Downton Distillery’s Great Bustard Gin helping to protect Wiltshire’s bird

GREAT Bustards are found on open grasslands and farmland from northern Morocco to south and central Europe, and from temperate central (Ukraine & Russia) Europe to East Asia.

European populations are mainly resident, with Asian populations migrating farther south in winter.

It is estimated that there are now fewer than 35,000 Great Bustards left in the wild

Globally, the Great Bustard is now at risk of extinction. 60% of the global population is now found in Portugal and Spain, while Pakistan, once famed for its population, has only 200 birds left in the wild due to illegal hunting.

In 1996, it was listed as a ‘Vulnerable’ species on the IUCN Red List, then ‘Endangered’ as of 2023.

Our own population was once dispersed between the Wiltshire Downs, Salisbury Plain and Norfolk, but with hunting and the changing of farming practices, the last birds were recorded towards the end of the nineteenth century.

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The Great Bustard conservation group whose Royal Patron is King Charles III, was formed in 1998 by David Waters.

It was through his determination and with the support of wonderful volunteers that he has set about re-establishing a wild population in Wiltshire.

He initially hand-reared the young chicks before releasing them onto Salisbury Plain, where today there is a small population of 100 birds.

The bustard is shown on the Wiltshire coat of arms and the county flag showing its historical importance.

In 2023, Downton Distillery partnered with the conservation group, to raise both awareness and monies for the charity.

We designed a spirit that uses four botanicals that form part of the Great Bustard diet, which can all be foraged on Salisbury plain.

These were wild rocket, yarrow, lucerne and red clover, which provide unique notes within the spirit.

For every bottle of ‘Great Bustard Gin’ purchased, we will donate £10 to the charity, so they can continue to work with farmers and to protect the habit of this wonderful bird.

The charity also run tours where you can see the wonderful dancing displays during the breeding season.

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