Ian Mack Disobedient Spirits

Distiller Ian Mack preps the sugar wash inside a 500-gallon pot still, which is one of the steps in making hand sanitizer, at Disobedient Spirits craft distillery in Homer City, Indiana County, on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

An Indiana County distillery is switching from spirits to sanitizer.

Known for making whiskey, rye, bourbon and other craft spirits since 2012, Homer City-based Disobedient Spirits has a 500-gallon system of fermentation tanks and stills that is being put to work turning sugar, water and yeast into sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, co-owner Bob Sechrist said.

A small 10-gallon batch was already produced to test the process, but Sechrist said Disobedient Spirits has the capability to produce as much as 50 gallons at a time – assuming the distillery can find people who want the product.

“Right now, we’re waiting on several chemicals to be delivered to finish the process,” he said.

The thickening agent glycerine is one of them.

Given the fact that Disobedient Spirits’ sanitizer might be 150 proof, the other additive is a “denaturing” agent that would make the material unfit for human consumption.

“There are things we need to add to bring it to (World Health Organization) standards,” he said.

Disobedient Spirits has been operating inside a renovated former Homer City grocery store since 2012. The company expanded its sales to online service and in retail spaces, such as Sarnelli’s Market in Jones Mills, near Seven Springs Mountain Resort, and Pennsylvania Libations in Pittsburgh’s Strip District

The distillery is now offering delivery service as far east as Johnstown for a $15 order fee. 

‘Help somebody’ 

Sechrist said the distillery is willing to give away sanitizer to first responders in the area who might be in short supply.

“With everything that’s going on,” he said. “Hopefully this is going to help somebody.”

The original batch was supplied to the Pennsylvania State Police Barracks in Indiana.

Like everyone else, state police have ramped up their efforts to keep their offices disinfected to lower the risk of coronavirus, Public Information Officer Cliff Greenfield said.

“With these products in such high demand, I’m sure this will come in handy for us,” Greenfield said.

Sechrist is confident there are others who can benefit, too.

“Our problem right now is that our supply is in bulk. We don’t have the ability to bottle our (sanitizer) into small containers,” Sechrist said, noting that it doesn’t make sense to pour the slippery stuff into the distillery’s bulky glass bottles. 

Additives and bottling 

Sechrist is hopeful that anyone in need of sanitizer will figure out a way to solve that issue.

Or perhaps, there’s a company that could partner with Disobedient Spirits to get the cleaning agent bottled for distribution, he said.

For now, the distillery is taking the process one step at a time, Sechrist said.

If all goes well, the additives needed will be delivered by early next week to produce larger quantities of their product.

Disobedient Spirits is the lone distillery in the region making sanitizer.

Several other distilleries – including Moonshine Mine, in Nanty Glo; Tall Pines, in Salisbury; and Old Towne Distillery, in Stoystown – continue to remain open for spirit sales-only on a take-out basis. 

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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