Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Wonderbird Spirits Gin Distillery Gets OK for Growth Plans

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

Wonderbird Spirits gin distillery will be expanding.

Wonderbird Spirits gin distillery took flight in 2019 with the opening of the 2,500-square-foot distillery off Old Taylor Road in Lafayette County.

Three years later, the state’s first grain-to-grass gin distillery has grown in its distribution, requiring a bigger distillery.

On Monday, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Wonderbird’s request for a conditional use permit to expand the facility to 7,500 square feet. The board also approved the final site plan for the renovations.

Wonderbird is the brainchild of friends and co-owners Chand Harlow, Rob Forster, and Thomas Alexander. 

Alexander attended Monday’s meeting.

The Board asked if the expansion meant more job opportunities.

“We hope to gain 10 more employees over the next five years,” Alexander said.

Alexander said the distillery has worked hard to be a “good neighbor” in the community. From doing tours of its facility to working with Visit Oxford to help promote local tourism, he said he and the other owners continue to find ways to be involved with Oxford and Lafayette County.

When the pandemic first hit, Wonderbird halted production on their gin and started manufacturing 8-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer that was provided to the city and county, as well as several first-responder agencies.

Also on Monday, the Board approved:

  • A request for a conditional use permit to expand the International Guest House in Lafayette County, which is looking to build a living area to provide for up to 12 people. The IGH has provided housing for international University of Mississippi students since 1988.
  • A request for a developer to place two, modular “little homes,” on County Road 217. The Board approved the request 4 to 1 with supervisor David Rikard being the dissenting vote. He said he didn’t like that the units were going to be rentals and didn’t want a “bunch of these popping up” around Lafayette County.