How Little Lon is shaking up Melbourne's gin scene

Close up of cocktail on bar

Tianna Nadalin

Posted July 22, 2022

One of the city’s newest gin-fluencers, Little Lon Distilling Co. is inviting you to enjoy the heritage and spirit of Melbourne, served from a bottle. 

Little Lon Distilling Co, which took up residence in the heritage listed Casselden Place, opened its doors in 2018 and has been helping thirsty Melburnians enjoy a sip with a side of history ever since.

“We’re in the last remaining red-brick single story house in the CBD,” Little Lon owner and founder Brad Wilson says. “So we like to think of ourselves as caretakers of the cottage.”

Here, surrounded by towering skyscrapers and cobblestone alleys, the small-batch distillery is blending past and present, creating modern tipples that celebrates the boozy, debauchery-filled past of Melbourne’s former red-light district.

From masterclasses and tasting flights to Friday night drinks, Brad says locals have embraced the storied city distillery, with their spirits now sold through a selection of bars and restaurants across the city, including Sojourn and Bourke Street Green.  

Little Lon Distilling Co | RACV


Located just off Little Lonsdale Street, in the once notorious north-east corner of Melbourne, Little Lon’s delectable juniper drops are inspired by the characters who used to call the area home.

“We found some amazing stories of people who lived in and around this cottage and created flavour profiles based on them,” Brad says. “One of our darlings is probably Miss Yoko, inspired by a Chinese lady named Yokohama who lived in this cottage and ran it as a brothel back in the 1920s. It’s a sweeter style with a base of vanilla and baking spices and an unmistakable lychee finish.”

For Brad, a former creative director turned distiller, swapping his computer for a pot still was a natural progression.

“My background was actually advertising so I’d worked with a lot of premium alcohol brands,” he says. “I always knew I wanted to start something myself and after spending six months in Amsterdam on a creative drinking placement, where a learned a lot about Genever-style gins, I knew I wanted to make a gin.”

The flavour of Melbourne

And so was born Little Lon Distilling Co, an independent, small-batch distillery that produces a range of hand-crafted spirits where everything, including the base spirit, is made from scratch.

“It’s quite rate for distilleries to go to that effort but we see ourselves and makers and care about the hand-craftedness of the process.”

Being able to get creative and experiment with flavours was another big drawcard.

“Distilling is creative but it’s also science,” Brad says. “For gin to be called gin, the majority of ingredients – at least 50 per cent - should be juniper. But there are so many styles and so many different combinations of flavours and botanicals that you can be as creative as your like. It feels like a natural progression for me to be use that creativity to develop recipes.”

Little Lon’s spirits aren’t just made in Melbourne, Brad says they’re also made from Melbourne.

“With the exception of juniper berries, all of our botanicals – such as herbs, citrus and lychee – are sourced from the Queen Victoria Market,” he explains. “That’s our provenance.”

A secret ingredient

The creative distillery's soon-to-be-released limited-edition Navy Strength spirit takes it one step further, using water taken straight from the Yarra River in its base spirit to produce a next-level-local drop.

“We capture it right here in the city from a spot behind the aquarium,” he says. “It’s filtered on site and comes out clean as a whistle. The Yarra Strength gin will also have two kinds of mint – a river mint and a native mint, native rosemary, lemon-scented gum, strawberry gum and two varieties of Port Phillip kelp.”

And it seems this Made-in-Melbourne philosophy has paid off.

“We feel quite privileged that people can come and participate in our slice of heritage and history and maybe enjoy a good gin or two.”