William Grant & Sons ethanol production

The most remarkable things to be born from the ravages of the global pandemic of Corona Virus are the ways in which both individuals and business not only work around the crisis, but do so in a manner which is evidently inspired by philanthropic duty and charitable spirit. Thus far we have seen restaurant chains offer free or heavily discounted food to front line NHS staff, network providers give free data, hotels donate hundreds of care packages to hospitals and individuals at home sowing home-made scrubs for their local hospitals. A question which is readily bandied around is ‘what will the world be like when this plague of biblical proportions at last abates?’ The answer, I hope, is that it will be swifter to adapt and also be a little more interested in the welfare of its citizens.

One key player within the Scotch whisky industry is certainly trooping the colours of altruism and leading by example. William Grant & Sons has been notable in its speed to act, the company recently released a statement which announced that output at three of its distilleries would be shifted to the production of an eye watering total of five million litres of ethanol to be used in hand sanitiser. Stuart Watts, Distilleries Strategic Development Director at William Grant & Sons, explained, “as the Corona Virus situation unfolded it became clear to us that we have both the ability and the capacity to make a difference.”

William Grant & Sons is roughly half way through this Herculean task as the goal is to have finished this production run by the end of May, just at the end of this month. The family owned company has instructed its huge distillery at Girvan in bonnie Scotland and its distillery at Tullamore in Ireland to immediately commence production of this ethanol. This will then be directly supplied to local hand sanitiser manufactures in an entirely not for profit effort to combat the devastating spread of Covid-19. Meanwhile, the Tuthilltown distillery in Hudson Valley, New York, will produce, package and distribute hand sanitiser to nearby health care providers in the US.

“We won’t make any profit out of this”, Stuart Watts noted, “We are selling the ethanol at the standard commercial rate to just cover our costs and then we’re ring-fencing any margin to be invested into charities which support those who are most affected by the outbreak”.

This undertaking sets an extraordinary precedent in the spirits industry, it is unquestionably a huge task and the knock-on effect across William Grant & Sons has been considerable in terms of the challenges that such an onerous task represents. Speed of response has clearly been utterly crucial in this endeavor. Stuart Watts commented “it’s been a significant change for our teams operating globally. They have had to adapt quickly to ensure we can respond rapidly. It’s not only been our production teams but also the financials, supply chain coordination, logistics and so on.”