Right oh – part one done. Here’s the second part of my update on the latest Oban Gin developments (or lack thereof) in recent months.
Gin, Gin, Gin, Gin, Gin
Oban Gin has never seen the light of day – we’re all agreed on that. But rather than focussing his efforts on getting it to market, Mr Robertson has decided to start teasing a whole host of additional spirits.
First came Jens Gin [sic] which is described as “An exclusive & luxurious gin made for all the Jennifer’s, Jens & Jenny’s out there! This is what you have all been waiting for, your own gin.” Of course, it has its own Facebook page and he’s already roping people in. Although, a quick search of Facebook and it seems like someone else got there first.
Next, we’ve Oban Bay Gin. This is likely a tactic to scupper the success of Oban Bay Small Batch Botanical Gin, which has been created by one of the local spirit and wine merchants. And crucially, is actually available in shops! Again, there’s promises that the gin will be available in October and the link to the pre-order form again breaks Scottish Government rules about offering discounts on bulk buys.
We’re heading to Instagram for the next one. This post by McCaig’s Distillery on 19 July teases two further gins, which are “named after the oldest and newest bridges” on the Forth. Of course, Forth Bridge Gin and Cas Chaolas have their own Instagram accounts, with the latter also having its own Facebook page. I think if you were a Forth Bridge Brewery investor who never saw any return on their investment, you’d find this a bit of a kick in the teeth.
What’s in a name?
Along with announcing all the products above, Mr Robertson has been busy hoovering up dozens of trademarks. These include Glencoe Gin, Tweed Gin, Fringe Gin and Festival Gin. He claims that the income from the trademarks, along with the currently non-existent gin, will pay back the investors.
I’m not sure people who spent their money on bottles and barrels of gin would want to see their money being frittered away on registering trademarks. IP law is also quite hazy and the owner of a trademark usually needs to prove that the trademark has been used. So it’s not simply a case of sitting on a trademark and waiting for someone to come along and pay for it.
Finally, it’s time to remember the people whose money Mr Robertson is currently playing with. A number of the investors in Oban Gin got in touch with me after my series of blogs earlier in the year. Many didn’t know about Mr Robertson’s previous dealings with the Forth Bridge Brewery and, frightened by what they had read, some were actually able to get their money back. However, others haven’t been so lucky.
Mr Robertson has been in dialogue with his investors over the summer. On 3 July, he excitedly introduced them to the new bottle design. And another update followed on 24 July, which said that the aim was to get crowdfunded bottles delivered by next month (i.e. August). Apparently the delays were due to low water pressure, with the newsletter also teasing not one, but TWO potential sites in Oban; which sort of defeats the argument that the gin couldn’t be made in the town because there were no suitable sites.
And where now?
Eight months on from my last update, where do we find ourselves. Well, governments have fallen and governments have risen. North Korea continues to threaten the world with nuclear Armageddon. Bake Off settled into its new home on Channel 4. And Wonder Woman showed us a female CAN lead a Hollywood blockbuster.
But one man, dedicating himself full time to a small, start-up distillery, with a rumoured investment of £165,000, has been unable to produce one drop of gin.
Some may say that I need to back off and that these things take time. However, from what I can see, Mr Robertson is still far off being able to produce and sell gin. His approval from HMRC for the UK Duty Stamps Scheme may have arrived earlier this week. But he’s been pretty quiet on whether he’s secured a rectification licence (which will allow him to legally distil) or a premises licence for the distillery.
As Mr Robertson has apparently made Oban Gin (and it’s multitude of other brands and companies) his main job since the start of the year, then he must surely be running down his original investment.
Another post on social media today (19 October) teases a sample bottle of Oban Gin. However, the comments show that a) they’re “heading to selected crowdfunders in Oban” (tough luck for those who aren’t the lucky few) and b) that the barrel owners will be getting a tasting pack…in December! When the full bottles arrive and the barrels are filled, who knows. There’s also been no active sign of distilling on social media channels, so what’s actually in the bottles is anyone’s guess.
So, in conclusion – this whole thing still stinks! Personal circumstances mean I might not be able to follow this story as closely towards the end of this year and the start of next. But the story’s still not over and I feel we’ll be back here again before too long.