Collaborative spirit sees Welsh distillers team up against Coronavirus

Welsh gin distilleries have produced and given away more than 200,000 bottles of desperately needed hand sanitiser to frontline services, essential workers and community care providers since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Welsh Drinks Cluster the hundreds of thousands of sanitiser and hand rub products distributed to-date have been produced by just four distilleries, but this is just the start.

Currently, the Cluster, which represents Wales’ alcohol and soft drinks producers, is working with 15 distillers across the country to help them switch production in response to the national call out for hand sanitizer.

Wales’ craft gin and rum producers are set to become a vital supplier for communities across the nation and the first to receive the products free of charge have included: hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries, Royal Air Force personnel, police, community groups and the Royal Mail.

That success is the result of a collaboration that has seen distilleries join forces with businesses and organisations from a range of industry sectors, who have united in to battle the pandemic’s hold in Wales.

Two of the first craft gin producers to release supplies of hand sanitiser and alcohol hand rub products are Anglesey’s Llanfairpwll Distillery and Machynlleth-based, Dyfi Distillery. 

Dyfi Distillery, the producers of Pollination Gin, is a multi-award-winning small craft gin distillery that sources its botanicals from within the UNESCO Biosphere of Dyfi. However, the arrival of the Coronavirus in Wales has seen the artisan gin produces switch all efforts to support its community.

Danny Cameron from Dyfi Distillery, explained: “Like many distilleries, our thoughts turned to producing alcohol-based hand sanitiser some weeks ago. We have the ethanol and equipment required, the World Health Organization’s approved recipes are simple, and the need for the product was more than apparent.

“The challenges all distilleries initially met with were a combination of compliance and access to the other raw materials required. Thankfully, by collaborating with various authorities and Drinks Cluster, we were ultimately able to go into production, and distribute hand sanitiser free charge to 31 local front line organisations including, hospitals, ambulance, social care, police and Royal Mail, as a sincere thank you for every single person who is out there helping others.”

Under usual circumstances the Welsh Drinks Cluster’s role is to promote the country’s success at producing world class products. However, recent weeks have seen the Cluster shift its focus to helping the sector adjust and respond to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on behalf of the Welsh Drinks Cluster, Mark Grant, said:

“While the process of making alcohol-based sanitiser products is relatively straightforward for distillers, many have needed support and collaboration to allow them to secure the necessary materials, packaging and ensure that new products meet the regulatory standards that allow them to be used by organisations like NHS Wales.

“Our role has been to ensure that distillers can access all that they need to make these products safely available to those that most need them. We congratulate these distillers for their dedicated work to deliver the essential supplies our heroic front-line healthcare workers and essential service providers need at this time.”

Efforts to support distillers to overcome these challenges has seen the Welsh Drinks Cluster working closely with Welsh Government, HMRC, Food Innovation Wales and Life Sciences Hub Wales.

Collaboration between the Cluster and Life Sciences Hub Wales has assisted distillers to access the materials and expertise that enable them to produce and distribute products to meet the urgent demand. Life Sciences Hub Wales’ links with industry has seen distillers join forces with the antimicrobial specialists at Hybrisan to ensure products meet necessary standards, Swansea University has assisted in sourcing essential materials, and Welsh Government support has enabled businesses across Wales to provide logistical support to ensure materials and products can be transported to where they are most needed.

Crucially, the partnership between the Welsh Drinks Cluster and Life Sciences Hub Wales has allowed distillers to ensure that their products meet NHS Wales’ national need. As part of its role to lead Wales’ industry efforts to combat Coronavirus, the Life Sciences Hub Wales is processing all industry offers made to NHS Shared Services Wales. As a result, partnering with the Cluster has allowed products made by Welsh distillers to be fast-tracked to where they are most urgently needed within NHS Wales.

Commenting on the collaboration with the Welsh Drinks Cluster, Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO at Life Sciences Hub Wales, said:

“The work of Wales’ distillers to create products that specifically answer NHS Wales’ critical needs is a perfect example of what we at Life Sciences Hub Wales are working to make possible.

“These products are essential, but their creation has only been possible because organisations, from an array of industries and disciplines have united in a common goal. Their success clearly demonstrates that collaboration allows solutions to be developed and deployed at pace to fight Coronavirus, and I thank all involved for their efforts.”

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said:

“We are facing a global pandemic the like of which we have not seen in peacetime. In these incredibly challenging times, it is fantastic to see businesses and organisations working together to turn their efforts towards serving their communities. I thank them and all who have responded to this urgent situation by dedicating themselves to helping others.”

Life Sciences Hub Wales are encouraging all companies with proposals to help support NHS Wales to submitted their offers through its online enquiry form: