Tucson’s Thunder Canyon Brewery has teamed up with Elgin Distillery to make hand sanitizer.

As the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, the need for hand sanitizer outweighs the need for vodka and rum, so some distilleries are using their facilities to produce hand sanitizer.

Flying Leap Vineyards & Distillery in Elgin also has jumped into the hand sanitizer business courtesy of a relaxation in the guidelines that allows these spirits makers to convert their stills into sanitizer operations.

“Our equipment can be used for multiple uses, including making hand sanitizer,” said Steve Tracy, who added distilled spirits four years ago to brewing beer at his downtown Thunder Canyon Brewstillery.

Tough times call for creative solutions, and for distilleries, one way to make ends meet after their tap and tasting rooms were closed to the public last month was to create a new business.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered all bars and restaurant dining rooms closed in mid-March in response to the coronavirus.

And as consumers snapped up hand sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic, local spirits makers saw an opening: Turn their high-grade alcohol into hand sanitizer.

Tracy has been doing it just a week and already has sold 50 gallons to local hospitals, fire departments and the public, which can purchase it in 16-ounce bottles for $12.50 at Thunder Canyon, 220 E. Broadway, from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. (Check Thunder Canyon’s Instagram at instagram.com/thundercanyonbreweryaz or facebook.com/ThunderCanyonBrewery to make sure they have it in stock.)

Tracy creates an alcohol base that is 180 proof ethanol. That is diluted to about 160 proof before he adds glycerin and hydrogen peroxide to the final product.

Thunder Canyon’s partnership with Elgin Distillery will increase Tracy’s production capabilities. Elgin has a 500-gallon distillery tank compared with Thunder Canyon’s 50-gallon tank, he said.

Flying Leap Vineyards & Distillery in Elgin also has cranked up its stills to create the alcohol needed to make hand sanitizer. Owner Mark Beres said that after a record grape harvest last fall — 150 tons of fruit compared with last year’s 113 tons — “we were in a position to produce very high quality alcohol immediately.” The alcohol can be used to create Flying Leaps wines and spirits or hand sanitizer.

Flying Leap, which added the 8,000-square-foot distillery to its Elgin winemaking operations in late 2016, produces vodka, whiskey and brandy from the grapes it grows for wine.

Beres, who owns the 10-year-old business with partners Marc Moeller and Thomas Kitchens, said Flying Leap has a high-capacity patent distillery.

Flying Leap is selling 190 proof alcohol in 1.25-gallon ($188.25) and five-gallon ($544.35) sizes.

To make the hand sanitizer, you mix two parts alcohol with one part aloe vera and tea tree oil, Beres said. Last week, it sold 50 gallons of alcohol to O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery in Scottsdale, which will make sanitizer for St. Joseph’s hospital in Phoenix.

The alcohol is available at Flying Leap, 342 Elgin Canelo Road in Elgin, or can be delivered to homes in Tucson.

Flying Leap also is working with Tucson’s Sia Botanics on its line of hand sanitizer, Beres said. For more information or to order, contact Nicole Maddox at 1-520-603-8609.


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Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch