Dr. Michael Goldney (MD) said the use of soap and water remains the most effective method of warding off transmission of the novel coronavirus and should always be an integral part of everyone’s day.
“Maybe it’s something about the medicinal smell of alcohol, that disinfectant smell, that people get comfort from,” said Goldney, who left the life of a medical doctor to get into the alcohol business about a decade ago when he started LB Distillers in Saskatoon, along with Lacey Crocker and Cary Bowman (BA’99).
With news that the coronavirus was spreading globally, the three co-owners of Lucky Bastard witnessed people panic-buying hand sanitizer from store shelves and thought they could step in and provide support to those working on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We looked at what we could do to help,” said Goldney. “I think it was Cary who found something from (the World Health Organization) that gave us a clearer direction of what we could do to help.”
In concert with Stumbletown Distilling and with support from Saskatchewan Blue Cross, the Lucky Bastard crew got to work.
“(Making hand sanitizer) was something we could do and do very quickly.”
As the pandemic reached Canada, Goldney said people were often going online and finding misleading recipes to concoct their own batch of sanitizer.
“People think, ‘Oh, this must be better, so I am going to try and make some myself,’” he said. “Those recipes could give people a false sense of security and cause more harm than good.”
Since those early days in March, Lucky Bastard has sent hand sanitizer all across the province, from Stony Rapids to Weyburn.
The business had to get regulatory approval before it could ship anything to health-care workers on the front lines, so they quickly got the sign-off from Health Canada, Excise Canada and the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, although the latter took longer than expected.
One of the issues the business faces now is getting needed supplies for production.
“Our biggest challenge right now is supply chain issues,” said Goldney. “For instance, it’s impossible to find 16-ounce bottles to put the sanitizer in.”
Through all of this, Goldney has been able to lean on his MD training and medical knowledge.
“I guess I can say I didn’t completely waste my education,” he joked.
One spin-off benefit is the business has been able to retain some employees by just repurposing workloads.
“We will continue to produce hand sanitizer as long as it’s needed,” said Goldney. “Hopefully, we can help people working on the front lines with a little less stress.”
Goldney and his co-owners never envisioned a world like this when they set up their initial distillery in a 3,000-square-foot operation in 2012. Their current location, on 47th Street East in Saskatoon’s North Industrial area, is now roughly 14,000 square feet and includes production facilities, retail space, as well as an events space which can be rented out for private events.
“I always thought this would be a fun little hobby,” said Goldney. “But it’s been very satisfying for all three of us.”
Community involvement is also at the heart of this business, as witnessed by the quick move to production of hand sanitizer, in addition to the spirits they produce.
“Honestly, it’s been overwhelming. But it does feel good to help.”
Once the pandemic is over, Goldney is looking forward to getting back to the basics and having fun.
“We’re in a very fun business,” he said. “If you’re not having fun making booze, you’re not doing it right.”