Chancellor visits the distillery to see hand sanitiser production

Photo courtesy of Copper Rivet Distillery 

Kent-based Copper Rivet Distillery believes that demand for hand sanitisers will grow exponentially once lockdown has ended….

…and that their stunningly beautiful distillery beside the River Medway in Chatham will continue to produce high quality hand sanitiser alongside its premium spirits.

Since March, 60,000 50cl bottles of Russell’s Hand Sanitiser have been despatched.

“People might think this is a short-term need, but it isn’t” says co-founder Stephen Russell (pictured below with the Distillery’s range of products). “Just think of all of those re-opened shops and offices, or homes that will really need the reassurance of hand sanitisers; and once pubs and bars and restaurants are up and running, demand could explode again. There’s no reason we should not deliver gin and vodka and hand sanitiser on the same lorry.”

Stephen Russell from Copper Rivet Distillery (image courtesy of Copper Rivet Distillery)

Distilling spirits from grain to glass is very technical, so Copper Rivet Distillery’s production needs to be very science heavy. The technical team were, therefore, well placed to create a formula which is effective and meets the required standards, but is also good to the skin and hands with longer term use than a standard rub. It’s the same technical skill and care for quality which has one them plaudits in the spirits industry.

Until 31 March, Copper Rivet was a gin, vodka and whisky distillery. By the next morning, all of that had changed, and they had transformed themselves into a hand sanitising producer for the Emergency Services. Supplies were sent to the MET, Essex Police, Kent Police, British Transport Police forces and to local authorities, care homes and schools.
Copper Rivet makes its own alcohol, from locally grown wheat and barley and rye; it does this in a slow and careful way – so when it needed a greater supply to speed up its distillations, it formed partnerships with Shepherd Neame Brewery and  Carlsberg who stepped in to send them high strength beer to distil onwards to 96.4% alcohol.

“Hand sanitiser sounds easy to make and all the same. It isn’t. You can’t just apply high alcohols to hands and leave it at that” says Stephen Russell. “That won’t kill the virus, and it may well hurt your hands. You need to add elements which slow the alcohol’s evaporation and leaves the sanitiser on your hands for more than 30 seconds. Russell’s Hand Sanitiser uses vitamin E, plus jojoba and essential oils to make sure it’s good for hands.”

The Russell’s Hand Sanitiser Gel is now available to buy online.

So what of the future? “I think we will carry on making hand sanitiser for the general public,” says Stephen Russell; “but a very high class offering, perhaps using some of the botanicals we’re familiar with, but this time as aromatics. And I will go back to my normal job of being a management consultant in banking, chastened by the knowledge of the blood, sweat and tears that go into making something as life enhancing as hand sanitiser, or indeed our vodka, whisky and gin.”

On Tuesday 12th May the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, paid a visit to Chatham’s Copper Rivet Distillery.  

Above: Stephen Russell from Copper Rivet with Rishi Sunak (credit: HM Treasury/Simon Walker)

Copper Rivet Distillery, set up in 2016, has adapted and repurposed its production to support the fight against COVID 19.

After delivering his update on the furlough scheme to Parliament, he headed 29 miles south to learn how businesses such as Copper Rivet had responded during the current crisis and to hear their founders’ views on the way ahead.

Family members Stephen, Bob and Matthew Russell thanked the Chancellor for his support, as hospitality and tourism staff at the distillery had to be furloughed at the end of March; and production of their Dockyard Gin and Vela vodka was put on hold so as to develop over 100,000 bottles of Russell’s hand sanitiser – their own special recipe – for the Emergency services.

Above: Rishi Sunak from Copper Rivet (credit: HM Treasury/Simon Walker)

Stephen Russell comments: “Fellow Kent businesses like Shepherd Neame have helped us out, as have friends, family and ex-employees, who have returned in our hour of need.  We have always believed in producing something special, wherever possible made from local ingredients; so a future delivering a range of high quality botanically-infused hand sanitisers alongside our gins, our vodka and our Masthouse whisky will be a very exciting option.”