Japanese-owned distillery tries to stop new Highland hotel using village name

The Tomatin Trading Comany is due to  open hotel and restaurant on the outskirts of the Highland village - but the Tomatin Distillery is going to court to stop the development using the name of the village in its branding. PIC: Contributed.
The Tomatin Trading Comany is due to open hotel and restaurant on the outskirts of the Highland village - but the Tomatin Distillery is going to court to stop the development using the name of the village in its branding. PIC: Contributed.
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A malt whisky distillery in the Highlands is trying to stop a new hotel being named after the same village that gives the dram its name.

Tomatin Distillery, which is owned by Japanese conglomorate Takara Shuzo, has raised a case in the Court of Session to stop the Tomatin name being used at a £12m hotel and restaurant development on the outskirts of the village.

Businessman William Frame claimed distillery management also oppose Tomatin being used on jams and staff aprons.

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Mr Frame said the distillery could not claim sole right to the place name.

He said he was "extremely disappointed" to receive the 'bombshell' notice of the legal action given full planning permission had been granted, with construction scheduled to begin next spring.

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The distillery said using the Tomatin name for the hotel took 'unfair advantage' of its reputation.

Mr Frame said: "It is a huge disappointment to say the least, to find that this issue has now been taken to Scotland's supreme civil court, the Court of Session.

“We have kept the distillery fully informed of our plans from the very start, and had planned to have their whiskies as a showcase in our retail shop and bar.”

"I feel this should wholeheartedly be about helping and promoting the local community, promoting the village of Tomatin, giving young people jobs that are sustainable and getting young people back into the Highlands.

“There is no attempt or intention to associate ourselves with the distillery, and no-one I have spoken to considers that there would be any confusion about this.”

“As it seems extremely anti free enterprise, and counter-productive, I have sought opinion through various networks. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. No Company can exclusively own the rights to a geographical place name.”

Mr Frame plans to create a 99-bedroom hotel and 200-seater restaurant on a redundant site close to the A9 with the development called The Tomatin Trading Company.

It is expected the business will create 100 jobs in the construction phase and around 50 jobs once open.

Stephen Bremner, Managing Director of Tomatin Distillery said he supported the development but claimed using the Tomatin name was 'unfair'.

Mr Bremner said: “As engaged members of our local community, we wholeheartedly welcome and support this or any development that is going to benefit the area.

“We do, however, object to the development’s proposed branding, which, we believe, takes unfair advantage of our reputation and we have repeatedly asked Mr Frame to reconsider.

"Tomatin Distillery has a rich heritage spanning many generations. We firmly believe we must protect our valuable brand, which is inherently associated with our distillery and our whisky as a result of over 120 years of dedicated craftsmanship.”

Mr Frame said that he had already invested heavily in the branding.

He added: "Numerous businesses in the past here have referenced the name Tomatin, such as the Tomatin Petrol Filling Station, and The Tomatin Little Chef.

“Indeed, the Tomatin Estate itself was there long before the Distillery was established, and originally sold them the ground. There was also the Tomatin Railway Station which closed in the 1960s, but the local people in the area are now trying to get it reopened.

"I do wonder if the Distillery would challenge its name? I very much doubt it.

“If this development was in Aviemore or Inverness I don’t think there would be a problem naming the Trading Company after the Town."

Councillor Duncan Macpherson, an independent member for Inverness South, said he did not want to see the development jeopardised given the costly legal action.

"There's so many jobs riding on this £12m development, at least one hundred in the first construction phase, and then permanent jobs afterwards. The mix of both full-time and part-time jobs is ideal for local people, and would make a huge difference to the local Strathdearn and Tomatin economy," he added.