By Pat McNamara
April 23, 2020

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

1.5 oz bottle of hand sanitizer produced at Elgin Distillery. Contributed Photo.

 “The process is not any different from making ethanol or vodka but it is 190 proof, being 95% alcohol that is then blended with US pharmaceutical grade glycerol and hydrogen peroxide,” Ellam said. The fermentation process takes time and that was of the essence so Ellam used up his supply of the wine, bourbon and rum he is famous for producing 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.

Having depleted his supply of wine and spirits for the cause, Ellam is now manufacturing the product from scratch. This takes longer and 18-hour days are now the norm at the distillery. He packages the sanitizer in 2oz bottles for sale to the public at his distillery on Elgin Road for $1.50 and he also has commercial accounts that purchase it in one- and five-gallon containers. Ellam has a source in Las Angeles that provides water-tight 100-gallon containers that he fills as well and sends to labs in the northern Arizona 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 his wine and his award winning spirits when this all is over, but he feels the health of the public takes precedence and is glad he is able to contribute his expertise and equipment during this crisis.

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