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Canmore distillery wants to help fill gap amidst COVID-19 panic

Canmore's Wildlife Distillery has started to produce hand sanitizer in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
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Matt Widmer, co-founder of Wildlife Distillery in Canmore, showcases the company’s new hand sanitizer product on Saturday (March 21). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

CANMORE – Wildlife Distillery wants to help keep things clean.

The Canmore business has started to produce hand sanitizer in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously here we make high-proof alcohol everyday, we have an abundance of it and we saw the local supply of hand sanitizer disappear off the shelves – so we took some measures to produce our own,” said distiller and co-founder of Wildlife Distillery, Matt Widmer.

After some research online, the distillery was able to find a reccommended recipe for hand sanitizer on the World Health Organization’s website, then ordered the ingredients and supplies and began production last week.

“The most challenging part was finding the packaging because all the small bottles suitable for hand sanitizer – around the world are out of stock,” Widmer said.

Widmer said he was able to secure 650 – 60mL bottles from a supplier in Edmonton. The distillery went public with its announcement of selling hand sanitizer on Friday (March 20), and is already receiving calls from prospective clients.

“The thing is, we only have so many personal use bottles and once those go – I don’t know what we will do. We have larger bottles we could use, but that’s not ideal. We’ve also been considering the possibility of refills.”

He added that the distillery has started a new online store, and with the purchase of their products, customers will receive a free 60mL bottle of the new hand sanitizer.

“That’s really not our goal in producing the hand sanitizer. We made it with the thought in mind of hospitals, front line staff, nursing homes – people that are vulnerable and in contact with those who are infected. That’s who we want to save some for, so we will try not to sell out so that we have it ready for those who need it most.”

The hand sanitizer is a liquid format, which requires a spray cap to use efficiently. Widmer added he chose to produce a liquid format because of the lack of availability of one of the key ingredients, glycerol. The more glycerol in the product the more of a gel it will be.

In these uncertain times, Widmer is hopeful the new product will help buoy the company while providing an important product in limiting the spread of germs.

“We’ll see how it goes. For the time being we really want to make sure that the people who need it can get it. It’s kind of a two fold. A – it’s product in need that is helping the health crisis and B – basically our whole entire revenue stream has come to  a halt.”

He said the company will have to prioritize the hand sanitizer on a case-by-case basis in order for the stock to last and see that those who need it most have access to the product.

“I think our message is, if you’re healthy and you’re not showing any symptoms and you think it would be nice to have some hand sanitizer – don’t call us. But if you’re sick or around people that are sick – yeah that’s the type of situation we want to support."


Evan Buhler

About the Author: Evan Buhler

Evan Buhler is an award-winning photojournalist and reporter who joined the Outlook in 2019. A native of Calgary, he previously worked in Salmon Arm, B.C.
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