The heritage-listed brick building that houses Little Lon Distilling Co is a small, three-room cottage with bluestone flooring, a slate roof and an outdoor toilet, and it’s the last of its type to survive in Melbourne.

At the turn of last century, the cottage housed illegal sex workers and bootleg grog in the area then known as the Little Lon district – a neighbourhood that Australian author and poet CJ Dennis described in 1915 as favoured by “low, degraded broots (brutes)”.

In 2018, distillery co-founder Brad Wilson tracked down the building’s owners, a property investment company, to secure a lease. Today, the cottage is licensed for 20 people, with a small bar, a gin still in one room, and fermentation tanks in another.

It’s the best place to sample Little Lon’s range of gins, which take inspiration from the area’s illicit past. The Ginger Mick is a gingery jenever-style gin named after the CJ Dennis book character Ginger Mick. A lychee-infused gin is named Little Miss Yoko after Chinese sex worker Yokohama (real name Tiecome Ah Chung), who lived and worked in the cottage up until the late 1920s.

Bottled gins are available to takeaway, but when you pick up a bottle you may as well order a gin and tonic at the compact bar. There’s also a fun list of cocktails, which includes house twists on classic drinks that showcase the Little Lon range.

The distillery also runs gin masterclasses on weekends, where real enthusiasts can delve into the history of the area and the gin distilling process. Naturally, drinks are included.

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Updated: February 24th, 2023

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