Scottish craft gin industry rallies to create hand sanitiser for those most in need

The Scottish craft gin industry has rallied round to use their spirit to create hand sanitiser for those most in need.

Published 17th Mar 2020
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

More and more Scottish craft gin producers are turning to making hand gel in a bid to support their local care firms, food banks, charities and front line services.

Due to the fact that alcohol at over 65% strength is effective at  killing enveloped viruses - including the coronavirus - the country's distillers have found they are well placed to create World Health Organisation (WHO) approved sanitiser recipes - [with the most widely used available to view here]

And with stocks of isopropyl alcohol in short supply in Europe and prices for the ingredient which is vital for sanitiser gels and alcohol wipes rising, many found they had to step in.

We reported earlier this week how Mike Bain of Deeside Distillery in Banchory started the process of making ad hoc sanitiser after discovering how drastically low its availability was for GPs and Care Homes in his area.

Now, Niall Macalister Hall, founder of Beinn An Tuirc Distillers and producer of Kintyre Gin has followed suit to create Hogwash, a hand sanitiser for local organisations in need in Kintyre.

Bienn An Tuirc distillers have produced Hogwash for those in need in their local community.

The entrepreneur said: "With the general economic downturn and the general apparent lack of hand sanitiser being reported generally, we felt both well placed and willing to help wherever possible.

"If we all stick together then hopefully we can get through the next few months with as little impact as possible."

Niall stated that it was important for local businesses to step up and help out where they could.

And they aren't the only ones, Martin Murray of Dunnet Bay Distillers in Thurso, who are also making sanitiser and have donated to local organisations, said: "I can't standby and know we have the means and the capability to support our local care homes, medical practices and surgeries. Our brand was built with local support."

So far, producers up and down the country such as Isle of Skye Distillers, Stirling Gin, Badachro Distillery in Gairloch, Red Castle Gin in Arbroath, Glasgow Distilling Company, Kinrara Distillery in Aviemore, Verdant Distillers in Dundee and both Edinburgh and Leith Gin in the capital, have announced plans to make, or are in the midst of making, some form of sanitiser for those in need.

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Other gin makers such as Cairngorm Gin, Deerness Distillery and Kirkjuvagr Gin on Orkney, Sutors Gin in Tain have also stated their intentions to do the same.

On Colonsay, it's become a community project with distiller Chris Nisbet, who is also chief firefighter on the island, teaming up with Alison Craib who makes cosmetic products using island botanicals to create some hand sanitiser for the fire station to use, and due to popular demand, he’s started making it for anyone on the island who needs it.

Cairngorm Gin is another company that has been making as much as they can to supply local care homes and those caring for the vulnerable, with the team saying they have been overwhelmed by the response.

Co-founder of Loch Ness Gin, Lorien Cameron-Ross, who is also the clinical director for out of hours for NHS Highland and a GP said that she has been making sanitiser for healthcare colleagues and patients, and intends to make some priced-at-cost for others who may need it.

One sticking point at the moment is that any producer still theoretically has to pay duty on any gin or spirit-based product they make.

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Niall added that this means they have to charge cost in certain circumstances with companies that can afford to pay while trying to work ways to donate to those that can't.

He said: "It’s fine to create in small batches but it still costs a significant amount with ingredients costing around £30 per litre mainly due to the duty involved.

"If we need to significantly increase production to help out those in need then HMRC need to introduce concessions to allow the price to come down. We aren't trying to make money off of this, we want to help."

To tackle this, The British Distillers Association has written to HMRC about the liability of excise duty on spirits used (diverted) to the ad hoc manufacture of hand sanitizer.

The BDA suggested that such use could be treated as qualifying for duty relief within the existing statutory framework (albeit with maximum discretionary flexibility).

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HMRC responded that they are working on a policy and will respond within the next few days.

Calling on others to get involved, including some of the larger producers in the country, Mike Bain of Deeside Distillery said: "I would urge any companies or organisations that may shut offices to donate hand sanitisers to your local care homes or charities that look after the most vulnerable.

“If we all do a little we can make a big difference.”

Scots distillery creates sanitiser gel to help charities and front line services after being shocked to discover they are running low


Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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