Collaborating for Hand Sanitizer

Whistling Andy Distillery and The Good Stuff Botanicals in Bigfork have joined forces to create alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Even though Whistling Andy Distillery in Bigfork was forced to shut down its tasting room to customers in March as a coronavirus precaution, their phone has suddenly started ringing off the hook.

That’s because since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a temporary policy allowing the use of “certain alcohol-based hand sanitizers” to address COVID-19, Whistling Andy has teamed up with The Good Stuff Botanicals in Bigfork to start producing their own brand call Top Shelf Hand Sanitizer.

Whistling Andy Distillery co-owner Lisa Cloutier says they have been sticking to the FDA guidelines of 80% alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerin and sterile water to produce the hand sanitizer, but they hope to add essential oils and fragrance to future batches. Before the new policy, only denatured alcohol was permitted to make hand sanitizer, which includes chemical additives.

With The Good Stuff’s leftover bottles and the distillery’s available alcohol, the two companies combined their efforts to create the chemical-free hand sanitizer, which they can’t keep stocked on the shelves.

“We just came together (to fill) a need that our country needs right now,” The Good Stuff Botanicals co-owner MJ Johnson said.

The hand sanitizer products will be available at Sliters Hardware Stores, Withey’s Health Food, Rosauers, Third Street Market, Mission Mountain Natural Foods, Missoula Hospice and other health-care sectors in sizes ranging from 1 to 32 ounces. All sanitizer is sold in glass bottles to prevent evaporation.

Since the distillery is still required to pay liquor taxes for the product, Cloutier says the prices are higher than most sanitizers but they are offering a 50% discount off the wholesale price to health-care industries. They recommend retailers sell 1-ounce bottles for $12 and 2-ounce bottles for $16, while asking them not to price gouge due to high demand.

To pair with the drying hand sanitizer, The Good Stuff Botanicals is also selling their Gypsy Cream, a moisturizer that’s been used in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kalispell Regional Hospital.

While The Good Stuff Botanicals relies on more than 100 retail stores and online sales, business has taken a significant hit with closed shops, Johnson said.

Whistling Andy Distillery has suffered, too. With the tasting room closed and no out-of-state or international shipping, Cloutier says they are relying on only pickups and deliveries.

“We’ve lost an incredible amount of sales not being able to have the tasting room open,” she said.

Although the hand sanitizer hasn’t made up for those losses, she says the steady stream of orders has helped and enabled them to give their employees work.

“It’s been great because it’s keeping people employed, which is huge for us at the distillery,” she said. “It’s allowing (people to keep) working.”

Johnson says the two companies are open to expanding production at the facility in Bigfork but couldn’t do so without grant money. With so many requests in Montana and other states, Johnson and Cloutier are trying to keep up with the demand but are limited in what they’re able to produce.

“We’re really excited that there’s such interest and that we can provide something that seems to be out of stock across the valley,” Cloutier said.