Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
PRESCOTT — Two months after King’s Lock Craft Distillery shifted gears and began turning out hand sanitizer ahead of spirits, the sideline is still going strong and the owners have no plans to wash their
hands of it.
In fact, sanitizer is still outstripping King’s Lock beverages in weekly sales. In case there’s any confusion, a warning on sanitizer bottles warns consumers not to drink it.
Licensed by Health Canada, King’s Lock started making the alcohol-based disinfectant to help meet COVID-19 demand from front-line and emergency workers. The market has changed and settled, said distillery co-owner Laura Bradley, with most orders now coming from businesses re-opening as virus restrictions are eased.
The two lines have been proceeding in parallel, with some days devoted to sanitizer production and others to stocking up King’s Lock award-winning gin, vodka and rum inventory. As life returns to so-called normal, Bradley sees the requirement for sanitizer remaining strong and the distillery maintaining the two streams; the main input for both is identical… food-grade ethanol distilled from corn.
Like some other Ontario craft distilleries, King’s Lock began producing desperately needed sanitizer as a public service; after word got out, the distillery was swamped, Bradley said.
“Fire departments, paramedics, seniors’ residences, municipalities, individuals… they called and showed up looking for any amount we could spare.” King’s Lock received more than 39,000 hits on a Facebook notice about the sanitizer. As of March 25, the first batch of 600 litres was either gone or spoken for and a “Sold Out” sign was placed on the locked door of the distillery on Highway 2 just east of Prescott.
“People were still showing up, looking in the windows, trying to get in,” said Bradley’s son Nate Heuvel.
More corn was distilled and another 600 litres of sanitizer was quickly produced; with a spare vat dedicated to sanitizer production, more than 5,000 litres have been manufactured since those heady days; sales remain steady.
One unexpected client was the LCBO, which wanted craft distillers to outfit its stores with sanitizer while previously threatening to delist some distillers’ association members for insufficient sales, Bradley said: “Some of us were saying let’s negotiate some shelf space; others were saying let’s just help the LCBO out.”
King’s Lock usual products are organic spirits which over the past two years have collected 10 awards of excellence. Some of the labels include Prescott White Rye, Whisky Jack Rye, Lighthouse Shine and 1000 Islands Moonshine; some of the beverages are gluten free.
King’s Lock alcohol supplies have been diverted largely to 80 percent sanitizer. Following the universal recipe, smidgens of polyethelene glycol and hydrogen peroxide are added; it doesn’t feature the Purell-style gooey factor because that ingredient isn’t part of the mix.
After checking around, King’s Lock came up with personal size bottles which sell for $5 each and with containers ranging up to 10 kg for bulk purchases.
While the family isn’t after praise for its contribution to COVID resistance, the decision to make sanitizer has earned plenty of it, with many area residents promising to become more regular customers of the distillery’s primary products … perhaps to help see them through the crisis!