The Story of Oban Gin – Part 4: Meeting Mr Robertson

Yesterday’s blog pretty much brings us up to the present day, and as I’m sure you’ll agree, there are still a number of questions around the whole Oban Gin project. And in a bid to get to some answers, I thought the best option was to give Mr Robertson the right to respond.

The Questions
There were so many questions I could have asked Mr Robertson but I ended up settling on the set below, and emailed them to him:

  • Where will the gin be made? I’ve heard that it’ll now be made in Edinburgh and simply labelled Oban Gin.
  • If it’s currently made being elsewhere, what makes it Oban Gin? And when do you envisage production will transfer to Oban?
  • Do you agree there’s been a lack of clarity/transparency around the plans for Oban Gin since it was first announced?
  • As you are using the town’s branding/identity on your products, do you feel you have a responsibility to engage more with the local community?
  • Why have you chosen to produce an oak aged gin – a style which often doesn’t resemble the classic gins on the market?
  • Can you explain the “Adopt A Barrel” pricing, whereby those who paid £500 get a 30-litre barrel but those paying £1,000 only get a 50-litre barrel?
  • Why has the vast majority of social media activity – on both Facebook and Twitter – been purged recently?
  • Is there any update on your other venture, the Forth Bridge Brewery?
  • Anything else?

The Response
Instead of sending me back a response, Mr Robertson decided we should meet for coffee in the centre of Edinburgh, which I was happy to do. We met the following week.

And on arrival, Mr Robertson presented me with a Cease and Desist Order.

For those without a legal background (me included), a Cease and Desist Order is a document sent to an individual or business to halt purportedly illegal activity (cease) and not take it up again later (desist). I was told this had been drawn up by Mr Robertson’s lawyers, and that he was currently taking legal action against both The Oban Times and The Times for the pieces they’d written in early January.

Now, this was strange for a number of reasons. First, you can’t present someone with a Cease and Desist Order before they’ve actually done anything. Also, the letter I was issued with was clearly a copy and paste from this website – not the sort of thing I’d expect from expensive Edinburgh lawyers. Finally, speaking to contacts at both The Oban Times and The Times, I’ve been informed that no legal proceedings have been instigated by Mr Robertson against either publication.

Stranger still, we then sat and spoke for 45 minutes about his plans for the distillery! Although he told me plenty of information which isn’t currently in the public domain, to protect myself legally, I’ve decided not to share any of it here, in case I’m accused of misrepresenting his words. Suffice to say his plans are…interesting.

The Outcome
The meeting was a real disappointment for me and a missed opportunity for Mr Robertson. After months of speculation and bad press, this was his chance to put his side of the story forward. Instead, he pulled up the draw-bridge and refused to engage – a pattern which continues to present itself.

However, as the blogs from this week will show, I refused to be scared off by threats of legal action and intimidation. I also felt a responsibility to bring this story together, after others – mainly The Oban Times – refused to have anything to do with it, despite my best efforts to demonstrate the value and importance of what has been taking place.

In tomorrow’s final blog, I’ll give you my thoughts on the entire project and where I think things will go from here.