The Story of Oban Gin – Part 3: The Past Six Months

So, now we’ve a good idea who is behind the Oban Gin project. And towards the end of the summer and into the autumn, things seemed to step up a gear.

Adopt A Barrel
I’ll start here by saying that the information I’m able to provide in this section isn’t as detailed as the other blogs I’ve written. This is due to much of the historical information being removed from the social media accounts (as mentioned in previous days).

The headline push over the autumn was the Adopt A Barrel scheme. The concept behind this is simple – invest £500 for a 30 litre barrel or £1,000 for a 50 litre barrel (I’ll just give you a second to do the maths and work out who is getting the better deal). Investors who put this money in were also promised a certificate of ownership and a hoodie or rugby shirt for their investment.

The sum raised from the Adopt A Barrel scheme (plus the smaller investments made by people who simply bought a 700ml bottle of gin) have never been confirmed. However, most sources seem to believe it’s in the six-figure region. And in an e-mail I’ve seen from Mr Robertson to the investors in the Forth Bridge Brewery, he talks about “just under £165k” being raised.

Also in the autumn, a Freedom of Information request was made to determine whether any application had been made to set up a distillery at the proposed site of Heritage Wharf, on the town’s “Railway Pier”. Replying in early November, an employee from Argyll and Bute’s planning department confirmed that no planning application had been received.  You can see the full request here.

Christmas Calamity
Things started to come to a head over the festive period, when Mr Robertson took the decision to temporarily close his social media accounts. His reason for doing this is understandable – he was away in the Borders over Christmas and New Year, where his internet access would be patchy.

But imagine how all the investors felt when these accounts suddenly disappeared. It’s almost the equivalent of paying a deposit for dinner, but when you turn up outside the restaurant, all the signs have been taken down, the door is locked and there’s no-one at home.

Although Mr Robertson had explained that all social media would be getting “turned off” you’d only have known this if you’d seen the posts before the accounts were closed/blocked. And if you missed them, then you’d have been in the dark. Surely it would have been easier to leave the accounts open, with an explanation that all messages would be replied to in the new year?

Mr Robertson returned from holiday on 9 January. It was also around this time that most of the previous social media activity was purged from the Facebook account and the multitude of Twitter accounts, which include: Oban Gin, McCaig’s Distillery, McCaig’s Gin and The Gin Academy.

In early January, both The Oban Times and the Scottish edition of The Times featured pieces on Mr Robertson and his project. The Oban Times piece focusses on the Oban Gin activity over the festive period, whilst The Times looks at the Forth Bridge Brewery.

New Year, New Course?
As the first weeks of 2017 started to roll in, progress started to occur.

The now reactivated social media accounts have been demonstrating some activity, including the arrival of a stills and Adopt A Barrel certificates being sent out to investors. I believe that Mr Robertson has also made the business his full-time job now.

2017 also meant a new home for Oban Gin and the general McCaig’s distilling operation – Edinburgh. George Street in Edinburgh, to be precise. From a newsletter sent to investors…

So it [starting the distillery] is taking longer than expected. Therefore I have taken the decision to get another distillery to produce bottles of Oban Gin so that we can get them sent out to crowdfunders in the short term. Once our premises has [sic] been secured & license granted we will start filling the barrels & making our own gin.

For many, this gin has been a long time coming. And for others, their patience has run out. One investor who I spoke to spent £35 on a bottle back in the summer, with delivery promised in September. On discovering in January that the gin would be made elsewhere, they requested their money back, as they wanted their gin to be made in Oban – as had been promised. They’ve now resigned themselves to the situation and have written off the money.

So, progress of sorts…but still no gin. With lots of rumours and conjecture flying about, I felt it only right that I give Mr Robertson the right to reply. And that’s what I’ll be covering in tomorrow’s blog.