Cutler’s Artisan Spirits Producing Sanitizer

Ian Cutler Switches Stills from Booze to Antibacterials to Help COVID-19 Response

Ian Cutler, owner of Cutlers Distillery, fills up a bottle of hand sanitizer at his distillery | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Like many distilleries around the country, Cutler’s Artisan Spirits is now using its stills in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zones to produce sanitizer in order to help with the COVID-19 outbreak response. 

“Initial production will be dedicated to our first responder’s needs,” said Ian Cutler, who then hopes to sell it through businesses that are still open, as his tasting room is closed. Cutler hopes to have his first batch done soon, but said progress is slower than expected, because the bottles most appropriate for packaging the sanitizer are sold out. The same is true, he said, for ingredients like aloe vera that helps with the dry skin that comes after using the sanitizer. 

“These are insane times right now,” said Cutler. “However, I am determined to get some produced by the week’s end and more in early April when I can hopefully get additional materials.”

The process of making sanitizer is just like making booze, as the alcohol is the active ingredient. “You need alcohol in the 60 to 80 percent alcohol-by-volume range to be effective in killing bacteria and viruses in a timely manner,” said Cutler. He advises against making it at home with basic vodka, as many have been doing; that’s only 40 percent ABV and drops even lower when adding other ingredients, so it won’t work. 

Bottles of hand sanitizer made at Cutler’s distillery

“I am formulating a sanitizer that is not only effective, but also maintains the health of the skin,” said Cutler. “There are a lot of people making very basic sanitizers without additions like aloe vera, which can lead to dry cracked hands after use. These cracks can lead to infection.”

He plans to add a light scent as well. “Not everyone wants their hands to smell like vodka all day,” said Cutler.  

And so, if things go really downhill, can we drink the sanitizer? 

“Absolutely not,” confirmed Cutler. “Sanitizers are formulated with additional ingredients, which are not suitable for consumption, but are perfectly suited for topical applications.”


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