Known for their unique, local rye whiskeys and gin, Catoctin Creek Distillery took a sharp left detour when COVID19 changed the restaurant and alcohol industry as we know it during an effort to flatten the curve. Once used to working evening hours, stopping by local restaurants to help develop and promote their cocktail menus with their products, John Shope and Avalon Haas now join their production team but not in a way either of them had ever planned, now they work in hand sanitizer production.
When “wash your hands” started being something we all heard on the news, radio and randomly on the streets hundreds of times a day, the market was flooded with demand for hand sanitizer, a demand manufacturers couldn’t keep up with. The ownership and team of Catoctin Creek, quickly saw a way they could help the most in need of these supplies, giving brandy head and gin tail (the leftovers from the distilling process) concoctions to emergency responders and assisted living communities for them to make their own hand sanitizer. Seeing the appreciation people had for such a simple act, the team decided they could do more. Shope says by the time the team ordered supplies to create FDA Regulated hand sanitizer, they were already sold out of their first lot, it was all hands on deck including owners, distributors, producers and bottlers to bottle 400-1000 orders of hand sanitizer a day.
Days look extremely different for Shope and Haas who miss the bartenders, managers and patrons they have built amazing relationships with. Nights of bar takeovers, cocktail competitions and tastings are on hold. But they are making the most of a hard situation for everyone, and they are having fun while they do it. “Everyone has new nicknames. We’re getting used to being at the distillery at 9am, spending the day laughing at good jokes and great music, sometimes bad jokes and bad music. We’re being safe, but we are still coming together to make this thing happen because the demand is overwhelming.”
While first responders and those most at risk are still prioritized for hand sanitizer, the rest of us can still stop by the distillery, our local ABC or order a shipment of our favorite Catoctin Creek spirits to show our support for their effort, as well as just to enjoy an amazing cocktail at home during social distancing. Until we raise our glasses together again, stay safe and drink local.
At the time of printing Catoctin Creek Distillery has run out of hand sanitizer and are happy to be easing back into normal with production of gin, whiskey and brandy.
Catoctin Creek Distillery | 120 W Main St. | Purceville, VA 20132
(540) 751-8404 | www.catoctincreekdistilling.com
Story & Photography by Jeanette Wages, VIP | As published in the May 2020 Issue of VIP Alexandria Magazine