In early March, Clark County’s newest distillery was on the cusp of making its first batch of vodka, until COVID-19 halted its production.
But instead of delaying the use of its brand-new copper still, the family-owned business, called Quartz Mountain Distillery, adapted: It began making hand sanitizer from donated beer, wine and grains from local businesses.
So far, the company has given out over 900 bottles and is supplying the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, local fire departments, construction workers and in-home caretakers who need protection from the virus.
Randy and Darin Kyle, a father-son team who operate the distillery, spoke of the venture Wednesday from their warehouse at 4601 N.E. 78th St., in the Walnut Grove neighborhood.
“For over a year we’ve been trying to get this distillery running,” Randy Kyle said. “We just pushed everything to the side to the distillery and said we’re going to make sanitizer.”
Randy Kyle — who also co-owns an in-home, adult care service called ComForCare with his wife — said they saw a demand for hand sanitizer as early as January. Distributors told them that the prices had gone up.
“We saw it coming,” he said. “It was really tough to get hand sanitizer for our home-care agency. We started gathering supplies in January. The writing was on the wall.”
As soon as the Kyle family decided to make hand sanitizer, word spread by mouth and through social media. Then, local breweries, wineries and grain suppliers began to donate leftover products so the Kyles could turn them into hand sanitizer. Those companies include Brothers Cascadia, BSG Craft, Country Malt, Eppich Grain, Heisen House Vineyards and Mt. Tabor Brewing.
“Everybody’s support on this had been phenomenal,” Randy Kyle said.
The Food and Drug Administration earlier this month approved hundreds of distillers, including Quartz Mountain, to make hand sanitizer out of ethanol. That agreement is valid until the end of June. By then, the Kyles hope to be making spirits for Vancouver.
Along with donating their bottles of hand sanitizer, Quartz Mountain is also selling half of its stock to cover operating expenses, but it’s not profiting.
Its tasting room and spirit production will open as soon as the pandemic restrictions lift, Randy Kyle said.
The Kyles named their distillery after their elk-hunting grounds in Central Washington, where the family would bond.
“There are a lot of memories up in that area,” Darin Kyle said. “That’s a name that represents who we are.”