When news of the coronavirus in China started spreading earlier this winter, Desert Door Texas Sotol owner Ryan Campbell said he and his staff began talking about how the virus could potentially affect his business in Driftwood if it came to the United States.

After the cancellation of South by Southwest Conference & Festivals in Austin, he said he felt it was inevitable that the tasting room at the distillery would have to close to guests. However, he still wanted to find a way for his business help the community even if the tasting room was not open.

"We started thinking, 'What if we were to make hand sanitizer?'” Campbell said. “You started seeing a mad rush on hand sanitizer. You couldn't find it anywhere,"

He said his staff found a recipe approved by the World Health Organization that was made of ethanol at 80% alcohol content, hydrogen peroxide, glycerin and distilled water. Since beginning production, the team has been able to make over 1,200 gallons of hand sanitizer.

Originally, the sanitizer was being produced to give to local businesses that had been affected by the cancellation of SXSW but were staying open and local residents who could not find a personal supply. However, Campbell said they quickly realized the huge need within the first responder’s community.

“We read stories about it being hard to find hand sanitizer, but we didn't think the government groups wouldn't have any,” he said. “We thought they would have stockpiles or other sources, but when we announced our plan the reaction was just overwhelming."

Campbell said the majority of sanitizer has since been donated to over 30 different first responders departments across Central Texas. Departments include the Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston police departments; the Hays County sheriff’s and constable's offices; Lockhart Fire and Rescue; and departments in Bastrop, Burnet and Milam counties. Campbell said they donated an additional 270 gallons to the city of Austin and a 55-gallon barrel to the city of Kyle.

Desert Door also hosted a neighborhood pickup event March 21. Campbell said there was a consistent line of cars at the facility, located at 211 Darden Hill Road, Driftwood, for about six hours to pick up bottles of hand sanitizer.

While the distillery began taking donations to help with the cost of production, Campbell said the business did use a lot of resources to covert production and maintain its staff. However, he said being able to supply sanitizer to the first responders, who continue to be out in public and are facing the coronavirus each day, makes it worth the investment.

“All in all it's been quite the costly endeavor,” he said. “We closed our tasting room which is a considerable source of revenue for us, but more importantly—while most people are locked in their house with not much to do—we're just really happy to be a part of something helpful during this time.”

Campbell said up until March 25, when Hays County issued its stay-at-home order, Desert Door was still producing its liquor for distribution to local liquor stores, which have remained open as essential businesses. He said he and his staff are still trying to figure out if they can continue production under the new order, but he will not endanger his employees if it is determined continuing production is not safe.

For those hoping to support Desert Door, the company’s GoFundMe page for sanitizer production is still active. Campbell also said Desert Door products are available at local liquor stores for individuals interested in supporting the business.

"We're a young company, and we're going to be OK through this, but at the same time we appreciate everybody's help by supporting us and telling the story of Desert Door," Campbell said. "In a few weeks hopefully hand sanitizer is in the rearview mirror, and we're just out there again talking about stool [distilling] again and our story because that's what we're passionate about and what we love."

Desert Door Texas Sotol

211 Darden Hill Road, Driftwood