End of Days Distillery (EOD) was less than two months removed from their grand opening on February 1 when they found out they’d have to close their doors due to COVID-19. While small businesses across the country wondered if they would ever recover from this sudden shutdown, citizens reacted by hoarding. Toilet paper, Clorox wipes, Lysol and hand sanitizer became in-demand commodities. Today, these items are still largely out of stock. EOD honed on their entrepreneurial spirit, finding a new way to lend a helping (sanitized) hand to their community: They started making hand sanitizer.
“We found a company to buy 1- and 2-ounce bottles with spritzers [from], put a label on it, and opened it up to the public: first come, first serve, free hand sanitizer,” explains Shane Faulkner, who co-owns End of Days with his wife, Beth.
As longtime Wilmingtonians, Shane and Beth continue to offer their premium craft spirits to the public to-go; they’ve perfected ancient recipes for rum, gin and vodka. However, the high-octane alcohol they proof for sanitizer has become the real gold during the days of a pandemic.
End of Days’ process for making sanitizer isn’t too dissimilar to that of their vodka—at least not at first. They proof the alcohol—essentially ethanol—to 70% alcohol by volume rather than 40%. Their recipe also uses reverse osmosis-filtered water and tea tree oils (in lieu of the now hard-to-find aloe vera gel that most DIY recipes use), which both aid skin ailments and also deter buyers from drinking the sanitizer.
1-ounce bottles of sanitizer are free for everyone, though the distillery recommends a $2 donation to offset supply costs, and no other purchase of their spirits is required. End of Days also sells 2- and 4-ounce pumps, and 1-ounce bottles in bulk to large corporations and at a discount to healthcare providers. The distillery is fully stocked because they are in full production, but just to keep supplies in check, Faulkner requests those who already have bottles of sanitizer bring theirs in for refills as needed.
“We started to provide 1-gallon jugs of hand sanitizer to the healthcare industry, to first responders,” Faulkner says. “To the police department, for instance, we gave 30 bottles just for their personal use.” They did the same for firefighters, and have started showing love to local nonprofits in need as well.
Some organizations have asked the distillery to provide 55-gallon drums or 5-gallon buckets worth of santizer. It’s not something EOD can provide without closing themselves off to other groups in need. “We’re not allowing anyone to take massive amounts or quantities,” Faulkner clarifies.
Though EOD is working hard to support Wilmingtonians, they are only able to aid the community at large with help from others.
“We contacted many of the [local] brewers . . . to provide a very high-alcohol content beer we can take into our facility and start to distill the alcohol off of,” Faulkner describes. “So, if they can get me the beer, then we can have a massive supply coming in to give out to the public, to nonprofits, to first responders, healthcare facilities.”
Front Street Brewery, Wrightsville Beach Brewery and Wilmington Brewing Company have all pitched in to help, fermenting the grains and malt, then bringing it to the distillery for EOD to extract the alcohol by distillation.
It’s not just Wilmington’s brewing scene coming together to help, either. Tama Tea donated 500 bottles with lids, while Todd Platzer and Reid McEwan from ZeroCares.com offered the distillery 15,000 1-ounce containers with spritzers at a discount.
Though End of Days is the face of this project in the Cape Fear—distilling the alcohol, combining the ingredients, bottling it, and providing it at their storefront—the people of Wilmington have all banded together to ensure those who need support can get it.
“If we provide sanitizers, Wilmington will continue to respond to and support the distillery in the days to come,” Faulkner tells. “That’s just what Wilmington does. We’ve made friends with brewers and throughout the community, and the response has been overwhelming. Just knowing you can do a little bit for the community is awesome. It’s a good feeling, and that’s what we should be doing as humans, anyway.”