Mill Town Distillery offers locally made hand sanitizer

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

North Idaho’s own Mill Town Distillery, which is known for producing artisan spirits from grain grown on a small farm in Dover, is adding to its resume by stepping up to produce hand sanitizer during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In late March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it would relax regulations surrounding “significant supply disruptions for alcohol-based hand sanitizers,” and provided guidelines for companies to refer to throughout the public health emergency.

Bottles of Mill Town First Response hand sanitizer. Courtesy Mill Town Distillery.

Mill Town Distillery co-owner and manager Jessie Vachon said she witnessed the sanitizer shortage on a local level.

“There is just a huge need,” she said. “We have friends that work at the hospital … friends that are first responders, and they just couldn’t find it anywhere. We have the opportunity and the capability, so we decided that we might as well.”

Thanks to the relaxed FDA guidelines and that local inspiration, Mill Town launched First Response Hand Sanitizer — a mixture of 80% alcohol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and a denaturant. Vachon said the World Health Organization specified the formula.

“We’ve been busy at the distillery making the worst tasting alcohol that you can imagine,” Vachon posted to the Mill Town Facebook page April 11, debuting the product, “but it’s all for a good cause.”

Vachon said the result is a liquid, sprayable sanitizer — not necessarily the gooey, aloe vera-infused hand sanitizer most people are used to buying at the store.

Other local businesses have also stepped up to assist Mill Town in its new endeavor. MickDuff’s Brewing Co. donated a large vat of beer that would have gone to waste, but is now going to be distilled into base alcohol. Vachon said all of the sanitizer Mill Town produces from that distillation will be donated.

When Mill Town ran into an issue acquiring bottles for the sanitizer due to a plastics shortage, Vachon said Litehouse Foods stepped up, offering some unused dressing bottles for a fair price in order to make First Response Hand Sanitizer a reality.

Vachon said she is still working on securing local vendors to sell the hand sanitizer, and that she will keep the Mill Town Distillery social media accounts up to date as those locations are finalized. Find Mill Town Distillery on Facebook at and on Instragram @mill_town_still.

Health care professionals and other essential workers looking to order sanitizer should contact Vachon directly at [email protected].

Bottles, which hold 32 ounces of sanitizer, are $13 each. Essential workers receive a discount.

“We’re still making alcohol, still distilling booze — we’re just making terrible booze,” Vachon said with a laugh, “and adding a couple extra ingredients to make it nonconsumable.”

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