During the COVID-19 crisis, New Riff Distilling pivoted part of its production of spirits to focus on creating hand sanitizer for first responders. The staff at New Riff wanted to help, like many others in the industry. The industry started to share best practices, and with a few raw materials, New Riff was ready to get started. Luckily, they had some friends in the industry to get the raw materials that they needed to be donated which were glycerin and hydrogen peroxide.
The process of making the sanitizer isn’t that different from distilling Bourbon and Rye. They distill the grains, in this case, corn, to a very high proof, higher than normal. Then they safely mix with the glycerin and hydrogen peroxide and then allow the sanitizer to cure for a few days. The end product is an 82% alcohol-based hand sanitizer which equates to over 164 proof. They were able to create more than 400 gallons of sanitizer per week. “We run at full tilt all the time, so ultimately we’re going to lose a little bit of the contract-distilling revenue, and four or five years from now, we’re going to be missing a few hundred barrels, depending on how long this lasts,” New Riff owner Ken Lewis says. “But that’s a very small price to pay for the opportunity to serve our community—and we’re more than willing to pay that price.”
All sanitizer is being donated. Right now it is being donated in bulk directly to first responders in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati and hospitals in our community.
New Riff Distillery is an HCDC lending client. They utilized the SBA 504 loan through SBA to expand their operational space with the purchase and renovation of the property to increase their ability to store bourbon and rye whiskey. They were also able to purchase bottling equipment for their expanded operational space.