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Opelika distillery to begin brewing hand sanitizer

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The glycerine shipment just arrived, the ABC folks just gave the go-ahead, and Jimmy Sharp, head distiller at John Emerald Distilling Company in Opelika, is about to take public pandemic protection into his own sanitized hands.

“Yeah, we’ve got to clear some vodka out of our mixing tank,” Sharp says, “but once that’s done we’re going to start mixing up hand sanitizer.”

Due to the nation’s unprecedented Purell paucity, several distilleries across the country have recently converted their facilities into temporary DIY disinfectant depots to combat coronavirus, says Auburn-Opelika Tourism Vice President Robyn Bridges.

“We are sponsoring the cost of the glycerin that John Emerald Distilling needs to mix with their ethanol product in order to make a solution people can use,” Bridges says, “and they’ll make that available to the general public free of charge.”

Just make sure you BYOB (bottle).

“We’re going to limit it to 10 ounces per visit and ask people to bring their own vessel to put it in in,” Sharp says. “I tried to order a bunch of containers, but they were all gone.”

The partnership with Auburn-Opelika Tourism will also provide many area restaurants with a next-level sanitizing spray sourced from the 95% ethanol that goes into John Emerald’s triple-filtered corn-based vodka.

Bridges hopes that offering customers an “extra layer of protection” can help the local hospitality industry survive the current quarantine climate.

And she does mean “extra.”

“If anything, what we’ll be making is going to be a little bit stronger than what you can get in the store,” Sharp says. “But we’re still going to ask folks to sign a waiver. Since we’re not technically in the sanitizer business, we don’t want people to come back a few months later and say ‘hey, I used your sanitizer but I still got the coronavirus.’”