KILAUEA — Hanalei Spirits, a private distiller known for its local-inspired rum, ‘okolehao, dark rum and vodka, is now producing hand sanitizers for the community to purchase online and in selected stores around the island.
Co-owner Vindi Wells said Kaua‘i takes care of their own and, starting with sugar, Wells and husband Grant Wells are doing just that.
“We start with 300 gallons of sugar wash, then it goes into the fermenter. It ferments for about a week. And then we take it from the fermenter, put it in the still, and we will run it through the still three times, to get it to the 190 proof required,” said Grant Wells. “Each one takes 12 hours to make, and at the end we end up with 36 gallons of 190 proof.”
The Wells have bottles of hand sanitizers that range from two to 25 fluid ounces. They retail online.
Hanalei Spirits was one of the first few companies in the United States to make the U.S. Food and Drug Administration list of approved hand sanitizers, but at first the ingredients and bottles were scarce. They made it work anyway.
“In the beginning, in March, we tried to order bottles from a big national company, but we could only get 75 bottles, and spray tops were limited,” said Vindi Wells. “When that’s all you have and you want to help the community you do your best to get it out there.”
Following strict government guidelines and conditions, the Wells found a recipe that makes potent, disinfecting sanitizer, registered it with the FDA and started making their newest product.
On March 20, the FDA released a statement relating to distilleries making alcohol-based hand sanitizers, providing strict guidelines, and saying “many manufacturers make hand sanitizers, and several have indicated that they are working to increase supply.”
“This guidance provides flexibility to help meet demand during this outbreak. We will continue to work with manufacturers, compounders, state boards of pharmacy and the public to increase the supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer available to Americans,” the FDA statement continued.
Vindi Wells said they wanted to give Kaua‘i ‘ohana options for places to find sanitizers.
“We are not as big as other distillers, but I think, growing up here, all of us have been through all the hurricanes and we see how the community pulls together,” said Vindi Wells. “And as hard as this (is) with no income coming in, and people are struggling, it brings out the best in our community.”
She continues: “We can’t donate as much as other people that have a lot of big investors, but we haven‘t had to turn anyone away, either. We have been able to make donations, hopefully where they can make the biggest impact.”
Vindi Wells says she feels proud being able to give back while taking care of Kaua‘i. She believes Kaua‘i is a role model for the nation, and that Kaua‘i people are pretty strong and always learning.
Hanalei Spirits got incorporated in 2017, and sold their first bottle of liquor a year and a half ago.
Grant Wells’ passion for brewing and distilling grew, and with his ‘ohana’s support he took the necessary measures to meet his new vision.
Back when Hanalei Spirits was first starting out, Grant Wells sold his boat, and told his wife he was going to get a bigger still to take his love of brewing a step up and experiment with creating different flavors of hard liquors.
Vindi Wells said she saw the picture of the bigger still and thought to her self: “Is it a mid-life crisis?”
But soon after getting the still from Idaho and different parts around the island, Vindi Wells was on board.
Right now, the Wells family are working on their next flavor, and labels for “Lilikoi-cello” will be printed soon.
Carole Wells, Grant’s mom, said with excitement that they would soon be making gin, too.
The Wells ‘ohana loves experimenting and getting ingredients from around the island while sharing the new creations with their friends at the Hanalei Liquor Store.
Vindi Wells said her ‘ohana loves and cherish their Kaua‘i roots, the culture and the people.
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Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.