Published: March 21, 2020 | Updated: March 21, 2020

What a tonic – and true community spirit – as gin distillery uses its heads to make sanitiser

Rupert Holloway, Head Distiller and Founder, Conker Spirit.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Dorset’s first gin distillery has shown true community spirit by using waste ‘heads’ from its production process to make much-needed hand sanitiser.

The first 70cl and 30cl bottles of the liquid, which contains 60 per cent ethanol, were distributed by Conker Spirit to its customers in wine shops, bars and restaurants yesterday.

The sanitiser was made from 100 litres of the waste product.

But from next week the distillery, founded by Rupert Holloway in 2014, is hoping to switch to making the hand sanitiser for GP surgeries, care homes and the NHS.

Talks are taking place with HM Revenue & Customs about removing the spirits duty,  currently £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol.

Conker Spirit is making no profit from the hand sanitiser.

Rupert said the idea for producing the sanitiser had taken shape during the last week and the process was relatively easy.

He added: “We do genuinely feel we have an important part to play in the community.

“Our customers in the pubs, restaurants and wine shops are really suffering in the current crisis.

“If we can do something to help, however small, then I feel we have achieved something.

“Our success is wrapped up in their success. We really are all in this together.”

Conker Spirit, which is based in Southbourne, Bournemouth, employs eight people.

Currently half are working from home because of the coronavirus crisis.

Rupert quit his job as a chartered surveyor and turned to drink – as in distilling – after finding he couldn’t buy a local gin despite craft brewers and distillers emerging all over the country.

His business now has a family of four drinks – Dorset Dry Gin, Port Barrel Gin, RNLI Navy Strength Gin and Cold Brew Coffee Liquer.

They’re sold in a range of stores including Tesco, Waitrose and Majestic Wine as well as independent wine shops and bars and restaurants.