WINDSOR, ONT. -- In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the shipments of much-needed hand sanitizer have begun from Windsor’s Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery.

The first load from the Walkerville whisky-maker was sent out to the Village of Aspen Lake nursing home on Saturday morning, with the help of local union members.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said Han Ha, the director of manufacturing at the distillery. “When we started this, a lot of other businesses have come up and said, ‘Hey, yeah, you know what, we want to give you guys as much support as we possibly can,’ and the outreach from the actual community has been fantastic.”

According to Ha, production of the first batch of hand sanitizer began on Tuesday which saw 5,000 litres produced.

The 160-year distillery isn’t done there.

In an interview with CTV News, Ha said there are plans to scale-up production of the hand sanitizer to 20,000 litres a week.

“We are committed to fighting this COVID-19 as much as we can, so as long as we have the necessary ingredients coming in, we will continue with that,” said Ha.

A news release issued on March 19 by the distillery’s parent company, Corby Spirit and Wine, noted the hand sanitizer will be donated “where needed” in Windsor, as well as the TTC in Toronto.

"Corby is proud to support the efforts of the Canadian and Ontario governments and communities across the country in fighting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic," says Patrick O'Driscoll, chief executive officer of Corby, in a statement. "In coordination with local and senior levels of government, we are utilizing our production capacity and Windsor distillery to help provide hand sanitizer to areas where it is in need."


Unifor Locals across the city, including Unifor Local 444, 200 and 2458, loaded the hand sanitizer and brought it where necessary — including to frontline staff like Personal Support Workers.

The Windsor distillery typically produces 180,000 litres of alcohol a day, including the J.P. Wiser’s Canadian Whisky brand.

Ha says it was no easy task to quickly add production at the distillery and to find the necessary supplies, but is pleased with the results.

As for taking the product for a test run, Ha is leaving the inventory for those who are in need.

“No, I haven’t used any myself,” says Ha. “There’s a great need for it, so we’ll supply.”