Thousands of gallons of sanitizer are headed to first responders and medical facilities thanks to an Oregon distillery.

Hood River Distillers, the Northwest's largest and oldest spirits producer, began making germ-killing hand rub two weeks ago. So far, the company has bottled more than 1,000 gallons, and another 11,000 gallons is in the works.

Sanitizer has been in high demand ever since the coronavirus started causing people to fall ill in the U.S., and many store shelves across the metro area are still bare or emptied as soon as they're restocked.

"Hood River Distillers is, first and foremost, continuing to make and distribute high-quality spirits to meet demand while ensuring that all of our employees are working under safe conditions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus," head distiller Joe O'Sullivan said in a press release. "At the same time, we see a need that we can help fulfill by producing this hand sanitizer for those on the front lines."

The 86-year-old family-owned business is working with the Oregon Health Authority to distribute 375-milliliter and 1.75-liter bottles, not only to those in health care but also food service employees.

Distillers are in a prime position to repurpose the high-proof byproduct from the fermentation process, though legally they can't call it "sanitizer" or make any medical claims about its application.

In early March, Portland's Shine Distillery on Grill, on North Williams Avenue, started giving away hand cleaner that it normally used to scrub floor drains and windows. It was joined by Rogue Ales & Spirits this week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stresses that washing hands with soap and water is still the best way to prevent illness, but sanitizer is a good alternative in a pinch.