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This congressman’s family runs a distillery. They’re shifting to hand sanitizer

This whiskey is for your hands!

Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., and his wife, Christine Riggleman, showcase Silverback Distillery in Afton, Va., in 2019.
Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., and his wife, Christine Riggleman, showcase Silverback Distillery in Afton, Va., in 2019. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“I’m in production right now, it’s crazy,” Christine Riggleman, CEO and master distiller at Silverback Distillery, shouted from the other end of the phone.

The wife of Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman was transitioning the family business into a hand sanitizer manufacturing facility. To say she was busy is an understatement.

“I’m literally making whiskey right now,” she told Heard on the Hill on Thursday. “People are in and out the door.”

Her original plan to create a “small batch” of sanitizer for family and staff quickly turned into a community relief effort, with requests coming in through the company’s Facebook page as the coronavirus pandemic led to shortages.

About 24 hours in, at least 300 bottles for pickup have been made “on the fly,” she said. The unexpected high demand has prompted a GoFundMe for supplies like bottles, labels and hydrogen peroxide.

“Our small business and family requires your help to help others,” the post reads. “Any funds not used for this purpose will be donated to organizations in need.”

“I am immensely proud of how hard both her and my daughters have worked to help emergency organizations,” Denver Riggleman said in an email. “We are a small part of a much larger effort working to stop the spread of Covid-19.”

Silverback Distillery is based in Afton, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and also has a facility in Pennsylvania.

“We all have skill sets,” Christine Riggleman said. “We need to step up to the plate.”

Named after the gorilla that Denver Riggleman’s three daughters sometimes compare him to, the business makes rye whiskey, bourbon, gin and moonshine. Other distilleries around the country, including at least one in Maryland, are also turning their attention to hand sanitizer, using ingredients like ethanol.

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