Chehalis Tribe’s Distillery Pivots From Spirits to Hand Sanitizer

Rather than craft-distilled liquor, the first product that came out of distillation tanks on the Chehalis Reservation was hand sanitizer.

Come late June, partners the Chehalis Tribe of Indians and Heritage Distilling Company will officially debut their 35,000 square-foot Talking Cedar Brewery and Restaurant combined with Heritage spirits in Washington State. 

“The Tribe, Tribal enterprises, all of our Tribal members are very excited to get this enterprise up and going,” said David Burnett, Chehalis Tribal Enterprises CEO. 

A federal roadblock, discovered during the permitting process in early 2018, temporarily derailed the Tribe’s plans. Fortunately in December 2018, President Trump repealed a 200-year-old federal law that prevented Tribes from owning and operating distilleries, even on their sovereign lands. The enactment of H.R. 5317 rescinded a section of the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834 that dates back to the days of Andrew Jackson’s presidency. 

READ MORE: Trump Signs Bill Into Law Allowing Distilleries in Indian Country 

In early 2020, the Chehalis Tribe encountered yet another impediment — the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Amid nationwide shutdowns of bars and restaurants that the distillery would typically supply, the Tribe and Heritage Distilling Company didn’t hit pause. Instead, they pivoted — right in the midst of construction. 

Rather than craft-distilled liquor, the first product that came out of distillation tanks was hand sanitizer.

The parties are currently producing 30,000 gallons a day across Heritage Distilling Company’s locations. Their formula is based on FDA Compounding Guidelines for consumer and healthcare personnel use. 

In the near future, the distillery on the Chehalis Reservation will produce spirits under the Heritage label, and beer under the Tribal name Talking Cedar. 

Talking Cedar Brewery and Restaurant — the 60-barrel brewery and tap room along with the distillery operation — will make history next month as the first Tribally owned distillery to open in the U.S.  The Chehalis-owned operations stand to create 30 to 40 full-time positions once fully operational. 

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