Marble Distilling shifts to hand sanitizer to help during COVID-19

Connie Baker, head distiller at Marble Distilling co. mixes a new batch of hand sanitizer at the distillery in downtown Carbondale.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Carbondale business Marble Distilling Co., known for infused vodkas and liquors, is branching into the hand sanitizer market to help with shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marble Distilling closed their tasting rooms in Carbondale and Aspen a few days before the governor ordered all restaurants and bars to close their dining areas on March 17.

Bartenders and front-of-house staff moved to the back, doing deep cleans and bottling product. Then staff read an article about an Oregon distiller using their grain alcohol to make sanitizer.

“We thought, well, we could make hand sanitizer,” head distiller at Marble Connie Baker said.

The distiller started distributing the sanitizer gel last week for free to people in the community while they ramp up production.

Not normal times

Typically, compounding and selling hand sanitizer would require permits, but not during the coronavirus outbreak.

“There really aren’t a lot of regulations. In normal times, there would be a lot more,” Baker said.

On Thursday, the federal bureau announced that it would not levy an excise tax as long as the alcohol used in the hand sanitizer was denatured — a process that renders the alcohol undrinkable.

Water is added to the mixture to loosen up the hand sanitizer.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Any distiller with an existing permit can immediately produce hand sanitizer from ethanol alcohol if they follow certain guidelines, according to an order from the bureau’s acting administrator released March 18.

The lifting of the tax also helps Marble give away the hand sanitizer to anyone who needs it.

All a person has to do is go to the back of the Carbondale Marble Distilling tasting room, with their own bottle, and knock for service.

Anyone who orders a bottle of Marble spirits from the distiller’s fledgling delivery service will also get a small vial of hand sanitizer — depending on the availability of bottles.

Waiting for bottles

Baker said Marble hopes selling hand sanitizer to local retailers will help offset the lost revenue from bars and restaurants.

The “biggest hiccup” in the hand sanitizer business is finding bottles, Baker said. They have ordered bottles, but there seems to be a supply shortage there, too.

Connie Baker, head distiller at Marble Distilling Co. mixes a new batch of hand sanitizer at the distillery in downtown Carbondale.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

While the shift to distilling the hand sanitizer is partly about keeping the business viable, Baker also wants to provide a service.

“We’re just going to try to go into some mass production here, and see if we can make enough to keep everybody sanitized,” Baker said.

It could also help the business retain their staff.

“We’re trying to get them on the bottling line, or help with the hand sanitizer, or run deliveries just to keep them employed,” Baker said.

Every business is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 shut down, and Baker hopes to see more creative solutions.

The hand sanitzer is sifted through a strainer during the final step of production.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“If we work together as a community, I truly believe we’re going to get through all of this. It’s not going to be easy, but we can help each other out in any we can,” Baker said.

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