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Helping Hands: the story of Silent Pool Distillers Hand Sanitiser

Posted by Silent Pool Distillers on 22nd Apr 2020

A Critical Care Nurse was one of the first to receive our hand sanitiser

We’re a small gin distillery based in Albury, Surrey and best known for our award-winning Silent Pool Gin. This is the story of how we’ve responded to the recent health crisis by producing our own hand sanitiser. We’re supplying it to those in need within our local community - including key workers and the NHS - as well as to our customers.

On 17th March, in response to reports of widespread scarcity of hand sanitiser, we decided to make our own. As a distillery we have a good supply of the high strength alcohol necessary to make a formula that is effective against Covid-19. We also had a quantity of 3cl bottles on site and a hand bottling machine which, up until this point, we’d been using to bottle our gin.

That day our Head of Distillery Operations Tom created an 80% alcohol hand sanitiser recipe. Our Managing Director Ian oversaw the design of the label, Sophie – Head of Finance and Commercial - printed the labels in the office, and Packaging Supervisor Chloe and Distiller Alex started filling the bottles. We took some photos and, that evening, launched our hand sanitiser on social media.

Our plan was to give our hand sanitiser away to those in need within our local community, supply it with each customer order, and give away 50 bottles a day - one per person - at the distillery shop.

We are, of course, also selling our gin - both online and at our distillery shop - at the same time. We knew we would be busy. But frankly, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for.

On day two, by 10am, all 50 hand sanitiser bottles had been claimed at the shop and we were inundated with online orders. We were contacted by local charity Guildford Action, who became the first charity that we donated to. We also donated some bottles to the local GP surgery as their existing hand sanitiser had been stolen from the waiting room.

Now the team divided their time between frantically filling hand sanitiser bottles and packing up online orders. Meanwhile and behind the scenes, we joined the lobby to persuade HMRC to remove the duty on the alcohol used in hand sanitiser. On 23rd March they did this, with immediate effect, enabling us to be able to afford to upscale production.

On the 24th, following government instructions, we had to close the shop. At this point we decided to sell the hand sanitiser on our website. By lunchtime we had to remove it in order to give ourselves a chance of keeping up with the influx of orders.

On the 25th the distillery shop was permitted to open again as an essential supplier, and the ‘free 50’ were available again.

By the 26th we’d caught up with online orders and also introduced a 20% discount for NHS and emergency services on all gin purchases, with every order including a free hand sanitiser.

We’ve been working seven days a week to keep up with demand ever since.

Sophie handles all enquiries from local organisations and charities. 

Chief Nurse Jo Mountjoy receiving a hand sanitiser donation from our Sales Director James Shelbourne at the Royal Surrey County Hospital

Our policy is to try to supply as many organisations as possible with a few bottles, rather than a few with many. So far this has included the Royal Surrey County Hospital including the Intensive Care Unit and Accident and Emergency Department, as well as individual midwives, mental health nurses, paramedics and surgeons. We’ve supplied Surrey Police, the Met Police firearms team, prison staff, care homes and individual carers. We’ve sent it to Mole Valley and Epsom & Ewell councils, funeral directors, refuge collectors and schools for children with learning difficulties. The charities list includes Centrepoint UK, Cherry Trees UK, the Phylis Tuckwell Hospice, the Dorking Foodbank and Horsham Samaritans.

We’ve donated the bottles where possible, and to date this extends to more than 5,000 units.

We’re a small and skilled team - a good thing when it comes to putting a plan into action quickly but not so good in terms of the demands placed upon our resources. Every single bottle is filled by hand and mailed out on a four-person production line. We soon ran out of bottles and the factory in Hong Kong that now supplies us is raising prices every day as demand escalates. Meanwhile, Air Freight costs have quadrupled in the last two weeks. However, for the time being, selling our hand sanitiser at £4 per bottle enables us to cover our costs and continue to donate within our local community.

We’ve had many emails, tweets, and Facebook and Instagram messages from our customers to say thank you and we’ve read them all, even if we haven’t had time to say thank you in return.

Mostly though we are truly humbled by the bravery of the key workers we have been able to supply it to.

Hand sanitiser production is a challenge, but we a proud to have risen to it and feel privileged to be in a position to help. 

Handing over a hand sanitiser donation to Cherry Trees Children's Charity.

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