TRURO — Townspeople were lined up outside the gift shop at Truro Vineyards and South Hollow Spirits on Shore Road on Saturday, respecting the social distance and patiently waiting their turn to be admitted one at a time. They weren’t there for the winery’s cabernet franc or for the distillery’s Dry Line Cape Cod gin, but for something quite a bit stronger and harder to find lately: 160-proof hand sanitizer.
Distiller David Roberts Jr. had started making the stuff in his still only two or three days earlier, prompted by an email from the Mass. Distillers Alliance.
“Most of the distilleries are doing this and giving it away for free, like us,” said Roberts by phone. “I’m making a two-and-half-gallon batch right now, based on a recipe I got from the World Health Organization. It takes a good long time to make it. When the shop is open we have someone in there with a funnel and we’ll fill people’s bottles.”
Roberts explained that he uses uncut gin that comes off the still at 180 proof, that is, 90 percent alcohol. Sanitizer needs to be 80 percent alcohol, he said. He adds peroxide and glycerine, and a touch of peppermint oil, “to make it smell nice,” he said.
“The problem is not production but packaging,” said Dave’s sister, Kristen. Rebecca Townsend of Truro donated 60 bottles, she said, and Atlantic Spice Co. donated 100, along with the peppermint oil.
“A soap maker from Eastham gave us the glycerine,” said Kristen, “and the Wellfleet Elementary School nurse gave us the hydrogen peroxide. We filled 48 bottles and they were gone in minutes. Then we got 48 more and they went out.”
“We’ve given some to the Truro Police Dept. and to Cape Cod Hospital,” said Dave, “and Cape Cab has put a spritz bottle in every cab. They’re taking a lot of older folks to the grocery store. We gave them 30 bottles for 30 cabs. Today we filled 60 or 70 four-ounce bottles.”
“They donated a half gallon of sanitizer for us to use for our maintenance staff,” said Jay Coburn of the Community Development Partnership, which manages affordable housing on the Lower Cape. “We are so grateful to them. Our staff only had bleach and water for protection as they make emergency repairs to our housing units.”
“People have been asking if we would ship it to them,” said Kristen. “We want to keep it in the community for now. We’re going to keep making it for sure as long as there is a need.”
“Once I get comfortable with the method of manufacture, I can ramp it up,” said Dave, adding that he was planning to reach out to other town police departments to offer them bottles of sanitizer.
“I know a lot of people from different departments,” he said. “My kids are hockey players, and a lot of the hockey coaches and families are police officers.”
The gin at South Hollow Spirits is made from organic sugar cane, said Kristen.
“The first few gallons that come off the still is the head,” she said, “then the heart, then the tail. You use the heart to make gin. The heads and tails are what we use to make the sanitizer. The glycerine softens it. Usually you save the heads and tails to get redistilled. You never throw anything away, because it’s all tracked and regulated.”
The Robertses are still looking for more bottles: the two-ounce size is ideal, but four ounces works, too. And they’re still offering to fill people’s bottles if they come to the shop.
“Just call or email first to find out a good time to come,” said Kristen, apparently not too worried about the vineyard being overrun with seekers of sanitizer.
“I now understand the AA mantra of taking it one day at a time,” she said.