By Wayne Knuckles
CLAYTON—When life gives you lemons, some people make lemonade.
But when life gave Moonrise Distillery’s Doug, Jen, and C.J. Nassaur an unprecedented national health emergency, they made … hand sanitizer.
“We half-joke around here that we sanitize people on the outside and on the inside,” said Doug Nassaur.
Fortunately, being a distillery, they already had a key ingredient on hand.
“We saw that people were having trouble,” Nassaur said last week. “People were hoarding the sanitizers as they started getting more and more concerned about the virus. We decided to switch production and leverage our botanical gin and add some natural aloe to it. We started producing hand sanitizer and handing it out to people who needed it.”
Nassaur said Moonrise doesn’t have the manpower to distribute their hand sanitizer, but they have been welcoming the community to stop by and pick up a bottle. Donations are accepted, but there is no charge for the product.
“We have bottles for them if they don’t have bottles,” he said. “We have some amazing people here in Rabun County. Instead of trying to get 20 bottles filled for themselves, some are bringing 20 (empty) bottles, but leaving 19 for somebody else.”
The ingredients are fairly straight forward. Natural aloe is blended with alcohol to produce this locally-made hand sanitizer.
“Walmart donated the aloe,” Nassaur said. “We had been up there a couple of times a day to purchase it whenever they had it available, and they said ‘hey, stop paying for it, we want to donate it.’ Also, people who are growing it in their gardens at home are bringing it up here, and we’re processing it and adding it to our botanical gin. It makes a pretty good hand sanitizer.”
Moonrise enjoys the advantage of being able to produce their own alcohol to produce the sanitizer, Nassaur said.
“Every ounce of alcohol in this plant is made in this plant,” he added. “We can vouch for what’s in it and how it’s made. Most of our raw materials come from right here in Rabun County. We’re proud of our other distillers who are trying to make their own and serve their communities, but one of the challenges they are running into is a lack of raw materials, so they’re looking for raw ingredients. Our ingredients come from right here in Rabun County.”
Moonrise has received national media attention for their efforts in the past week.
“There have been over 30 interviews now, everybody from USA Today and CNN on down,” Nassaur said.
Moonrise Distillery was one of the first craft distillers to convert to making hand sanitizer in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We’re helping other craft distilleries around the country that are also stepping up,” Nassaur said. “We get a lot of requests from folks who want us to ship product out. We can’t possibly make enough to support everybody outside this community, even working multiple shifts.”
Nassaur said his family has been overwhelmed by the support of the community.
“Folks are coming by not just to get hand sanitizer, but to make sure we’re okay,” he said. “We’re glad we moved here and we’re glad we make it home. The people here make it home. Thank you to everybody that has continued to support us, and most importantly, to support the other businesses in the community. We’re going to keep producing until we can’t.”