10th Mountain Division hand sanitizer? Colorado distilleries are stepping up to pit their alcohol alchemy skills against COVID-19

10th Mountain Division hand sanitizer? Colorado distilleries are stepping up to pit their alcohol alchemy skills against COVID-19

Colorado's newest craft product is a sign of the times...

CultureMarch 19, 2020 By Will Brendza

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a virus on the loose on planet Earth and it has people pretty freaked out.

The grocery stores are emptier than we’ve ever seen them, the toilet paper is gone — all of it — the produce is picked through, the frozen isles are nearly empty, ground beef is next-to-impossible to get your hands in the state of Colorado, and, of course, the hand sanitizer has all been bought up.

Which is an unsettling thing to see in times like these. Hand sanitizer is an important tool in the battle against COVID-19. It’s a fast and easy way to disinfect after you’ve been somewhere or around someone. Hospitals need it bad. But so do grocery and liquor stores, dispensaries and take out restaurants. Anywhere people are around people, hand sanitizer is a good thing to have right now.

But it’s gone! If you find a bottle of it on the shelves, you should consider yourself fortunate.

Luckily, though, this state is full of heroes. Like those at the 10th Mountain Division Distillery in Gypsum. These guys make great spirits: bourbon, rye, vodka, moonshine and bitters. Some of the best in the Roskies, in my humble opinion (though, I am a little bias, having grown up in Gypsum, myself). 

But now, this Coloradical distillery, named for the Nazi-fighting ski-soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, is adding another product to their line: craft hand sanitizer.

Image courtesy of Will Brendza.

That’s right, for the good of mankind, the 10th Mountain Division Distillery is using an alcoholic byproduct of their distilling process to make hand sanitizer so people are armed and ready in the fight for their health. Not only are they making this stuff, but they’re also bottling it, distributing it and giving it out for free.

And why wouldn’t they? The byproduct they use is called “the head,” it’s the first substance out of the still when they’re making that bomber bourbon or their killer rye, vodka, moonshine or bitters. And they don’t use it for much of anything in the distilling process after that. Well, almost.

“We use it for cleaning,” said Shawn Hogan of the 10thnMountain Division Distillery. So, it made a lot of sense, when COVID-19 broke out in Eagle County, to redirect that stream of cleaning product, to make hand sanitizer for their community.

“This is something we can do, for free, to help out everybody,” said Hogan. “This is just our way to give back. There is so much going on right now.”

But the 10th Mountain Division hand sanitizer isn’t ready yet, so slow your roll. The distillery hasn’t yet bottled their craft hand sanitizer, and they’re not going to just let people come in and fill up 5-gallon buckets of the stuff. “That just ain’t gonna work,” Hogan said.

These guys are working hard to expedite the production, though. They know this is a community need and they’re stepping up to the plate to meet it. Between the alcoholic byproduct they produce and the inherent heroic spirit of this distillery, they have the capacity to help. And they’re going to.

The 10th Mountain Division isn’t the only Colorado distillery who’s taken on this task, either. Spirit Hound, of Lyons, has also started making their own hand sanitizer. It may not be the kind of thing we’re used to seeing come out of a distillery, but it’s one that everyone’s happy to see right now — it's just a sign of the times. And who knows, this might become the standard as this COVID-19 situation rolls on and gets more intense. We need hand sanitizer as much or, dare I say it, even more than we need whiskey right now.

These guys are doing the Good Work. And if you want really to thank them for it, just get on their website and buy yourself a bottle of their spirits — it’s a win-win for everyone.