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Muddy meets Exeter Gin’s Karen Skerratt

From gin to hand sanitiser! Karen Skerratt of Exeter Gin tells Muddy what it's like to swap making our favourite tipple for hand cleaner during the coronavirus crisis.

Gin has always been a total lifesaver in Muddy’s eyes but now it’s taken a whole new meaning for Exeter Gin’s Karen Skerratt who instead of making the tasty tipple, has spent the last few weeks during the coronavirus lockdown making hand sanitiser.

Karen is always inspired by local stories and demand: her gin takes it cue from the city’s Roman heritage – literally a flavour of the place.

Muddy caught up with a very busy Karen (from a socially distant 2m of course) to get the lowdown.

Karen, we’re sending you a huuuuge (virtual) high five. Bravo! You sound like one busy lady. Tell us about your new-normal. 

If someone told me a few weeks ago this is what we would be doing, I’d have thought they’d gone mad.  These are indeed uncertain and strange times  where we find ourselves adjusting our business to fulfil the needs created by this awful pandemic.

When did you get the idea to make it?

It was my daughter Lyndsey (pictured left with Karen centre and husband Mick right) ) who initially said we should do this on a Monday and by Friday we had supplies delivered, made, packaged and delivery underway.  As soon as we were given the okay by the government is when we started.  The idea stemmed from our personal circumstances where my daughter has MS and no immune system, I had cancer recently and generally we felt it our duty to contribute as we really do hold dear what frontline workers are risking for us.  It was a no brainer.

Who is it for?

We decided whilst the frontline workers were crying out for hand sanitiser we would deal directly with them and have not gone down the retail or agents. While demand is so high, it’s massively important that we get it to where it’s needed asap.  Frontline workers include NHS workers in various departments, carers, MOD, Royal Mail, hospices, medical centres. The list is vast but all are out there putting themselves at risk to look after us all.

How do you make it? Is it something people could (or should) do at home? 

We follow a WHO (World Health Organisation ) formula which has been recommended using Ethanol, Hydrogen Peroxide and Glycerine at the distillery where it is equipped to safely make it.  I’m not sure about home making but one thing I do know is that for it to be effective it needs to be between 75% to 85% abv to kill the virus and this is the recommendation from WHO. Making gin is one thing but I feel it’s important to follow the guidelines to the letter.

I bet you’ve got some stories to tell? 

We have met some truly awesome people which we have the utmost of respect for and hopefully, many of us will stay in contact for a long time to come.  It’s massively emotional as we are being asked by people who look after children who are dying and are desperate for stock, others that are just simply bereft from nursing patients who are very ill.  

We also speak to those who say it smells so good that they’re tempted to lick their hand – PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!  I think they’ve clearly done a lot of hours but mostly it’s the thank-yous we’ve had that are humbling. All of us here at Exeter Gin are just grateful that we’re in a position to contribute in some way.

I guess you really need a tipple after a busy day at the coalface? Tea or a stiff G&T?

It’s most definitely a large G&T!

Has it stopped you working on your gins and new recipes?

At the moment it has been 24/7 working on the hand sanitiser as we are a small family business but we have got plans when things slow down, but like I said it’s such a strange time we have to prioritise what’s needed on the frontline.

When all this madness is over is it back to making gin? Tell us what you’re looking forward to?

Opening the gin school. We literally finished it a week before this broke out: talk about timing.  Getting back to our plans for new gins and other products is really exciting but most of all I’m looking forward to being able to hug my family, especially my daughter and granddaughter.  We have said that we will have a really big party at the end of this with all the lovely people we are now talking too. 

Fancy an Exeter G&T? Get your hands on some of the juniper nectar here.

Find more ideas here


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