Gin distillers turning to hand sanitiser to support Covid-19 effort

Hand sanitiser made by North Yorkshire gin distilleries is helping County Council key workers to stay safe and keep others safe during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Masons Gin Spirit of Masham

Three distilleries across the county – Masons Gin, Spirit of Masham and Harrogate Tipple – have turned to production of sanitiser to support not only North Yorkshire County Council, but also health services and other organisations.

County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les said: “This is another great example of the outpouring of community togetherness and public spirit that we’re seeing across North Yorkshire. We are seeing businesses supporting communities, just as communities support their businesses. I want to thank these distilleries and the many other businesses that have stepped up in these unprecedented times to support our efforts and those or our public sector and volunteer partners.”

Cathy Mason, co-founder of Masons Gin said: “So far we have donated about 1,200 litres and we are expecting more ingredients this week to make more, so hopefully will be able to donate another 1,000 litres.”

Masons has provided 495 litres of hand sanitiser free to the County Council for use by reablement teams and to supply emergency hubs. The company has also given free supplies to the NHS, including midwives in Northallerton, RAF Leeming and the Post Office, among other organisations.

A year ago, the company’s distillery in Bedale was destroyed by fire. Full production at a new, purpose-built distillery nearby on the Leeming Bar industrial estate began only two weeks before the current Covid-19 restrictions came into force.

Cathy said: “In the period after the fire, we received a lot of support from the local community. This is an opportunity for us to give something back.”

Alongside the sanitiser, Masons continues to make gin.

“We are lucky to be able to carry on distilling and we have online sales, which is one of our main roads to market,” said Cathy. “Luckily, this is doing really well.”

Spirit of Masham, which is part of Corks and Cases and is owned by Derek and Carol Harle, started to produce sanitiser about four weeks ago and has supplied hospitals, GP surgeries, nursing homes and hauliers, as well as the County Council.

“We were the first distillery in England to make an application to HMRC to produce hand sanitiser,” said Derek. “It was the instant thing we thought of doing. We thought we needed to do this to get it out to people, because there were shortages.”

The distillery is using the World Health Organisation formula, with added softener, but Derek says the biggest problem is sourcing bottles and the dispensers to go on top of them.

Derek said: “The main thing was to get this out and to be able to do it at a low enough price to make it viable. It has been a very busy period, which we anticipated. While everyone has been locked down at home during the good weather, I’ve been locked in a distillery.”

Steve and Sally Green, co-founders of Harrogate Tipple, in Ripley, considered producing hand sanitiser over a month ago and were able to go into production of 80 per cent alcohol sanitiser after the World Health Organisation published its formula and the Government removed duty on the alcohol, only a day after Steve and Sally raised the issue with their MP, Andrew Jones.

Steve said: “We realised we could do this and keep our business open, because 90 per cent of our sales were lost overnight. We could go back to the doctors and hospitals and councils that had asked about this to say that we could do it at cost price, as well as selling it online to individuals.

“We are continuing to make it. It has been unbelievable. We can’t make enough.”

As well as supplying 500 bottles to the County Council, Harrogate Tipple has supplied the Royal Mail, the Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate, GPs and other health services.

The business is also still making gin and has set up a drive-in market within the distillery yard with other village businesses, including a baker and cheese seller, enabling people from Ripley and surrounding villages to buy goods while observing distancing guidelines and not leaving their car.

This story was published 24 April 2020