Yes, It’s Possible to Use Whiskey to Create Hand Sanitizer

In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is vital that we all keep our hands clean, refrain from touching our faces, and practice social distancing wherever and whenever possible.

Let’s be clear: There is no substitution for washing your hands thoroughly and often using soap and water. However, if you don’t have access to soap and water or are looking for an at-home project with real-world value, you can convert high-proof whiskey into hand sanitizer. Distilleries around the country have already begun producing hand sanitizer for hospitals and the general public, and if you have a bourbon, rye, or other whiskey that is high enough in proof, you can do the same.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends hand sanitizers with a minimum of 80% ethanol, which eliminates almost every whiskey on the shelf. While higher is better, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% ethanol—a characteristic that is met by whiskeys of 120 proof or above—can be effective.

Does this mean you can just rub the whiskey straight onto your hands? Theoretically. But most hand sanitizers mix gel with alcohol in part because the mixture will evaporate more slowly, which gives it more time to do its job as you rub your hands.

Chances are, if you have one of the whiskeys on this list, you spent a significant amount of time, energy, and money to secure it, and even with the recent spike in hand sanitizer prices, many of these bottles remain a good deal more expensive. So you probably shouldn’t use up your precious whiskey unless absolutely desperate.

How to Make Your Own Whiskey-Based Hand Sanitizer

  • Mix the alcohol and aloe vera gel. The proportion depends on the strength of the alcohol; if 80% or above, a 3 to 1 ratio works best. Even the strongest whiskeys rarely top the low 70s, however, so you’ll want to use less gel.
  • Allow your sanitizer to sit for at least 72 hours, per the WHO, to properly kill off any bacteria introduced during creation.
  • The WHO has more detailed instructions for creating your own hand sanitizer on a larger scale using ethanol or isopropyl alcohol.

60% ABV and Up: These Whiskeys Meet the Threshold to Sanitize Hands

William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, and Thomas H. Handy

These Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys all qualify, but are typically in such high demand that it may feel sacreligious to do anything but sip them slowly.

Booker’s

Any batch will do as this bourbon is consistently above the required 60% ABV. Bonus points if you can turn the box into a dispenser.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Our 2017 Whisky of the Year has always cleared that 60% ABV bar, though Batch A119, at 67.6% ABV, is the strongest yet.

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof

The 2019 release (61.6% ABV) earned 94 points and the No.-6 spot on our 2019 Top 20 list, with this year’s release clocking in slightly higher (61.8%).

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength

You’ll have to make sure you have the right batch for this one. Those from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 all qualify.

Balcones Texas Cask Strength Rye

The Waco, Texas-based distillery usually bottles its whiskey at a high proof, with single-barrel releases, Peated Single Malt, and cask-strength expressions all meeting the minimum 60% ABV standard in addition to this rye.

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