Boxes of hand sanitizer waiting to leave Boston Brands of Maine’s Saratoga Street bottling facility in Lewiston. Submitted photo

LEWISTON — The hand sanitizer has started flowing alongside the Fireball.

Boston Brands of Maine’s Saratoga Street bottling plant has converted production lines to produce hand sanitizer and hired displaced restaurant and bar workers to staff it.

Bottles of hand sanitizer coming off the line at Boston Brands of Maine in Lewiston. Submitted photo

In addition to making hand sanitizer company-wide for health care, government, airlines, pharmacies and other large industries, it’s also donating cases of high proof alcohol that the University of Maine is turning into hand sanitizer for local hospitals, according to a press release.

“In the state of Maine, its hospitals are going through about 400 gallons of hand sanitizer a day, so the donations of high proof grain alcohol that can be compounded into hand sanitizer are much needed,” spokeswoman Amy Preske said in the release.

The Sazerac Company, which owns Boston Brands of Maine, started hand sanitizer production in its Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky last month.

The Lewiston plant, which has nearly 300 employees, bottles Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, the most popular spirit in Maine last year by sales, and recently moved to 24/7 production.

The company is working with a local temporary employment agency to find the displaced workers for the new hand sanitizer lines.

Preske said Tuesday afternoon that she didn’t know the number of temporary hires, “but I do know the hope is that they are able to help us not only to support the hand sanitizer production but our overall production.”

The company sent Diesel high proof alcohol to the University of Maine’s Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering for its new effort making hospital-grade hand sanitizer for hospitals and other high-need facilities.

Jake Ward, UMaine vice president for innovation and economic development, said Boston Brands of Maine donated enough to make more than 175 gallons.

“We can do as much as 800 gallons a day, which we think is what the demand is going to be,” said Ward. “It all depends on the alcohol, as long as we can get that. The donation that Boston Brands made is huge.”

Matt Maimone, Sazerac’s chief operating officer, said the company has received requests for over 5 million bottles of sanitizer and it intends to fulfill all of those.

“We’ve just made our initial run in Maine so far, but production is on-going at our other plants across the nation to meet demand,” Preske added. “As of now, our focus is on large industries. But we are investigating ways to offer smaller quantities for sale to the general public.”

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