Shawn Butenschoen works through the process of packaging hand sanitizer to be used as spray. The Everson-area distillery already had the needed ingredient of alcohol on hand.  (Brent Lindquist/Ferndale Record)


Idea started as a joke, became reality when schools closed

  EVERSON — Despite the name, the folks at Probably Shouldn’t Distillery decided recently that they probably should use their distilling powers for something quite unique.

  The distillery got the go-ahead from the federal government March 17 to begin producing hand sanitizer from the alcohol already on hand in the distillery. But the idea was born before the severity of the COVID-19 crisis was known.

  Mariah Butenschoen co-owns Probably Shouldn’t with her husband, Shawn.

  “I teach at Lynden High School,” Mariah said. “We were kind of joking about it at school, like ‘What if we cancel school?’ I said I should make hand sanitizer.”

  Then, indeed, on March 13 school was cancelled for six weeks, and Mariah told Shawn maybe they should produce hand sanitizer because it had become so hard to find and they have the ingredients readily available.

  “We started researching it, and then on the 17th, the feds changed the regulations and basically gave us the green light to start making it without a bunch of paperwork in advance,” Mariah said.

  The Butenschoens found themselves particularly concerned for the well-being of homeless people, who either can’t find or can’t afford hand sanitizer. So they will be donating their hand sanitizer to the Lighthouse Mission and to local schools so families can have access to a supply

  Some hand sanitizers require a thickening agent to make it gelatinous, but Probably Shouldn’t is making a spray, which doesn’t require a thickening agent.

  The process is actually pretty simple, Mariah said.

  “The World Health Organization requires hydrogen peroxide, glycerin and that’s it,” Mariah said. “And the alcohol, that’s the main ingredient and it’s the alcohol we have on hand.”

  With the help of a friend who donated several bottles of essential oils, they purchased 1,000 bottles, paid for expedited shipping and ordered labels. The bottling process will begin when they have all these supplies on hand and ready to go.

  So far, the biggest challenge has been finding enough empty bottles to put the sanitizer in because of issues with the supply chain.

  Because their sanitizer will be bottled in spray form, it can also be used to wipe down hard surfaces to combat coronavirus.

  “We’re just happy we found a way to contribute,” the Butenschoens said in a press release last week. “These are trying times, and we have to look out for one another.”

  When the distillery is in normal operation, it puts out a variety of spirits, including apple, blueberry and raspberry brandy, as well as blueberry pie liqueur, gin and American single malt whisky.

  “We opened three years ago in 2017,” Mariah said. “My husband, his background is in heavy equipment mechanics, and I’m a teacher. We were just looking for another opportunity to do something different.”

  They also have an organic blueberry farm and wanted to find something to do with the extra fruit they produce. Spirits ended up being a natural fit.

  The name “Probably Shouldn’t” was inspired by the many hoops they had to jump through in order to make the distillery a reality. “The county just kept saying no,” Mariah said.

  The world seemed to be telling them they probably shouldn’t, but after years of trying, they managed to open the distillery.

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