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The UK could be about to suffer a gin shortage

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It was the eloquent Noël Coward who recommended that "a perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy". 

And now UK gin lovers might soon be taking heed and carting their empty glasses toward the Mediterranean to sate their thirst, as Scotland's juniper stash is in a 'critical state'.

"Eh?" 

Juniper, the small coniferous plant, is the primary flavouring of the middle classes' preferred clear spirit - with Scotland a key supplier for several UK gin makers. 

A new citizen study on the health of juniper by the Plantlife organisation shows that up to 79 per cent of the plants surveyed in 2014 was either "mature, dead or old" - and it's not just gin lovers at risk.

"Juniper has already been lost from a quarter of areas where it was previously found. Juniper is important, not just for its cultural value, but also because it provides food for wildlife such as the juniper shield bug - a key native invertebrate, important cover for game bird and shelter for stock," writes Plantlife.

A deadly fungal disease, Phytophthora austrocedrae, is thought to be the cause for much of the juniper's woes, with head of Plantlife Scotland Deborah Long suggesting immediate conservation action.

As for gin supplies, expect those Scot-sourcing UK manufacturers to go looking further afield for their juniper supplies - with potential shortages or price hikes a likely knock-on.

Better pour yourself another glass while you can, UK gin fans.

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