2017 is doing its best to go down on record as the worst year ever, but there is some good news buried amongst all the nightmarish dystopian headlines.
And, as ever, it involves gin.
From its health benefits to its ability to show us who we really are, mother’s ruin has a very special place in our hearts. Over the past year or two, we’ve seen something of a gin renaissance (ginaissance?), with a plethora of flavoured, superfood-based, and healing gins hitting the shelves.
Read more: The five health benefits of drinking gin
However, in an announcement that struck terror into our hearts, scientists revealed that our newfound fascination for gin could be very short-lived indeed, as juniper berries – aka the Scottish-grown fruits that give the tipple its unique flavour – are in danger of being wiped out by a deadly invasive fungus.
“Juniper is in serious trouble,” a spokesperson for Plantlife Scotland said at the time. “One of only three native conifers in Britain, not only does it face a new deadly fungal disease, phytophthora austrocedrae, it has also disappeared from over one third of Britain.”
But we need no longer be worried about the future of gin, as it turns out the experts have done their best to rescue the plant from extinction.
The UK National Tree Seed Project announced that they have collected and protected seeds of juniper plants from across the country, and they are set to stash them in the Millennium Seed Bank in Wakehurst, Sussex.
Simon Kallow, who helped to organise the project with Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens, called this a “type of insurance policy”. He added that the aim of the project is to make the seed bank active and useful, so that people can use it to conduct research and conservation work.
“We prioritise [juniper berry seeds] because it is the most threatened and also has the largest distribution, some rare, some common,” said Kallow. “It was completed first, largely because our partners at the Forestry Commission worked hard to collect it from many populations.”
The juniper seeds will be kept in giant freezers at -20C and will be tested “around every 10 years”.
However, before you get too excited, they won’t be taste-testing them; they’ll simply be germinating a few of the seeds and noting down the effects.
Leon Dalloway, founder of Gin Journey, was among the first to praise the conservationists for their efforts.
However, in an interview with BBC News, he reassured gin lovers that we will not be running out of our favourite drink any time soon.
Read more: 14 signs that gin is your one true love
“I know at least one fairly large London distillery where they have a 'secret room' containing a year's extra stock in case there is a plight,” he said.
Dalloway also pointed out that British gins also use juniper berries from overseas. “Think the Pyrenees, Tuscany, and primarily Macedonia or Bosnia,” he said. “That's where the juniper harnesses the most oils.
“As long as their stocks are ample, we'll be all right.”