Yahara Bay Distillers offers high-proof vodka amid sanitizer shortage

"Just Vodka" bottled by Yahara Bay Distillers can be used to disinfect areas. (Jason Rice/WMTV)
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- It’s just vodka for now, but a micro-distiller in the Madison-area is hoping to sell hand sanitizer soon.

Yahara Bay Distillers began selling a 140 proof vodka on Thursday after noticing the shortage of sanitizers and alcohol-based cleaners in the market as the coronavirus outbreak hit the area.

“Over the weekend, I thought about it, let’s get it done and let’s do it quickly so we can make it available to people who can’t find sanitizer elsewhere,” said Nels Forde, the general manager.

Forde says “Just Vodka” is at 70-percent per volume, which health officials say is a range that could kill viruses.

He ordered more grain and glass on Monday to address the demand, but he also placed an order for supplies to make hand sanitizer.

On Wednesday, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) said it would waive provisions and requirements to allow distilleries to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizers.

The waiver goes through June 30.

Distillers will be required to follow the World Health Organization’s formula for making hand sanitizer.


Forde adds it is best used as a disinfectant for surfaces.

“Just Vodka” is available at the distillery at 6250 Nesbitt Road in Fitchburg. They ask people to call ahead prior to pickup. Their phone number is 608-275-1050 and they are open on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

NBC15 checked with Wollersheim Winery and Distillery to see if they had plans to also create hand sanitizer.

They released the following statement:

“We have received questions from the public as to our plans on supplying alcohol for hand sanitizer.

It warms our hearts to see our industry doing whatever possible to help during this time of need.

While we are unable to supply consumers or the public with actual hand sanitizer, we are working directly with professionals on the front lines to donate supplies of whatever we have on hand that could be of use for as long as we can.”