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Raff Distillerie creates hand sanitizer to donate and sell in Napa County

Raff Distillerie creates hand sanitizer to donate and sell in Napa County

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Napa resident Jason Hooten, a partner in San Francisco-based Raff Distillerie, is working with partners Dave Stoop and Carter Raff to make hand sanitizer for donations and sale in Napa County.

So far, Hooten has donated Raff Distillerie’s hand sanitizer to healthcare workers and first responders at the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, American Medical Response Napa County, an ambulance service, and a number of local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The list includes Napa Valley Care Center, Napa Post Acute, and The Meadows. Locally, Hooten is receiving the help of Silverados Baseball staff to reach out to potential recipients and deliver donations. The company was a team sponsor in 2019.

Raff Distillerie has also donated hand sanitizer to several San Francisco nonprofits, including the Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals, which provides legal assistance to those who cannot afford it, Mother Brown’s Dining Room, which assists people experiencing homelessness, and 3rd Street Youth Center & Clinic.

Raff Distillerie is selling 8 oz. and 16 oz. bottles of hand sanitizer through the Napa Safeway. The hand sanitizer is also for sale at Safeway stores throughout the Bay Area and on weekends at Raff Distillerie’s tasting room in San Francisco. At the distillery, the hand sanitizer is also available in 1 gallon bottles.

Hooten said the distillery is making the hand sanitizer with 80 percent ethanol in accordance with World Health Organization standards.

“We shifted to producing only hand sanitizer in late March after the Federal Drug Administration and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a short-term safe harbor for distillers. It’s a way for us to help fight the pandemic. So far we’re doing this on our own, without any grants or loans,” said Hooten.

Hooten said in the beginning, the biggest obstacle was finding eco-friendly plastic bottles.

“Manufacturers were sold out. We wanted to offer a container that was 100 percent recyclable,” said Hooten.

Hooten said the bottles are meant to be a refill package to be combined with spray pumps.

Working together is keyHooten said Raff Distillerie was able to make the pivot because the three partners pitch in equally.

“We are working late hours, sometimes until 2 a.m. to get (orders) filled for our customers. We are a small company. (Each of us) wears many hats to help support each other. This has also allowed us to hire some additional help with bottling for those in need of work,” said Hooten.

Hooten said Raff Distillerie has gained a following in the Bay Area north to Napa for Bummer & Lazarus, its grape-based gin.

“Our Bummer & Lazarus Gin is made (entirely) from California grapes. (It’s) a floral and citrusy style gin with some spicy notes on the end. We push more of the other botanicals to help balance the juniper,” said Hooten.

Hooten said its gin and Emperor Norton’s Absinthe are currently available at Sunshine Market, Lawler’s Liquors, Archer Hotel Jax White Mule Diner, Ca’ Momi, and the Marriott Hotel in Napa.

Hooten said like many small businesses, Raff Distillerie has lost quite a bit of sales since the pandemic began.

“COVID-19 forced us to shut down our tasting room and (we lost) much of the restaurant business (that) supports our brands. Hand sanitizer has been a great opportunity to keep ourselves busy and give back to the public,” said Hooten.

Hooten said now Raff Distillerie is now running lower on stock than before. The partners will be firing up the stills soon.

Although the change has required a great deal of quick adaptations, Hooten said quick about-faces aren’t new to him.

“In 2008, I lost my job as an account executive with a major beer importer and my wife was pregnant. With no similar jobs in the marketplace, I changed my strategy to find work. I did everything from mowing lawns to painting houses to ride the storm,” said Hooten.

Hooten said the pandemic has posed challenges. This spring gave Raff Distillerie a chance to temporarily change the company’s strategy.

“(Producing) hand sanitizer at our distillery has given us the opportunity to step up to the plate and help our local community. (We can also) save our business during these tough financial times,” said Hooten.

Info: Jason Hooten, 707-501-7885, jason@raffdistillerie.com

Napa Strong: Napa County comes together during COVID-19 pandemic

Napa County residents are resilient. From earthquakes to floods to wildfires, the people of Napa County know how to come together and support each other through tough times. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different.

While there has been a lot of bad news left in the wake of the coronavirus, there have also been bright moments in our community. This series is meant to serve as a reminder of our community's strength. These are some of the positive stories that we've run in the past few weeks -- a celebration of our kindhearted neighbors and a note of gratitude for their continued benevolence.

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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