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Calwise Distillery pivots to hand sanitizer production for first responders 

—In a sign of the times, proprietor and master distiller Aaron Bergh of Calwise Spirits Co. has suddenly found himself producing a uniquely different product for an entirely new clientele: first responders, government agencies and charities who are in desperate need of bulk hand sanitizer. And he is now inviting additional agencies in need to contact him.

“It concerns me that our community servants don’t have sufficient sanitizer at a time when they need it more than ever,” said Bergh, who is known for producing craft gins and rums at his distillery in south Paso Robles. “I realized that my equipment and supply chain expertise could help out these everyday heroes as they work tirelessly to keep us safe.”

In a short amount of time, Bergh has started supplying bulk hand sanitizer to the Templeton Fire Department, San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority, the Camarillo Police Department, 40 Prado Road Homeless Services Center, SLO Food Bank, and others.

Most sobering was a call he received from the F.B.I. field office in Los Angeles. “They have agents out in the field as part of the COVID-19 response team, and they are worried about running out of hand sanitizer,” Bergh said. “This sanitizer is going to make a huge difference in keeping them and the public safe.”

First responders, government agencies and charities in need of hand sanitizer may also contact Bergh at His current pricing—based on existing supply costs—is $15 per gallon, which stands in contrast to the high markups seen elsewhere on hand sanitizer.

“I hope to get more of our hand sanitizer out there so that our public servants can safely do their jobs in this time of crisis,” Bergh said.

According to Bergh, the FDA has given distilleries the authority to produce sanitizer in accordance with World Health Organization standards. “As far as I know, this has never happened in the United States, it’s totally unprecedented,” he said.

Bergh’s sanitizer is made with three key ingredients: glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and ethanol alcohol typically used for making spirits.

He is quick to point out that other local businesses have helped him secure necessary supplies, including Cook’s Vanilla, Golden Apple Cannabis and RS Paul Construction.

“These companies have stepped up and helped make a difference,” Bergh said. “This is truly a community effort.”

However, Bergh is concerned about possible future supply chain issues, and is hoping to crowdsource additional supplies, if needed.

“Although I’m adequately stocked right now, I’m concerned about supplies running out and I may be needing additional hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, as well as large bottles and other containers for packaging,” he said. “I invite anyone who might have inventory or access to these items to contact me.”

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