The Story of Oban Gin – Part 2: Who’s Behind It?

Yesterday, we kicked off the story of Oban Gin with a look at the project and how it started. But whose behind all this? Let me introduce you to Dave Robertson.

From what I’ve been told by a few friends at home, Mr Robertson appears to be a native of Oban. His most recent job was as a web designer, but news reports say that he was a member of the British sailing team in his youth and has worked in the hospitality sector. Bar that, I can’t give you much personal background. However, Oban Gin isn’t his first foray into the drinks industry.

Forth Bridge Brewery
Back in March 2013, news of the Forth Bridge Brewery first appeared and Mr Robertson was the face of the new venture. This first news piece said that a new biomass-powered brewery would be built on the shores of the Forth, with £240,000 of crowd-funding getting the project off the ground. The brewery was to target the market for lower-alcohol beers, as the then Chancellor, George Osborne, had cut the duty on beers below 2.8% ABV in 2011.

Fast-forward to November 2014 and these plans had ballooned. Now, the brewery would also house a whisky distillery – with £3 million now needed to bring the scheme to fruition. A massive 110,000 litres of beer, whisky, vodka and gin were promised EACH WEEK, with a “top secret” method used to speed up the aging process of the spirit. Again, it was promised that the brewery and distillery would be fully sustainable, despite now including a restaurant, bar and 20,000 annual visitors.

Crowdfunding took place for the brewery, with The Times claiming that by April 2014, £14,000 had been raised. Nowhere near the £240,000/£3m needed, but a start.

The Outcome
If you go down to the banks for the Forth today, then you’ll see that the brewery has never materialised. Were the initial plans viable? Well, I’ll leave beer blogger Richard Taylor to answer this question.

At the tail end of 2015, Forth Bridge Brewery won a Digital Marketing Award for The Pitch UK for the “Beer Testers Wanted” campaign, which the brewery ran. The LinkedIn blog which promises the brewery’s first beer by the start of 2016, but those tasters must be pretty thirsty by now, as no beer has ever appeared (again, if anyone has information to the contrary, please let me know).

And you’ll struggle to get any further updates on the brewery, as it has completely disappeared from Facebook and the website has been taken down. The Forth Bridge Brewery Twitter account still exists but has been protected. And as it turns out, there even a Forth Bridge Gin account. And one for the distillery too!

An Investor’s Story
Whilst writing this blog, I managed to get in touch with one of the investors in the Forth Bridge Brewery. Although she would prefer to remain anonymous, she gave me a full and frank explanation about her investment and where it currently stands.

In August 2013, she purchased a “Beer for Life 150” crowdfunding option.  This, as the name suggests, cost £150 and promised beer for life. On the same date, she also purchased 100 shares at £1 each. Both were made via the Forth Bridge Brewery’s own (now defunct) website and she was given a username and password.

She explained that the small print showed that the crowd funding money would be returned if the target was not reached within twelve months of 9 March 2013 – so she would either receive her beer or money back by 9 March 2014. She also received a share certificate by email, with a note that the paper version would be posted out “in due course”.

As mentioned earlier in this post, the plans for the Forth Bridge Brewery changed dramatically and would also include spirit production. However, as her initial investment had been made due to the green credentials of the original project, she immediately e-mailed the admin address on the website, seeking clarification and a return of the money.  No reply was received.

On 10 March 2014 – the day after crowding funding money was due to be returned – the investor checked the terms and conditions only to find they had been changed, with the clause relating to the refund date now changed. She posted a comment on the Forth Bridge Brewery’s Facebook page querying what was going on, and whether the T&Cs could be changed without informing investors or crowdfunders. The reply was that the T&Cs had been changed in January and that crowdfunders WERE NOT investors.

However, having bought £100 in shares, she believed she was an investor as well as a crowdfunder, and that the T&Cs had changed overnight between 9 and 10 March.  This exchange was then deleted from Facebook.

Due to personal difficulties, the person providing me with this account was unable to pursue the issue.  But three years on, she has neither beer nor returned funds to show for her investment.

So, that’s who is behind Oban Gin. Things started to get really interesting over the past six months or so, and I’ll cover all of this in tomorrow’s blog.