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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Local Distillery Tries To Raise Spirits By Producing Hand Sanitizer

Andrew Porter, Liz Porter, Jason Harris, Chris Ritenour
Courtesy Christina Hussey
Andrew and Liz Porter (left to right) are working with sales and marketing lead Jason Harris and head distiller Chris Ritenour to produce hand sanitizer.

Liz and Andrew Porter shut down their distillery, Doc Porter’s, to the public on Monday. With the coronavirus outbreak demanding social distancing, it seemed like the right move.  

By Thursday, the Porters already had a new plan for their South End distillery: hand sanitizer.

Doc Porter’s announced it will begin manufacturing hand sanitizer for first responders, medical professionals and non-profits providing shelter and assistance to others. It’s a move numerous distilleries around the country have been making amid COVID-19 fears – including Durham Distillery in North Carolina -- but Doc Porter’s appears to be the first in Charlotte to begin producing the high-demand item.

“We feel like we’re in a really unique position to actually be able to do something helpful in this completely strange and otherworldly life experience,” Liz Porter said.

Using a recipe provided by the World Health Organization, Doc Porter’s will take ethanol it typically produces for spirits like vodka and gin and combine it with glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. That creates a hand sanitizer that meets the 60% ethanol minimum solution recommended by the CDC.

Head distiller Chris Ritenour and sales and marketing lead Jason Harris will spearhead the effort as the distillery switches production of spirits entirely over to sanitizer.

“The recipe is simple, it’s super straight-forward," Porter said. "It’s less complex than making the products we typically are making."

Right now, Doc Porter’s is asking those who are interested in receiving the sanitizer to register at their website, DocPorters.com. They’re trying to gauge how much sanitizer they’ll need to make.

It will be free.

“We don’t feel right about charging for it in this type of situation," she said. "I think everybody is strapped – including us – so we’re donating everything."

But, sorry. It also will not be available to the public, at large.

“So we’ve seen distilleries across the nation say, ‘Hey drive thru, get some sanitizer, buy a bottle!’ We just really don’t want to do, at this point, this public-facing,” Porter said. “Andrew and I are very, very much of the mind that everyone should be staying home. And we don’t want to encourage anyone in the public that does not have to be out, to be out.”

After they announced their plan Thursday night, they immediately had requests from fire stations, emergency responders and non-profits that added up to 20 gallons. By Saturday morning, they had 60 additional individual requests. They can make 23 gallons by next week – but just need containers for it. They’re also asking for donations of 1-5 gallon containers.

This is not easy for the Porters, either. Liz and Andrew work full-time jobs in addition to managing the distillery. They have two young children – 4 and 5 years old – who need to be home-schooled while everyone is quarantined.

And they won’t be making any money from producing hand sanitizer.

“We’ll keep doing this for as long as there’s a need until we can’t anymore,” Porter said. “We might just run out of money for cost of goods sold and all of that. But right now, we can at least get 23 gallons next week.”

This is all a new experience for them – the coronavirus and the social distancing and the hand sanitizer -- but they’re glad they can do their part to help out.

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Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.