Collin McConville, ’08, has been master distiller at Rootstock Cider and Spirits in Williamson, N.Y., for the past nine years. Up until a few weeks ago, his focus was on crafting premium ciders and vodkas. But with the evolving situation around the coronavirus, he is converting his production to hand sanitizer, like other distillers around the state (including Beak & Skiff, owned by alumnus Edward Brennan, '78).

Because the alcohol it makes for beverages isn’t governed by the same regulations as the creation and sale of hand sanitizer, the company had to receive approval by the federal government before switching its recipe, and sought guidance from the Taxation and Trade Bureau and the Food and Drug Administration on how to do it effectively, quickly, and legally.

Following the World Health Organization’s guidelines, Rootstock is mixing the ethanol it typically produces for its vodka products with glycerol and hydrogen peroxide to make bulk emergency hand sanitizer. Sourcing the other two ingredients, as well as bottles and labels, was a bit of a challenge, Collin said, but despite those obstacles, they were able to fill about 1,500 12.5 oz. bottles with their first batch. He says they hope to be able to scale up to produce several thousand bottles a week, moving forward.

Frontline staff, healthcare professionals, and other essential employees will be the first to receive the hand sanitizers, because their location in rural Wayne County makes it difficult for these individuals to obtain necessary resources such as these, Collin explained. Once Rootstock can ramp up production, however, he hopes to be able to supply the sanitizers to others in their local community.

 “They have shown us amazing support for the past nine years, and we want to support them in this time of crisis,” he said. 

Collin is happy to have the opportunity to use the skills he has developed over his years in the industry to help where he can, and to join other businesses and individuals who have stepped up to assist during this pandemic. He also acknowledges that other local businesses have made their work “doable in this time -- businesses like Niagara Label and Waterloo Container. Without them, we wouldn't be able to do what we are doing.”



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