From whiskey to sanitiser: Dobson's Distillery starts a new chapter
Dobson's Distillery is known and loved for their whiskey, gin and other spirits - but in this "crazy" world, they have started producing one more product. Stephen Dobson said the COVID-19 crisis had changed the nature of his business. "We realised early in the piece that we had an obligation to try and alleviate some of the problems that were coming up with things like hand sanitizer as it's compatible for us to make that sort of ethanol," he said. "But we had to retool and rethink it and had to research it, which is why it's taken up until now for us to release anything because we wanted to be sure that we understood the science." Mr Dobson admitted that he was out of his comfort zones, and he would never have imagined his distillery selling a hygiene product. "None of us who distil potable alcohol would normally distil denatured ethanol because it's just not in our purview," he said. "But of course, with the demand at the moment, we just felt obligated to do it. "We do work to a very high standard in terms of the quality of our normal goods, and we didn't want to compromise that in making the sanitizer; it had to be true to our standards and quality." Mr Dobson said they had taken a few weeks to learn the process and stock up on items such as Aloe Vera, which can be hard to get. He added that even items like pump bottles which hold shampoos, soap and sanitiser in, are tough to come by. "What we're urging people at the moment to do is to save all those pump bottles," Mr Dobson said. "When you empty your shampoo keep the bottle, wash it out and keep it because it may be quite some months before those supply lines open up again." Mr Dobson explained the World Health Organization has a standardised formula, but the hard part was pricing the sanitiser as the business had no precedent. "We've got six to seven people here who rely on our business for their livelihoods, for their families, for their money, for the food that goes on the table, and we are conscious of that," he said. "So it's been a learning experience for us. "We had to start from the ground up and go well, what's it cost to run the electricity, what does it cost to run - normally these are already factored in, but this has been a whole new ball game, and a great learning experience, I have to admit." Mr Dobson said before producing sanitiser, they stocked up on their regular lines so people could still purchase spirits. He added that in these trying times, sometimes it's the little luxuries that make the difference to the day when in isolation. "We've appreciated the messages we get and phone calls from our customers that [say] we are often that little luxury, that thing that makes their day," Mr Dobson said. "Our product is not the sort of product people buy to get drunk. It is higher-end spirits, and we appreciate that there's a responsibility to keep that up too. "For many retired people who just have one whiskey a day in the afternoon while they watch the news, they are saying we're an important part of their day." Mr Dobson feels a strong sense of community spirit, so for him, it's those who need it most that come first. He said several companies have tried to purchase and monopolise the supply line, but they have refused to do business with them. Mr Dobson explained that if he said yes, the companies would likley price it out of the local market and also distribute it everywhere. "At the moment we see ourselves as a regional distiller, and we are an advantage to New England and greater Northwest area," he said. "We're giving priority to healthcare workers and to people who are dealing with the sick for the obvious reason, they're being exposed every day, and they're very brave people, and we owe them a lot. "We are only in our second day of production for this, and we have sold out both days." Mr Dobson said he was proud of the sanitiser they produced, and it has been tested heavily to ensure it is up to scratch. "At the end of the day, we are all in this together," he said. "Community comes first." In some excellent news for the local business, they also recently took home the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits award. Mr Dobson said he was proud to be able to lend a hand during a tough time for all.
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