Seabrook distillery offers free hand sanitizer to combat coronavirus

Kevin Kurland, owner of Smoky Quartz Distillery in Seabrook, bottles hand sanitizer with high proof alcohol cut with water, with glycerin and baby lotion added.BRYAN EATON/Staff photo

SEABROOK — A local distillery is doing its part to keep its customers’ and community’s hands clean by serving up free hand sanitizer during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Smoky Quartz Distillery, located at 894 Lafayette Road, is an artisanal “grain to glass” craft distillery that normally prides itself in creating spirits from locally-sourced grain and other domestic ingredients.

But since the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the United States, causing a widespread shortage of hand sanitizer, Smoky Quartz has shifted its focus toward manufacturing the coveted product, and is putting in the hands of as many people as they can for free.

Kevin Kurland, owner of Smoky Quartz, said he predicted COVID-19 spread would worsen locally after seeing its exponential growth in China, and started using his facility to make hand sanitizer on Saturday, March 14 to “get ahead of the curve.”

“I heard about the crisis and knew we had to jump on — we’re still a couple of weeks away from the peak,” said Kurland. “I saw that sanitizer was vanishing, and our government let us down. That stuff should have been stockpiled months ago.”

Since then, Kurland said the distillery has given away more than 1,000 “units” — which range from four-ounce to one-gallon bottles — of sanitizer to local first responders, businesses, truck drivers and anyone else who comes to Smoky Quartz in need.

“You can’t have customers if they’re sick, and the public needs to be healthy,” said Kurland. “People don’t realize how interconnected everything is until something like this happens.”

But the production shift also comes with a major cost to the distillery, which Kurland said had to divert an entire season of making bourbon to make sanitizer instead

“I have to make that season up after this is all said and done, and I don’t even know how or if we can write this off,” said Kurland.

And Kurland said that in turn, the public has returned the favor, with many offering donations of vials, bottles and other vessels to help Smoky Quartz cut costs. The distillery has even started offering its sanitizer on a bring-your-own-bottle basis, offering to refill visitors’ empty sanitizer containers.

“People are really stepping up. It’s overwhelming, and wonderful to see,” said Kurland.

Kurland said that typically, he offers local residents free four-ounce bottles, while those involved in public health such as first responders or nurses are usually given a gallon or more.

And over the past week and a half, Kurland said he’s noticed other area distilleries following Smoky Quartz’ lead by producing their own sanitizer. Their combined efforts, he said, might be enough to make a difference.

“I hope we’re putting a dent in this, and I’m hoping that for people who are stuck inside, this helps give them peace of mind,” he said.

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