Local Red Caboose Distillery uses alcohol produce to make medical-grade hand sanitizer in an aide effort during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic
CLIFTON – “Enjoy every sunset, tell tall Texas tales, wear your hat down low, laugh often, smile at strangers, hug friends and drink responsibly” has always been the philosophy of Bosque County’s Red Caboose Distillery.
Now, thanks to their forward-thinking efforts during the present novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Red Caboose owner Gary McKibben can add “and wash your hands regularly, or use our medical grade hand sanitizer” to the motto.
Since Dec. 2016, the old-world traditional copper stills behind the Clifton tasting room distill organically-grown Bosque County grapes into small batches of 80-proof gin, vodka and brandy. Now, the alcohol produced in the 12-hour distilling process is utilized to make 80 percent alcohol hand sanitizer.
The Red Caboose Distillery joins the ranks of 37 other Texas distilleries – including the illustrious Tito’s Vodka in Austin, Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co in Dallas and Balcones in Waco – in making medical-grade hand sanitizer. Note: commercial-grade hand sanitizer is only 60 percent alcohol.
It all started when McKibben and his distiller Jennifer Davis sat around talking about the consequences of the pandemic. They realized there would be a run on many daily products, including hand sanitizer.
“My distiller and I brainstormed about making hand sanitizer early, after our discussions about what was happening in Italy and New York,” McKibben said. “So, I thought it was a good idea to come up with a local area product because I thought there would be a shortage. And there is.
“With only a few distilleries in the area, we lucked out there.”
Since the sanitizer is primarily high-grade ethanol, 17 percent aloe vera in gel-form and three percent hydrogen peroxide, it was decided the product could be added to the merchandise sold in Clifton.
To assist in the production of the much-needed hand sanitizer shortly thereafter on Jan. 31, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission went on to waive a special permit, as well as taxes and labeling requirements for the duration of the public health emergency.
By then, the Red Caboose Distillery was ahead of the curve with a stock of eight-ounce and 12-ounce bottles, printed labels and organic Mexican aloe vera ready to be packaged.
So, when Goodall-Witcher Healthcare’s received notice that its shipment of hand sanitizer was back-ordered until the end of July, CEO Adam Willmann asked if the distillery could help them. With the RCD already producing the product, McKibben was able to hand-deliver a donated 20-bottle box to Goodall-Witcher last week.
With the RCD employees hand-filling the bottles and adding labels, it is a labor-intensive production. But McKibben and company know its well worth their while, knowing they are helping out local hospitals and nursing homes like Goodall-Witcher Healthcare and Lutheran Sunset Ministries.
Hand hygiene is an important part of the U.S. response to COVID-19. Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing one’s nose.
If soap and water are not readily available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, also referred to as ethanol or ethyl alcohol.
With producing 200-300 eight-ounce bottles per week, the RCD has a little supply built up. Consequently, residual shortages increase as the pandemic remains. In addition, it is becoming a challenge to find suitable bottles. And because of the demand, the aloe vera gel prices went up.
But for now, the distillery has purchased enough supplies to last through June.
Like liquor stores, the Red Caboose Winery & Distillery remain open for business during the pandemic. So for individuals wanting the “home-distilled” hand sanitizer, high-proof spirits or top-quality, award-winning wines, they can pick up their order at the Clifton Tasting Room on Highway 6, just south of Clifton downtown.
Red Caboose operating hours are Thursday – Sunday, 12 noon -5 p.m. Please order ahead by phone at 254-675-0099 or 254-415-4843. Visit the Red Caboose website at: http://www.redcaboosewinery.com/ or find them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/redcaboosewineryandvineyard/
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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