Heriot-Watt alumni continue to play their part in the fight against the coronavirus.
Award-winning gin maker, the Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery based near Lunan Bay on the Angus coast, is the latest company to supply hand sanitiser to frontline NHS staff.
Iain Stirling, who co-owns the business alongside his brothers John and David, earned an MBA from the Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh Business School in the late 1990’s and opened the distillery in 2015. But in the wake of the recent coronavirus outbreak, also known as COVID-19, the brothers decided they would produce hand sanitiser to help protect the lives of local medical staff.
Iain explains: “Our local NHS and District Nurses got in touch as they were struggling to source hand sanitiser. We were delighted to be in a position where we could help particularly as our Dad recently passed away from Motor Neurone Disease. We were already well aware of the tremendous work carried out by the NHS but really built up our contacts with these amazing people over the last few years.”
The family-run business distributed its first batch of their product free of charge to the NHS in mid-March.
Creating an alcoholic rich sanitiser is not without its complications but Iain was quick to credit the skills of his workforce in overcoming the challenge.
He said: “We have a very talented distilling team who are making the hand sanitiser out of our waste alcohol from when they distilled our potato vodka, Tattie Bogle in February.
“The quick turnaround of this product really is testament to their abilities and it has been very much a team effort.”
Arbikie is the latest distillery to start producing hand sanitiser in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
BrewDog, co-founded by Heriot-Watt University brewing graduate, Martin Dickie, recently announced it would be making its new ‘Punk Sanitiser’ at its Scottish distillery.
The rise in the number of distilleries now producing similar products across the country has come about after alcohol was found to be the Achilles heel of COVID-19.
That is according to Matthew Pauley, Assistant Professor at Heriot-Watt’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD), who said: “Distilleries are a logical choice for producing hand sanitiser. They have access to what is known as denatured alcohol – which can’t be consumed but is harmful to COVID-19 - and are well equipped to bottle liquid.
“It was when HMRC approved the world health organisation method as acceptable that things really took off.
“I have heard of distilleries around the world who are turning to this to help communities and health workers during these tough times.
“Among them are some of our very own alumni who are making a tremendous contribution.”