Being a Distiller in the time of COVID-19
This is a tough month to write this update for you all. My natural tone is one of optimism and expectations at all the cool things we're planning. Since COVID-19 came along, the whole rug has been pulled from our feet, and we're now trying to adjust to the changes, as I'm sure every single one of you is also. It is a confusing, sometimes terrifying time now, but I rest assured knowing that we will all get through this by working together. As you may know, we have taken major steps to do our part in the battle against COVID-19. Here is a brief summary of what we know so far:
First Wave of Sanitizer
Early in this crisis, we realized that we could help. A distillery is a business in a unique position to help: we already have permits and equipment for dealing with alcohol. We, therefore, had a moral responsibility to turn our business upside down and begin providing hand sanitizer. So we did.
As the crisis unfolded in the first days, we were sitting on about 60 gallons of disposal alcohol. That is, we had 60 gallons of the accumulation of waste alcohol from the production of whisky and gin--alcohol that we normally use for cleaning or send to an alcohol-recycler who processes it as ethanol that gets into your gasoline. This non-drinkable waste alcohol was the accumulation of six months of production, so we began giving this away for free.
In doing so, we were able to give free sanitizing alcohol to over 100 families, six police stations, two emergency services, two medical clinics, a senior care facility, and the FAA operations center in Leesburg, Virginia. Sadly, sixty gallons only goes so far, so we quickly shifted our production again...
Second Wave - Sanitizer for Purchase
Realizing the dire need in the community, we immediately ordered 1,000 gallons of bulk alcohol. Why not make it ourselves, you ask? Our production is for making craft whisky, and we cannot make alocohol fast enough, cheap enough, nor high enough proof to meet FDA standards. But, we do have alcohol permits to buy bulk alcohol and the vendors from whom to order, and that's what we did. Having received the alcohol, Becky worked around the clock with the American Craft Spirits Association, our national association of craft distillers, to define the formulation from the World Health Organization and the FDA that would work for providing sanitizer to the public, and shared that work with over 300 craft distillers nationwide. Scott spent the week getting our sanitizer approved by the FDA, and then shared that work with those same 300 craft distillers nationwide so they could get their sanitizers approved as well. Our goal was not competition, but cooperation in the face of this epidemic, and stomping this out as quickly as we can.
Having received all the bulk ingredients by last Thursday, we finally started bottling last week. We are bottling today on BATCH ONE of the hand sanitizer, with BATCH TWO already on order.
The first priority for BATCH ONE is the first responders. We have an overwhelming demand from them, and will fill their orders first. But I'm happy to say that we will have some from this first batch for the general public. We will have the following available in a few days:
- 6 oz bottles (plastic) at $9.49 - limit four per family
WE ARE NOT ABLE TO TAKE PRE-ORDERS AT THIS TIME. We're too busy working on the sanitizer to answer the phones and emails on this. I'm sorry, because I know you all are anxious about this. We will announce soon when these are ready for pickup at our Purcellville location. Keep an eye on our website (www.catoctincreek.com) for latest details.
(I understand that the website has been down for some people due to high volume traffic. That is nothing I can control easily, so please just keep checking back.)
Still Open for Bottle Sales - Curbside
Please don't forget about us!! Our business is down considerably with the loss of almost every single restaurant customer we had. We pray and hope they will be back up and running soon. But until the state allows them to do "Cocktails to Go," which is currently illegal in Virginia, our business is getting CRUSHED. Do not believe the stories you see about liquor store sales through the roof. It is not the case. During this crisis, our regular business is down 90%.
Quarantining at home is hard... wouldn't a nice bottle of whisky, gin or brandy make that life a little bit easier? Yes, that's why we're an essential business!
So please call us at 540-751-3294 to place your order for curbside pickup at the distillery, or head to your favorite liquor store, which is still open!
How Can You Help?
The sanitizer project, apart from doing a community good, is helping us keep the lights on. So far during this crisis, we have not laid off a single full-time employee. All of our employees have all been refocused to producing hand sanitizer. But this is really hard on the organization, so if you'd like to help, since people are asking, you can donate to our hand sanitizer project here:
Another way to show you care is pick up some of our whisky, gin and brandy, either at the distillery curbside, or at your local liquor store. That really gives us a morale boost as well.
Getting Through This Together...
The rest of my newsletter usually focused on events in the future, but those are suspended until further notice, so we'll just end with a #QuarantineCocktail from my son, Edward, who is holed up in his tiny apartment in Houston, Texas. To keep people entertained, he's making cocktails from ingredients he finds in his pantry. Enjoy this one as a brief bright spot in your day.
Stay safe, y'all. Wash your hands, and check on your neighbors.
Love, Scott & Becky
1 Peter 5:7
Cocktail of the Month – Quarantine Cocktail #1 - The Orange Blossom
This cocktail comes to us from Eddie Harris, son of Scott & Becky, the founders of the distillery. Since Eddie, like the rest of us, is holed up in his tiny apartment in Houston, Texas, he decided to publish videos of cocktails he's making with stuff he's found in his pantry. He's calling them his #QuarantineCocktails. Give him a follow on Instagram at @theboozygay.
3 oz Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye
Without ice, mix the honey with the rye until well combined. Now add the ice and the bitters. Stir to combine, then strain into a rocks glass with a nice big chunk of ice. And then wash your hands and wash it down!
Recipe courtesy Edward Harris.
See this cocktail and hundreds more on our cocktails page.
As always, there are lots of fun and information on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages, where you can stay up to date with the daily activities at the distillery. We are open every Tuesday through Sunday for tastings and bottle purchases, so stop by and see us sometime!
Scott & Becky