Chris Prillaman, owner and master distiller at Twin Creeks Distillery, fired up his still recently for a brand new product — hand sanitizer.
His daughter and assistant, Anna Prillaman, said they saw the need for sanitizer as it disappeared from the shelves in nearly every store in Franklin County in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anna said the distillery is using the Centers for Disease Control formula to manufacture the sanitizer, which calls for 150-proof liquor. Most of Twin Creeks’ beverages are 90 proof, so Chris said he had to make some adjustments to distill the higher proof product.
Roddy Moore, retired director of Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, called Prillaman with the idea.
“I got some buddies in the distilling business, and we’ve talked back and forth about what they’re doing and what we’re doing, working it out amongst ourselves how to get it going,” Chris said. He added jokingly, “We are more into the drinking end of it instead of the hand washing … I need to tell the law to have leniency if they think they have done pulled over and got ‘em a drunkard, it’s liable to be just somebody with clean hands.”
He said the sanitizer smells just like liquor, but Anna added the labels specify the sanitizer is not for consumption. Other ingredients, such as glycerin and hydrogen peroxide, make the sanitizer non-consumable.
Raw materials, such as the glycerin, are difficult to come by, limiting the amount they are able to produce, Chris said. They produced around 20 gallons of hand sanitizer their first round. Donations were collected to help offset the cost of the materials for the sanitizer, which was made with the same base as Twin Creeks’ 1st Sugar Moonshine.
“It’s hard to get the proof up without the column stills; you have to double the still a lot of times to get the proof up high enough to where you can reach that hand sanitizer level, but we pulled a few little tricks on it to get it up where it needs to be,” Chris said. “You can use any type of mash that we do and distill it to make this product, but we are using our sugar-based mash to make this because it is the most inexpensive.”
Chris said he isn’t sure if Franklin County’s moniker “the moonshine capital of the world” may be in danger of changing to hand sanitizer capital of the world, anytime soon, but said if COVID-19 hangs around, he may fire up the still to make more.
“We might have to change up some stuff to get more efficient at it, but if this bug stays around and I see the need to keep going, I will adjust according to be able to distill more efficiently for this type of product,” Chris said.
He added if the distillery continues to receive donations, Chris said they will continue to make hand sanitizer to give away.
Last Friday, Twin Creeks held a community day to give away free flowers donated by Wild Hare Farms and 4 ounces of hand sanitizer to anyone who brought a bottle or container to fill.
The Prillamans also distributed packages of sanitizer to local businesses and service providers such as the fire department across the street from the distillery’s downtown Rocky Mount tasting room, Rocky Mount Burger Company and The Early Inn. The distillery also plans to donate sanitizer to the police department and nursing homes as well.
The hand sanitizer available at the tasting room is not for sale. Anna explained that to sell hand sanitizer, the distillery would have to register with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and use the World Health Organization’s recipe for sanitizer, which calls for industrial-strength ethanol, not consumer ethanol that Twin Creeks makes. She said different equipment would be needed to manufacture that strength of sanitizer. “Really, we just wanted to give back to the community,” she said.
Crystal Richardson of Glade Hill, who stopped by with some coworkers to fill their bottles with hand sanitizer, said she thought it was “awesome” what the distillery was doing.
“It shows just how much this community comes together,” Richardson said. “We came down yesterday (Thursday) and got flowers and had lunch at The Whole Bean (Coffeehouse) and went to the Kupkakery. It just really uplifted the mood.”
Anna said, “It really means a lot to see smiles apart from the coronavirus.”
Twin Creeks Distillery’s tasting room has been closed for in-house tastings but is still open for curbside bottle sales of all their spirits, as well as the local coffee and honey products they sell. The distillery is also able to deliver up to six bottles per consumer.
For more information about Twin Creeks Distillery, visit twincreeksdistillery.com.