Pretty Parrot doing a roaring trade on hand sanitiser

The Pretty Parrot gin distillery has been retooled for the war against Covid-19 and is doing a roaring trade in hand sanitiser, selling nearly half of its first 1200L batch in just two days.

“We had our first batch ready to sell Saturday,” said gin-maker David McDougall.

“With the pub shutting, it definitely gave us something to do and keep us busy in this time, for sure.”

Mr McDougall said he and his family are relieved to have a way to stay in work through the pandemic. The community has also expressed its relief in having locally-made (and readily available) hand sanitiser. 

The distillery has so far sold close to 600L of sanitiser, charging $20/L plus GST, with sanitiser for sale at the back of the Oriental Hotel from 10am-2pm Monday through Thursday this week, and from 5-6pm those same days. 

“That’s for the people that have to work or can’t get here at that 10-2 time,” said David.

The shop is closing Friday for the Easter weekend.

In each step of the operation, the distillery has been careful to consider the Snowy Valleys community, pledging to meet local needs first.

“There’s people ringing up from other areas, and it’s something you can’t post, because of the flammable liquids. It can be delivered by courier,” said David, “but we’re just worrying about people here in our local area.”

That local area covers Tumbarumba (David’s brother-in-law Andrew Webb is selling the sanitiser from his butcher’s shop there) to Gundagai (where an aged care facility placed a bulk order for sanitiser).

Once local demand has been satisfied, David said they’ll look at travelling to other communities, like Cootamundra and Wagga, but they’ll have to ensure they can get the right permits to set up stalls in other places. 

Among Mr McDougall’s biggest volume of customers so far are: Valmar, Snowy Valleys Council, National Parks, Batlow orchardists and local chiropractors and clinics. A steady supply of sanitiser means local services can continue to operate while protecting their health of their workers. 

With continued demand for disability support services, Valmar has “hardly scaled back operations at all,” and CEO Hugh Packard said it was encouraging to know that hand sanitiser would be available.

“Having a certainty of supply is very valuable,” he said, “We’ve bought vats of it.”

Valmar has started using an internal app to track supplies of Personal Protective Equipment and hand sanitiser and similar items across its network of staff, but is still struggling to find some items, like PPE and masks. Mr Packard said it’s been difficult to supply services and keep staff safe, and it’s still not clear how the company will have to respond if a client contracts Covid-19, and still requires a high level of care.

At least for now, sanitiser is one less thing Hugh has to worry about.

David said most people buying sanitiser are relieved to find it, and the first questions he usually hears from customers are: “how much have you got?” and “will we be able get some more?” His intention is to keep the sanitiser flowing, expanding the operation and bringing in some of the pub’s staff to help if demand and supplies are able to keep up. He’s hoping to get to Melbourne before the Easter weekend to pick up more ingredients and produce another batch before next week.

“We’ve been using our containers, but we’ve asked people to hold onto them and not throw them out,” said David. “Containers are going to be the next tricky thing to source.”

The gin-maker’s story is a testament to how quickly local people have been able to adapt to the evolving pandemic. Just a few weeks ago, the McDougall family wasn’t sure how they’d continue to make a living with the pub and Pretty Parrot tasting room closed. Now, they have an entirely new business with insatiable demand. As long as the pandemic continues and they can keep sourcing ingredients, they’ll stay busy. Mr McDougall said the family didn’t have any real plans for the holiday weekend, except to “sit back at home and maybe be making hand sanitiser” and continue to watch the Covid-19 crisis unfold.

“It’s a bit like, ‘what’s going to happen next month?’” he said.