In the face of COVID-19, two local businesses are partnering up to help the community with the overwhelming hand sanitizer shortage. Victoria Distillers, the makers of Empress 1908 Gin, and Nezza Naturals are the new team joining forces to help provide free hand sanitizer to essential service workers. Seeing the demand, Victoria Distillers president Peter Hunt approached Sasha Prior, co-founder of Nezza Naturals, about how they could help. “Sasha was of course on board and super excited and got the ball rolling,” said Victoria Distillers Marketing Manager Jessalyn Pechie. “It was a no brainer,” agreed Prior. From there, the two companies created the game plan. When creating Empress 1908 Gin, 40 litres of alcohol is created as a byproduct of each distillation, which Nezza Naturals will mix with water, essential oils and vegetable glycerin to make hand sanitizer. “Alcohol was our missing link,” explained Prior. “We had the bottles, the labels and the other ingredients but we needed alcohol. Peter Hunt walked into my store and said, ‘I have excess alcohol,’ and it couldn’t be more perfect.” One distillation creates enough alcohol to create 840 bottles of 60ml hand sanitizers, which these local businesses will give away for free. “It’s not something in this time we’re trying to make a profit on,” Pechie told CHEK News, “Just trying to do something that’s positive and give back in any way that we can to the community as we prepare for what lies ahead.” The hand sanitizer is going to be made available to those whose jobs are considered essential services such as doctor’s offices, dentists, clinics, nurses, and care workers. “We saw that the demand is definitely there for hand sanitizer, that the shelves are kind of empty and we heard some stories of health care workers, and they don’t have the option to stay home and social distance.” Prior said the response from the community has been incredible. “That’s been really sweet,” said Prior. “We’ve been getting lovely thank you notes, asking if we need help. It’s a nice way to connect the community. It allows us to focus on something really positive.” The project will focus on the local community first and has already seen high demand from essential services. “We’re quite overwhelmed with the response that we’ve had so far, were to doing our best to respond to everybody,” said Pechie. Even though Victoria Distillers have closed the doors to their cocktail lounge, they are still producing Empress 1908 Gin and still creating alcohol byproduct that could be used by Nezza Naturals. There is no end in sight for the project, as they plan on continuing to provide free sanitizer as long as they can. “The only thing that will really hold us back is the spray bottles themselves,” explained Pechie. “Our current supplier has run out of stock. We have enough for 5000 but we’re looking at other suppliers to help us out.” The first batch is complete, with 200 bottles freshly labeled and waiting to be sent out. Victoria General Hospital and the Royal Jubilee with each receive 100 bottles by tomorrow morning.