Illinois distillery ditches bourbon for hand sanitizer during outbreak

(The Center Square) – Bourbon is out and hand sanitizer is in at a northern Illinois distillery.

That transition is taking place at Kennay Farms Distilling in Rochelle, which under normal circumstances produces a full line of vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon and craft beer. With the shortage of sanitizer amid the COVID-19 outbreak, however, a decision was made.

“We had basically a family round table last night and it wasn’t about if we would do it, it was how do we do it and how do we get started and how do we meet the needs as quickly as we can,” co-owner Doris Kennay said.

Kennay said they have enough supplies on hand to make 3,000 gallons of sanitizer on a relatively quick timetable.

“We have basically ceased bourbon operations and transitioned the lines to produce the alcohol that we need,” Kennay said. “It’s a different proof that goes out. It’s more of a 60 proof that has to be in the sanitizer, which is lower than alcohol that you drink.”

The family-owned business has been preparing for the switch, but had to wait for approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau before starting. The first batch of the sanitizer was completed on March 20.

“Our goal is to service the immediate area as quickly as possible, donating product to hospitals, clinics, first responders, and firemen,” Kennay said. “We’ve already received several calls for orders from private industry, other health care facilities that are beyond our radius, and just private individuals.”

Information for health care facilities in need is available at the distillery’s website. Any excess product is expected to be made available for sale to the public at cost.

“We could make the change very quickly from the bourbon production to the hand sanitizer, and the scale of our operation is large enough that we really felt we could make a good impact,” Kennay said. “We can really make a sizeable amount of product.”

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