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Brownlee distillery supplying health-care agencies with high-proof alcohol amidst supply-shortages

A local craft distillery is putting all their resources into providing 70-proof vodka to health-care and emergency service providers during a supply shortage of rubbing alcohol — entirely out of their own pocket
smooth 42
Smooth 42 Distilleries' co-owners Adam Dombowsky and Sacha Elez with a bottle of their emergency vodka, distilled at 70 per cent alcohol content. (supplied)

Smooth 42 Distilleries' co-owners Sacha Elez and Adam Dombowsky have been hard at work bottling a new version of their high-proof Cre8 vodka to give to emergency service agencies as a substitute for rubbing alcohol.

“We are luckily in a position, being distillery owners, that we actually make a product that's a lot more useful right now (as a sterilization method) than a beverage,” said Elez. 

Smooth 42 has diverted all its resources into brewing bottles of vodka with 70-per-cent alcohol content, and is offering them completely free of charge to any health-care provider or public service agency in need as supply chains continue to back up amidst coronavirus panic. 

The high-proof vodka is called Cre8 Emergency Vodka, and it’s a reimagining of Smooth 42’s original product Cre8 Eco Vodka — a 90-per-cent alcohol product that the distillery launched a few months ago. 

Because they already had the necessary distillation and bottling equipment for such high-proof alcohol, the pair felt it was a perfect opportunity for them to offer help to necessary health services during this viral pandemic.

“We're just trying to do our part,” said Elez. “And we're in a unique position that we can just flip a switch and instead of making 90-per-cent Eco vodka, we're making 70-per-cent Emergency vodka. I don't know if you believe in fate or not, but it kind of just feels like we were meant to do this.”

smooth 42 emergency vodkaThe local distillery is bottling as many units as they can to deliver free of charge to healthcare and emergency service providers during the supply shortage of rubbing alcohol. (supplied)
The idea began as a precautionary measure, said Elez, but he has had tons of organizations reach out since they originally posted their offer on Smooth 42’s social media on March 16 — including fire departments, paramedics, police services, hospitals, and care homes.

“We had no idea that the supply chain was this backlogged,” said Elez. “(But) when we saw this thing getting worse, we just wanted to take action and just be able to help out in a big way.” 

Due to Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority Regulations, they can only bottle about 200 units per day because of the re-distilling requirement — so, about 1,000 bottles per week. 

But Elez said they have the capacity to produce 8,000 bottles per day, if the SLGA would adjust Smooth 42’s permit to exclude the second distillation process. 

The business is currently swallowing the entire cost of the product and offering it to agencies across Saskatchewan and Canada if they are in need of a rubbing alcohol substitute. 

Because of the huge response to their project so far, Elez is expecting to continue production for the foreseeable future. 

They have taken out a large loan to cover the necessary materials and manpower but, if the need continues, the hope is that more craft distilleries in the province might get on board and offer help.

“We're hoping this is just a stop-gap to kind of tide over the emergency services, to keep them going,” said Elez. “We have reached out to the other distilleries to kind of put them on standby, in case we can't keep up.”

Elez mentioned that he has also received messages from people asking if they can purchase a bottle of the emergency vodka for personal use, which isn’t likely to happen at this time. 

“We’re not selling (this product) until we're absolutely sure that everybody, in Canada that needs it, has it,” said Elez. 

Instead, the public can use Smooth 42’s 90-per-cent Cre8 Eco Vodka to water down into rubbing alcohol, although it’s only available in Saskatchewan liquor stores.

For Elez and Dombowsky, their focus right now is on making sure that sterilization products are available to the service providers who need them most. 

“We're trying to make it as accessible to people as possible, while still remaining legal, with the SLGA regulations,” said Elez. “We might have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get it there, but we're going to do whatever we can to make sure that people have what they need.”

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