By Dana MacDonald 

Resilience isn’t about getting to the end of the struggle as quickly as possible, because sometimes this simply can’t be done. Rather, resilience is dependent on an individual or group’s ability to take the difficult situation at hand and work within it to find solutions. There is light at the end of the tunnel, absolutely, but it’s what we do with our time in the tunnel, so to speak, that truly matters. A common theme to this season’s Insight issue has been local businesses adapting to a world that seems to be changing faster than ever. Resiliency, it would seem, is about playing the long game to ensure that your business isn’t just surviving, but thriving, regardless of how unconventional that process may be.  

In 2018 Devil’s Keep Distillery became Fredericton’s first distillery, thoughtfully built on a background of market research, chemistry, and a dash of East Coast tongue-in-cheek humor. Not long after their product hit the market, Devil’s Keep took home Platinum at the 2019 SIP Awards and Gold a year later at the World Vodka Awards. Two years after opening, it’s safe to say that things haven’t gone to plan, but by working with their unique skillset Devil’s Keep has found a role in a mid-pandemic world. 

I spoke with co-founder and CEO, Joe Allen about changing gears. “Did COVID have a negative impact? Absolutely” he says. Allen elaborates that they were originally planning to drop their new ready-to-drink product line this spring when the pandemic came to town, leading to revenue losses. Allen and his staff were in the proverbial tunnel, but what was the solution? It would turn out that the brand’s fanbase had an unexpected request: hand sanitizer.  

Allen describes the perseverance of his customers: “The first fifty people who called about it I told no, because I didn’t want to be a hand sanitizer company”, however the demand became too great to ignore and Devil’s Keep made the temporary switch. The distilling process has proven to be ideal for sanitizer production due to its use of ethanol to create higher proofs. To compare, your average beer typically sits at 5%, whereas vodka can be produced at as high a proof as 96%. Under CDC recommendations, hand sanitizers should sit in the 60-95% range, making distilleries a perfect—though unexpected—producer of this essential item.  

Available as singles or cases of twelve, local vodka fans can now continue to support local commerce while flattening the curve. Each unit is packaged in the distillery’s usual 750ml bottles that add a wink and a nudge to the new normal of constantly clean hands.  

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