If you’re going to launch your own alcohol brand, a bit of relevant experience won’t hurt. Interestingly for an industry full of craft distillers it’s pretty common for them to have come to their craft with no significant background in booze production or marketing.
The same can’t be said of Little Lon Distilling Co.’s Brad Wilson. Brad previously enjoyed a career in advertising and media production. A resume that included work with the likes of Diageo and Pernod Ricard meant he had no shortage of experience promoting top notch booze brands. The itch to put that experience to good use in building his own brand was practically guaranteed and plans for Little Lon were put in motion.
Finding a home for this new project was critical and ultimately flowed into everything about the new brand. Brad’s passion for history and architecture drew him to the area of Melbourne around Little Lonsdale St. Once one of the seedier parts of Melbourne, Little Lon was home to some of Melbourne’s most colourful characters. The range of products from Little Lon pay homage to a few of these characters, in both in name and style.
As you can imagine the process of locating a suitable home in busy Melbourne wasn’t easy. A couple of years of stop and start, pounding pavements and knocking on doors eventually paid off for Brad. Securing the lease to a tiny heritage cottage in Casselden Place just off Little Lonsdale St meant his project could finally move ahead.
While the cottage itself is surrounded by high rise tower blocks, it remains a characterful little hold out with an interesting past. The cottage has been home to a sly grog shop, brothel and now suitably a tiny and hardworking distillery. While Brad wouldn’t mind a bit more space, he and the team certainly make the most of what they have available.
You’d think this would also mean they’d want to make it as simple and easy on themselves to produce their gin range – and you’d be wrong. Stepping into that desire to create and be hands on, Brad made the choice to produce their own base spirit. We’ve mentioned it before, but it bears reminding, this is a very labour intensive, time consuming and costly additional step for a craft distillery. It’s generally why a relatively small proportion of distillers choose to go down this path.
In our personal opinion, this isn’t in and of itself an indicator of the quality of an end product. It is however worth recognising and applauding the effort and commitment required.
Little Lon’s range includes three gins and their own take on a genever. Each gin is produced on site in the cottage. While one room, what used to be the living room is now a bar, the other holds the small still in what used to be the kitchen. Maximising the space means the distillery works Monday to Wednesday producing the gins, with Thursday to Sunday dedicated to the bar and functions (in non covid times).
Production of the Little Lon range begins with delivery of a 1,000Ll IBC (square storage tank) of wash from their local brewing partners Brick Lane in Melbourne. This is transferred to 5 holding tanks of 200L each, which are then distilled one at a time to produce just 20L of their neutral spirit.
Three to four of these runs later, they have enough spirit to begin a gin distillation run. If you think this sounds intense, it is! Each of these processes would take most distilleries one run on a larger still with space to spare. We trust you’ll be able to appreciate all that effort with every sip you take of your Little Miss Yoko, our gin of the month from Little Lon.
We’re excited to see where Little Lon go from here. Brad shared that a navy strength addition to the range is in the works (we’re high up the list to try this when it’s released) along with some whisky.
Once we’re out of isolation, Little Lon will be our first stop when we next visit Melbourne. Needless to say, we hope you make it over there too and let the team know Gin Lane sent you!