Free Orcas Island Distillery Sanitizer available

A small group of islanders and local businesses have banded together to make a special Orcas hand sanitizer that is free to all.

It began when Charles West, owner of Orcas Island Distillery, wanted to give back to the community by utilizing the equipment at his facility to create a product that has been hard to come by during the COVID-19 crisis.

“It was something we could do and it turned out to be more important than I realized. You feel so helpless in a situation like this,” West said.

He asked San Juan County Councilmember Rick Hughes for assistance in gathering volunteers and donations. The following businesses donated alcohol for the project: Island Hoppin Brewery, Boathouse Cider, Anacortes Brewery, Swinomish Casino and Airways Brewery. Orcas Freight picked up the kegs for free.

“Ethanol is the number one ingredient in hand sanitizer but we (Orcas Island Distillery) can’t make it in the volume we’d need. Beer has a sell-by date so all these other people contributed,” West said. “Regan Vaughn has been instrumental in locating product for us to distill and Orcas Island Winery helped out with an additional storage tank. My wife Carie DeRuiter designed the labels. … This is a total collaborative, community effort.”

After distilling the beer down to alcohol, it is mixed with hydrogen peroxide and glycerin that was donated by Lotion Crafter. The product leaves Orcas Distillery in gallon jugs and is then packaged by volunteers at Island Market with bottles donated by Island Thyme.

“All of this is to make hand sanitizer, to give away for free to the co-op, the post office, schools, fire departments, food bank, the Exchange, the sheriff’s office and the so many other heroes that are in our community, showing up to serve the entire community,” said Hughes. “This is the Orcas way, this is the island way. Orcas and San Juan County have taken care of ourselves since statehood. It is what we do!”

If you need hand sanitizer, email oidistillerysanitizer@gmail.com. Hughes will respond as soon as possible. West said their first priority is to supply EMTs with the sanitizer but that he “wants to see it spread to the community.”

“People really need it and they can get it now,” he said.