Gary Ellam changed his distillery operations in early March to respond to the increased need for hand sanitizer. File Photo by Pat McNamara

Since early March, even before the government declared Covid19 a national emergency, Dr. Gary Ellam, PhD, of Elgin Distillery was already converting his operation into making hand sanitizer. As a member of the Distillery Guild, Ellam and this organization realized they had the elements to manufacture a needed product, so went immediately into production.

Ellam stated, “The process is not any different from making ethanol or vodka, but it is 190 proof, 95% alcohol that is then blended with US pharmaceutical grade glycerol and hydrogen peroxide.”

The fermentation takes time, which was of the essence, so Ellam used up his supply of the wine, bourbon and rum that he produces and turning it into hand sanitizer.

“It was very difficult to open and use those $150 bottles of rum and bourbon that were distilled for fine sipping, but the public need was more important” said Ellam.

Ellam sells these two oz. bottles of locally produced hand sanitizer at his distillery in Elgin.

Having depleted his supply of wine and spirits for the cause, Ellam is now manufacturing the product from scratch. This takes longer and eighteen-hour days are now the norm. He produces the sanitizer in 2oz bottles, which are for sale to the public at his distillery on Elgin Road for $1.50. He also has commercial accounts that purchase sanitizer in one- and five-gallon containers. Ellam has a source in Los Angeles that provides watertight hundred gallon containers that he fills as well, to send to labs in the northern part of AZ where they use it to manufacture sanitizing wipes.

Ellam’s hand sanitizer is FDA approved medical grade. He donates it to first responders and those on the front lines whenever he gets the opportunity. He also has donated a large amount to the Hopi Reservation, as they have a very immediate need that is not being met by the government at this time. 

It has been a challenging time and Ellam is a bit concerned about what it’s going to take to get back into building his inventory of wine and award-winning spirits when this all is over. He feels the health of the public takes precedence, however, and is glad he is able to contribute his expertise, supplies and equipment in this time of need.