The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

The New Normal: Waco and COVID-19

Balcones Distilling Makes Free Hand Sanitizer

4 years ago

By Claire Van Zee

Balcones Distilling, a local whisky distillery that began producing hand sanitizer for frontline workers will further give back to its local Waco community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing free sanitizer to local residents via a contact-free drive-thru Saturday, April 18.

Many agree, a bright spot in all of this has been watching the different ways people and businesses in Waco have taken a stand against COVID-19 by filling in the gaps and helping others in their time of need. One of the biggest efforts by a local business to change their production to help the fight was by Balcones Distilling, nestled in downtown Waco.

Instead of focusing on the production of their world-class whisky, they’ve stepped up by beginning to produce hand sanitizer for the local community. Balcones has also been able to keep all full-time staff on payroll by shifting them around behind the scenes.

The Front of House Operations Director Erik Kukla explained that they had seen whisky distilleries around the country begin to shift to hand sanitizer, and they just saw the need and decided to help out in the best way they knew how.

The hand sanitizer from their facilities was first given to local first responders and emergency services who have struggled to find the product during this time of critical need. They planned to have some sent out to the Dallas/Fort Worth area as well.

On Saturday, April 18 they are passing 2,500 bottles out free to the community in the parking lot of the distillery located at 225 South 11th Street in Waco from noon to 6 p.m. To can pick up your free 100ml bottle of Balcones-made sanitizer, just drive-up, stay in your car and an employee wearing a face mask and gloves will hand it over.

Each car will also have the option to purchase an additional bottle of sanitizer for $2. And every bottle of whisky will be $10 off. Balcones will also be selling merchandise, whisky and beer on site. Funds acquired through sanitizer purchases will go towards materials for continued sanitizer production.

As far as switching from producing whisky to hand sanitizer, the process isn’t as simple as it sounds, Distillery Manager Tommy Mote said. The production of hand sanitizer includes making the sanitizer, finding a way to package it and then ensuring it meets the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for production. To the Balcones staff’s advantage, they didn’t have to test out many formulas because WHO came out with specific requirements to make it.

“It just took us following directions and utilizing the fact that we have stills that are capable of condensing alcohol to a higher strength. We just looked at the guidelines and knocked it out to the best of our ability,” Mote said.

During this time, they are continuing to produce whisky, just at a much slower pace than normal, Kukla said.

However, just as every other business has seen production and business slow, they say that any purchase of Balcones products and merchandise certainly goes a long way and helps them to continue producing hand sanitizer and whisky.