Enterprise Europe Network

Message in a bottle

Posted: 18 Feb 2015

A Scottish spirits start-up makes a splash by getting advice on intellectual property and product development from the Network.

Scottish spirits start-up

A common love of food and drink inspired Martin Murray and his wife, Claire, to start a spirits distillery business in the Scottish Highlands town of Dunnet.  They named the company Dunnet Bay Distillers. For their first product which combines local botanical ingredients, they chose the brand name Rock Rose Gin. After speaking to another entrepreneur in the same sector, Murray knew they needed to find out how to protect brand names and other intellectual property issues before launching the business.

For help he turned to Highlands and Islands Enterprise, one of  Enterprise Europe Network branches worldwide giving free business support to entrepreneurs.

A meeting was arranged with Network expert Ewen Macaulay, an intellectual assets and innovation adviser who provided support on several fronts. He started by reviewing the terms of a contract the Murrays proposed to sign with a university to develop a process and recipe for making gin from seaweed.

The importance of intellectual property

"We discovered that the contract wording favoured the university, but through negotiation we were able to tweak the conditions to make them more equitable," said Macaulay. He also provided practical advice on a wide range of branding issues, including registering trademarks and domain names and social media accounts, and helped them secure design rights for the uniquely shaped gin bottle and formally register the label design. He also explained the importance of exploiting intellectual property for commercial benefits, not just IP for its own sake.

Beyond that, Macaulay gave guidance on more general matters related to starting up a business, drafting a product development checklist, and ensuring that employee contracts included confidentiality and intellectual property clauses. He also introduced the client to a research & development tax credit scheme that allows Scottish SMEs to reclaim all internal costs related to product development.

Rock Rose gin has become a best seller

Armed with all of this information they would never have found on their own, the Murrays were gearing up to launch Dunnet Bay Distillers and sell Rock Rose hand-crafted Scottish gin through local distributors and via their website in August. Rock Rose gin has since become a best seller and every production run is completely sold out before it is market ready.

"Working with the Network has been excellent," said Martin Murray. "If the meeting with the expert hadn't happened, then I would have just 'parked' this subject until we had started producing and we would have been too late. I can recommend the Network as a key to the success of our project to date."


A year after this first story, we met Martin Murray and his Network adviser Ewen Macaulay to shoot this follow-up video.