Episode 58: S6E3 – Distilleries and Disinfectants

by Jul 2, 2021Season 60 comments

On this Episode of Blackletter, Tom Dunlap is joined by special guest Scott Harris, owner of the Catoctin Creek Distillery. This episode covers the history of the distillery as well as Harris’s work pioneering hand sanitizer production out of distilleries. 


About the Company 


Catoctin Creek Distilling Company is a 12 year old rye whisky distillery located in Northern Virginia. They distribute across 27 states and in the UK and EU. They sell the traditional  Roundstone rye, a type of rye that would have been common in the 1700s and 1800s. 


Path to Success


Harris shares that having an impeccable product is important, and goes together with good packaging and branding. He notes that learning from mistakes is important. Realizing that marketing the rye whisky as historically Virginian has helped to sell the product, has been important in selling the product, as well. There are connotations and associations that help people feel connected to and place the product. What inspired this? Harris shares about his trip to Bordeaux. 


Distribution Contracts


How does one get a distribution contract? Dunlap proposes this question and Harris answers honestly saying that it is difficult. They started in the early days, so they worked against less competition. 


So is a distribution contract possible today with all the saturation of the market? Harris recommends using a regional model and building buzz more locally. Expansion can grow slowly from there. 


Advice Summary


Thinking about saturation of the market and building your brand up regionally is the “distillery advice of the day.”


Hand Sanitizer


With the pandemic came some changes for the distillery. They began making hand sanitizer at the start of COVID but faced problems in the FDA. They had waste alcohol that was sterile for cleaning and disinfecting, so they began giving that product away for free. They labeled it as non-drinkable and distributed it to the community. 


Early on, alcohol revenue had plummeted so the hand sanitizer sales filled that gap. His wife and president of the company, Becky, ordered bulk ethanol and following the WHO recipe, began making FDA approved sanitizer. This product was sold to big companies in Virginia. Due to this they were able to retain all employees. 




This process was done by hand, since it wasn’t safe with their existing equipment. Getting bottles to contain it was difficult too. They resorted to milk jugs to hold the sanitizer. 


President Becky


Becky, Harris’s wife and president of the company, worked with the FDA to gain approval for distilleries across the nation. Following the WHO recipe allowed them to skip the trials process. They published their process, allowing 300 other distillerys to get registered. 




Faced with thousands of dollars in fees, Becky talked with the deputy and got them to drop the fee. Since their work was for the common good, she was able to waive the fees.


TomDunlap – LinkedIn 

Blackletter – Website 

Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig – Website 

Catoctin Creek Distillery – Website


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