If you’d told us 12 months ago when we moved into the Gogerddan Arms that our bespoke gin distilling and events space would be the hub of hand sanitiser production for West Wales during a global pandemic, well, we just wouldn’t have believed you – but extreme circumstances demand that we all rise to the challenge…
There’s literally no avoiding talk of coronavirus – Covid 19. One moment, it was something that was happening in China, remote and unreal, and the next minute – boom – people were fighting over toilet roll in supermarket car parks and phrases like ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ appeared in our vocabulary, tripping off our tongues as easily as ‘I’ll have a gin and tonic please’.
Here at the distillery, even we were distracted from all things gin and spirits. Sharing the same concerns as everyone across the country, and feeling not a little powerless, we quickly realised that there was something that we could actually do something about. Something practical Something to help.
Perhaps not as sexy or as inspiring as gin, but when people’s lives depend on having clean hands, well, it kind of changes your perspective. It turns out that very little hand sanitiser is normally produced in the UK. And the speed with which the pandemic swept into the UK meant that the stocks that were available quickly ran out as distribution chains ground to a halt. Yet hand sanitiser is a pretty straightforward thing to produce, especially if you already have the alcohol. World Health Organisation approved, our hand sanitiser is 80% alcohol, denatured (so you can’t drink it) with the addition of hydrogen peroxide and glycerol. That’s it.
We’d realised we could produce hand sanitiser pretty early on, but licensing requirements meant our hands were tied until HMRC announced a relaxation to the rules and we could take the brakes off. Overnight, hand sanitiser became our life. We’ve supplied a wide range of organisations, from the RNLI and the coastguard to county councils and the police in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, from road hauliers and delivery drivers to telephone engineers and the Royal Mail. We’re also doing what we can, given social distancing and non-essential travel restrictions and the quirks of the postal system, to get our hand sanitiser to individuals in the community that need it.
One of our goals when we started the distillery was to create a community hub. For now, the community can’t come to us, so we’re doing what we can to help – and we’re not alone. It’s a labour of love, and it’s been heartening to see other small craft spirit producers taking up the challenge, working to flip production from gin and other spirits, to WHO approved hand sanitiser. Perhaps as small businesses, we’ve been uniquely placed to flex into hand sanitiser production, but more than that, we think it stems from being rooted in our communities. The bigger distilleries are now getting in on the act – and for that we are grateful. We’ll continue to do as much as we can to keep our local community supplied, but we’re taking calls not just from across Wales, but from England too, and we simply can’t fulfil the enormous demand that’s out there – people desperate to keep themselves and their staff, the vulnerable, and the vital key workers safe –as we navigate these unprecedented times.
We’ll be continuing with hand sanitiser production for the foreseeable future, supporting the community where we live and work. Get in touch if you would like to talk about how we can supply you.
We’re mindful too that this won’t be forever. Our online gin shop is still open so if you’re sorted for hand sanitiser, why not treat yourself to a bottle? We have big plans for the distillery too. In the Welsh Wind branded gin is almost on our virtual shelves (even if we can’t open our actual shelves to you) and our grain to glass malt whisky project is growing legs (and barley). Keep your eye on our two acres fronting the distillery!
There are exciting times to come and we want to be here for our community for the good times ahead.