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Sagamore Spirit Distillery to produce hand sanitizer amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sagamore Spirit is nearing the start of production of large quantities of antimicrobial hand sanitizer to help meet the urgent needs of health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maryland Rye distiller has procured materials sufficient to manufacture an initial 54,000 liters of hand sanitizer that will first be made available to Maryland health providers including Johns Hopkins, which has been advising the company on manufacturing the vital sanitizer to WHO and FDA standards for safety and efficacy.

If certain supply chain and regulatory challenges can be solved, the company is prepared to produce up to 26,000 gallons of sanitizer per month.

First, Sagamore Spirit needs to procure packaging that became in short supply once COVID-19’s potential domestic impact was realized. Next, Congress needs to temporarily waive an arcane statute during this health care crisis that requires the use of isopropyl alcohol for denaturing, which the WHO deems unnecessary to manufacture safe and effective hand sanitizer.

Sagamore Spirit has procured enough isopropyl alcohol to produce the initial 14,000-gallon run, but since it is in short supply, the distiller’s ability to expand to the potential 26,000-gallon monthly production level entirely depends on Congress’s willingness to waive the denaturing requirement.

Sagamore Spirit has been closely monitoring developments in non-traditional hand sanitizer production, including efforts made by other distillers. The company immediately began studying what compliant manufacturing at a meaningful scale would entail before starting production, with a goal to sustainably produce and supply hand sanitizer to Maryland’s health care workers and first responders. Sagamore’s manufacturing capacity could potentially supply needs beyond Maryland, as well.

Sagamore Spirit is urging the community to support the efforts of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to waive the punitive federal excise taxes on undenatured alcohol used to produce hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays.  More information can be found here.

Sagamore Spirit opened its award-winning five-acre waterfront distillery campus in Baltimore in April 2017. Since then, nearly 100,000 guests have visited the campus and tasted the brand’s 50-time award-winning rye whiskies.

Each batch of whiskey is made with pure spring-fed Maryland water. The distillation team blends two different rye mash bills – a high rye and a low rye – and then adds limestone-filtered spring water transported 22 miles from Sagamore Farm, to create an 83 proof Maryland-style rye whiskey. All 100 percent of Sagamore Rye is cut to proof with this distinct water.


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