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disaster breeds diversity Bern distillers use their alcohol to help fight viruses

Innovative distillers in Bern have stopped producing gin in favour of hand sanitiser. 

The Matte Brennerei distilleryexternal link says it’s improvising in order to save its business and help people fend off coronavirus contamination. Washing your hands with alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses.external link

From Monday, the distillery started using the strong alcohol intended for making gin, absinthe and vodka to produce its 'Desilat' disinfectant hand rub instead. Extra amounts of ethanol and packing materials have been ordered and they just have to top up the alcohol with a few additives to make it skin friendly. They have rented a former boxing club venue to store the bottles with their unassuming labels. The client is the Coop, one of Switzerland’s largest supermarket chains.

hand holding the new hand cleaner
(swissinfo.ch)

When gin becomes more of a tonic

The Matte Brennerei, set up in 2016 with the help of crowd funding, runs a bar offering regular tasting sessions and gin-making workshops, which normally supplement the company’s income. But things went quiet when the virus began to spread and Switzerland went into lockdown, so they had to find new ways of keeping their five employees in a job.

In the meantime, demand for disinfectant increased with pharmacies and supermarkets unable to keep up with demand. The Federal Office of Public Healthexternal link gave distilleries a special dispensation so they could top up supplies. Now the Matte Brennerei staff are working flat out to get the orders ready.

Deputy director Adrian Gass told swissinfo.ch, “Two weeks ago everybody thought we were crazy. Then one week ago everybody thought, “maybe it’s a good idea”. And now everybody thinks, “where are you with your stuff?”

"Gin is still our thing"

Demand for disinfectant is so strong that the Bern distillery is planning to team up with other partners if they can’t cope. However, Adrian Gass does not expect to continue with hand sanitiser production indefinitely. “I don’t think we can compete once all the bigger companies start mass producing again. It’s a good thing that we could jump in this gap and help out, and also keep our revenues going.”

The Matte Brennerei is not the only drinks producer helping out in a crisis. On the website of the Schwab distilleryexternal link in Oberwil near Büren, also in canton Bern, they write: “We can supply you with either high-proof alcohol or disinfectant we produce ourselves”.

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