On the night of March 19, the Kennay family sat down and discussed how best to convey to the public that they’d made the move to make hand sanitizer instead of spirits at their Rochelle distillery.
“Our dad, Rick, decided to keep it brief and concise,” Aubrey Quinn said. “‘We’re small enough to make quick decisions and large enough to serve those in need.’ We pride ourselves on that. We produce by the thousands of gallons.”
Kennay Farms Distilling is the largest operation of its kind in the state, but it is run entirely by a farming family from Franklin Grove. The distillery opened in March 2019 at the site of the old Hub Theater in downtown Rochelle.
The business sells vodka, gin, various beers and is currently in the process of making and aging bourbon and whiskey.
Quinn, in charge of marketing and logistics at the distillery, said hospitals and first responders who are still out and working during the current COVID-19 situation were the first to receive their product.
After that, the public will be told how it will be distributed to those in need, she said.
“We have phone calls coming in of people asking for it,” Quinn said. “We’re taking down phone numbers.”
The family actually started looking into producing hand sanitizer three weeks ago, but it was illegal to do so until they received an email on March 18 allowing it from the agency that governs distillers like Kennay Farms.
Family members then got on the phone and started working to acquire ingredients for the sanitizer like glycerine and hydrogen peroxide. They also started to look at packaging options. It turns out, switching production from bourbon to hand sanitizer may be the easy part.
“Luckily, we have very talented distillers,” Quinn said. “They have made the switch easy on the production side. Our main big undertaking is ingredients and packaging.”
Until packaging can be worked out, the initial plan is to bottle the hand sanitizer in glass bottles that are used for the distillery’s spirits. Bottles will be labeled by hand and the family will be calling in everyone it can to help out with the process.
The distillery’s tasting room is currently closed until March 31 due to the shutdown of bars and restaurants by the state.
“It’s impacted us dramatically,” Quinn said. “We have virtually zero income with the closure. We have eight bartenders on staff who we’re still trying to get hours for through pick-up and carry-out hours. But that’s pennies compared to what we’re taking in when the tasting room is open.”
The distillery’s carry out hours will be changing as needed. During those times, customers can buy a bottle, growler, or gift card to use later. For more information, call 815-901-1512, visit kennayfarmsdistilling.com or visit their Facebook page.