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Maui distillers make sanitizer for first-responders

  • COURTESY MAUI BREWING CO.
                                Maui Brewing Co. in Kihei and Kahana are one-stop shops for free hand sanitizer with takeout and to-go beer orders.

    COURTESY MAUI BREWING CO.

    Maui Brewing Co. in Kihei and Kahana are one-stop shops for free hand sanitizer with takeout and to-go beer orders.

  • COURTESY HAWAII SEA SPIRITS
                                Hawaii Sea Spirits founder and CEO Shay Smith, left, and master distiller Bill Scot, right, are manufacturing hand sanitizer for first responders including state Sheriff Brad Beck, center.

    COURTESY HAWAII SEA SPIRITS

    Hawaii Sea Spirits founder and CEO Shay Smith, left, and master distiller Bill Scot, right, are manufacturing hand sanitizer for first responders including state Sheriff Brad Beck, center.

Two Maui companies committed to creating top-quality spirits are re-deploying their resources to turn out a different kind of alcohol product that has been in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Hawaii Sea Spirits in Kula and Maui Brewing Co. in Kihei and Kahana are making critically needed alcohol-based hand sanitizer, recommended by public health officials for maintaining hygiene when soap and water are not available. The Maui-made sanitizer is being distributed for free to the island’s first-responders.

Maui Brewing Co. is using its Kupu Spirits distillery to make sanitizer that is 70% ethyl alcohol. Its two restaurants are providing a free, 16-ounce sanitizer to customers who purchase to-go items including food and alcoholic beverages.

“We’ve also been making it available in 1- and 5-gallon jugs for Maui police and firefighters and some kupuna and child care places with proof of 501c nonprofit designation,” said Marketing Manager Marsha Hansen.

Meanwhile, Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery is employing some of the same ingredients and equipment used to produce its Ocean Organic Vodka to manufacture hand sanitizer. The formula contains 80% organic ethyl alcohol, small amounts of glycerin skin conditioner, hydrogen peroxide — “The same stuff used to clean wounds and whiten teeth,” said CEO Shay Smith — and a small amount of water.

“Our spirits blending and bottling equipment is set up nearly perfectly to make this sanitizer. Very little conversion needed to happen,” Smith said. “When the need came up, we dropped what we were doing, acquired the correct materials and started doing this.”

Other local businesses enlisted in the effort, he said, with Mokulele Airlines offering air cargo for hard-to-get ingredients from another island, Maui Babe tanning lotion providing bottles, Printers Inc. in Kahului handling the labels, and the Maui Food Bank helping to figure out distribution.

“This really has been an awesome community effort,” Smith said.

Once first-responders get their fill, Hawaii Sea Spirits, which suspended its tours but continues to make vodka for nationwide distribution, will offer the sanitizer to the larger community.

A note of caution, however: Despite their origins and alcohol content, do not try to drink the Maui-distilled sanitizers. They not fit for human consumption and are flammable.

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On the web:

mauibrewing.com

oceanvodka.com

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