Swiss distillery shifts from schnapps to sanitiser

By Cecile Mantovani
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Swiss distillery shifts from schnapps to sanitiser

Bottles of pear and mint alcohol is pictured at Swiss distiller Morand in Martigny

By Cecile Mantovani

MARTIGNY, Switzerland (Reuters) - A Swiss distillery has converted its production of pear schnapps to make disinfectant hand gel for use against the coronavirus.

Morand Distillery, a family-run business founded in 1889 in Martigny in the Valais canton, is using up its stocks of "Poire Williams", a colourless spirit made from pears grown in orchards below the snow-capped mountains.

In normal times, it is a favourite apres-ski tipple, but restrictions on travel and gatherings have hit demand, and now, like many distilleries around the world, Morand has lent their supplies to help stem the Alpine nation's rush for sanitiser.

Half the factory's 50 staff have already been laid off.

"For better or worse, we had stocks of Poire Williams that are slightly aging. That allows us to use it to make disinfectant," Thierry Manta, in charge of production at Morand, told Reuters Television on Wednesday.

They are producing it themselves to supply to smaller businesses as well as making several thousand litres of Poire Williams liqueur available below cost to laboratories making gel, Fabrice Haenni, director of Morand Distillery, said.

The solution follows the standards and "recipe" of the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), he said. Each litre requires about 8 kg (17.5 lb) of pears and Morand is also working with vintners to distil wine, he added.

The Swiss death toll from the coronavirus reached 378 on Wednesday, the public health ministry said.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)