Canberra, get your hands on home-grown sanitiser

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Man in car using hand-held EFTPOS machine to buy hand sanitiser via a new drive-through at Canberra Region Visitors Centre
You can now buy hand sanitiser made by Underground Spirits via a ‘drive-through’ sanitisation station at the Canberra Region Visitors Centre. Photo: Denholm Samaras.

As hand sanitiser supplies dwindled worldwide, local distilleries transitioned their facilities into creating product for frontline medical staff – product that’s now available for the general public to buy.

Among the local manufacturers is Underground Spirits who, on Tuesday 5 May, announced a new business arm – AUS, made by Australian Underground Spirits – offering hand and home sanitising products to the public.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Underground Spirits has made tens of thousands of litres of hand sanitiser for use by frontline medical staff in the ACT. According to owner and head distiller, Dr Toby Angstmann, they have been overwhelmed with requests for hand sanitiser from the public that, until now, they’ve been unable to facilitate.

“Our new system sits under a new extension to our business – made by AUS. This system is wholly Australian made and follows the Department of Health guidance for appropriate cleaning in these current times,” Dr Angstmann said.

The three new products are: mediSPRY – a hand sanitiser that is effective against viruses, bacteria and fungi, available in a one-litre bottle; mediVIRTUE – a 70% denatured alcohol surface solution available in a 500ml bottle; and mediMOXIEa chlorine-based home cleaning solution.

Bottles of mediSPRY are available via ‘call and collect’ at the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre on weekdays, at the Capital Region Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, and online at undergroundspirits.com.au

Unicorn Spirits is another local distillery that has turned their hand to manufacturing and supplying hand sanitiser to the public.

Founder and CEO of Unicorn Spirits, Ben Osborne, said they decided to transition to making hand sanitiser when major events around Australia were being cancelled.

“We were all set for our biggest year yet and had booked into many large markets. As markets are our main source of income, to have all of them cancelled was a huge hit. I had already produced all the stock and now only had my website to sell it on.”

He said the Therapeutic Goods Administration in late March gave distilleries the opportunity to manufacture hand sanitiser under strict guidelines.

“This was a massive opportunity to keep me and my workers busy and help our local community. The first production saw 1,000L of our vodka (ethanol) put towards helping frontline medical staff in Canberra hospitals and medical clinics.”

The company is still producing 700ml medical grade 80% ethanol refill bottles of hand sanitiser (available via unicornspirits.com.au/shop for express delivery) and is hoping to have pump bottle options available soon. 

The Canberra Distillery has also been hard at work turning wine, sourced from local wineries, into ethanol, which is used as a base ingredient in hand sanitiser.

Owner Tim Reardon said they switched from making gin to ethanol due to the enormous demand for hand sanitiser at the start of COVID-19 in Australia. They can make 150 to 200 litres of ethanol a day.

Mr Reardon said the spike was the result of false demand, not unlike what happened with toilet paper, where customers were not only placing their normal order but extra to stockpile. However, he said it returned to equilibrium over the Easter long weekend.

The Canberra Distillery is now “working on doing a proper hand sanitiser, not just the ethanol side of things” as well as building up supply of some of their other products, he said.

Where to buy

  • AUS MediSPRY, MediVIRTUE are available now, with MediMOXIE coming soon. Canberrans can buy 1 litre bottles of mediSPRY direct from the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, Monday to Friday, by calling ahead on 6205 0044. Call upon arrival for tap and go payment with Visitor Centre staff who will bring the product direct to your car.
    Weekend purchases can be made at the Capital Region Farmers Market on Saturdays 7.30-11.30am, with 1 litre bottles available along with refills if you bring your own 1 litre reusable container.
    Orders can also be made direct online at
    www.undergroundspirits.com.au
  • Unicorn Spirits’ 700ml medical grade sanitiser is available online; www.unicornspirits.com.au/shop 

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