Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


Wildrye Distilling produced 500, 2-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer on Tuesday.

By Thursday, the Oak Street distillery was able to increase output to 3,000, 2-ounce bottles in a day.

And production continues to ramp up, according to one of the owners, Ben Ganser.

“I haven’t gotten much sleep, but we have a great crew,” Ganser said.

Distillers in the Bozeman area are joining a nationwide effort to manufacture hand sanitizer as shortages of hygiene products persist worldwide. Both the World Health Organization and Federal Drug Administration have provided guidelines on how to make safe and effective sanitizer, and local businesses are using them to help meet ever-increasing demand.

Ganser said Wildrye Distilling posted about producing hand sanitizer on Facebook and received an overwhelming number of responses.

“We immediately discovered there was a massive need,” Ganser said.

Bryan Connelley, logistics chief for Gallatin County, said he had exhausted all options trying to find travel-size hand sanitizer for patrol cars and fire trucks. Then he heard about Wildrye’s new product and got in touch with Ganser to make an order.

The county received the first 500 bottles produced, which went to first responders who still have to interact with the public as most people are able to self-quarantine at home.

“We’re taking care of the people who are taking care of citizens, and if we don’t take care of them, who will?” Connelley said.

Ganser said Wildrye has since connected with others in need of hand sanitizer locally and all over the country, like airline companies, construction workers and nonprofits. He said the added work is enabling Wildrye to keep staff who would otherwise be laid off due to restrictions on businesses from the state and county governments in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Troy Downing, another owner of Wildrye and a Republican candidate for state auditor, said the product is not only helping people stay healthy, but also helping them stay on the job.

“There are industries that require this to stay in business,” Downing said.

Bozeman Spirits, a distillery downtown, is also producing hand sanitizer now. Cortney Bury, head distiller, said the sanitizer has to sit untouched for 72 hours before it can be bottled to ensure quality, according to WHO standards, but that other than that, it’s been an easy process.

“So far, so good. It’s a pretty simple recipe,” Bury said.

Co-owner Jim Harris said he’s been in touch with health care providers, grocery stores and construction companies who need the product and have placed orders from a half gallon to five gallons.

Harris said he’s been working with another local company, Montana Container Corporation, to package the hand sanitizer and that he’s glad they can come together to help meet this need.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to keep positive and this is a thing that gives us a sense of purpose,” Harris said.

Dry Hills Distillery in Four Corners is working to produce large quantities of a key ingredient for sanitizer — ethanol. Co-owner Jeff Droge said the family-owned distillery is trying to acquire more bulk ingredients needed to make sanitizer, like hydrogen peroxide. But until then, they’ve been producing 98% alcohol volume ethanol to send to larger manufacturers.

Droge said he’s talked with people in the health care industry about sending them ethanol so they can make their own sanitizing products and also with micro-distillers who are having a hard time keeping up with demand for their normal stock.

Droge said having this added business now is “astronomically important,” and that it’s keeping his production staff employed. Droge said it’s been great to see how people have worked together during this time.

“Distillers are collectively trying to do our part. We’re going to get through this and at the end of the day, I think we’ll be stronger for it,” Droge said.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.