operation, Woodford Reserve outside Frankfort and Old Forester in Louisville made hand sanitizer and delivered it Friday to medical teams. The distilleries gave their first 5,000 bottles to Norton Hospitals in Louisville, and another 1,000 to Woodford County’s Emergency Medical Services, as well as other emergency responders, according to Elizabeth Conway, a spokeswoman for Brown-Forman.

“We consider this a donation to those on the front lines of this pandemic and a small token of our appreciation for all they’re doing to keep our communities safe,” Conway said in an email.

The distilleries will continue to produce hand sanitizer beyond that 6,000 bottles as much as supplies will allow.

Brown-Forman announced last week it was temporarily suspending its tours at its Tennessee and Kentucky distilleries.

Rabbit Hole gathers supplies for sanitizer

Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville plans to shift production to make sanitizer as part of efforts by its owner in other areas of the country. The company was still gathering materials Friday.

Rabbit Hole is part of Pernod Ricard USA, a larger wine and spirits company. It is producing hand sanitizer at all of its U.S. manufacturing sites.

“The health and safety of our employees – and our communities – is our top priority,” Ann Mukherjee, Pernod USA chairman and CEO said in a statement. “In times like this, it is important that everyone, especially companies with strong U.S. roots, like ours, prioritize good corporate citizenship and step up in the name of the greater good. I am glad that we were able to form this public/private partnership and repurpose our spirits production facilities to meet a pressing, national need.”

Pernod Ricard’s other sites making hand sanitizer are in Fort Smith, Ark.; Lewisburg, W.Va.; and Fort Worth, Texas.

In addition to making sanitizer, Rabbit Hole temporarily shut down its tours, bar, shop and events. But affected employees will still be paid, spokeswoman Victoria McKee Jaworski said.

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©2020 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

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