They are as Scottish as the heather on the machair or the kelp on our shores, their slick marketing suggests.

So raise a glass this Christmas to the booming success of Scotland’s new second national drink. Just don’t assume your £40 bottle of Scottish craft gin is actually made anywhere near where you think it is.

Many of new Scottish gins hitting the shops this festive season, The Herald can reveal, are made by contract distillers in London and Birmingham. And, unlike for Scotch, which has name protection, there is nothing to stop brands draping themselves in the Saltire.

Established gin makers are worried. They fear drinkers will be left with a taste as bitter as some junipers when they realise they have paid a premium to buy what amounts to a supermarket clear spirit with a symbolic dash of Scottish “botanics”, such as heather or seaweed.

Entrepreneurs behind the new English-made brands – often with names suggesting they are manufactured in the Hebrides – all insist that they eventually intend to build distilleries north of the border. They are, they confess, faking it before they are making it.

Herald View: Why Scottish gin should be made in Scotland

But Blair Bowman, the whisky writer and consultant who first noticed the sheer scale of English production of Scottish gin, said he thought the tactic was unfair on businesses actually investing in Scotland, creating jobs.

Mr Bowman said: “I was shocked when I first started to discover that so many gins are not from where purport to be.

“This kind of thing would never be allowed within the whisky industry as the laws governing the production of scotch whisky are strict, in order to protect its stellar reputation.

“There are Scottish gin brands appearing overnight, without having to raise capital, build a distillery and start production. They are simply picking up the phone, choosing a gin recipe and sending a label design down to an industrial gin factory to be made under contract down south and then receiving finished product back in Scotland.

“This is seriously unfair on the gin producers in Scotland who have built distilleries. The contract made gins can save this money and put it into advertising and marketing not to mention taking away jobs from the local community where the gin purports to be from.”

Brands manufactured entirely or largely in England or abroad include Tyree Gin, Barra Atlantic Gin, Gordon Castle Gin, Glasgow Gin, Leith Gin, Dundee Gin, Mull’s Whitetail Gin, and Shetland’s Blackwoods Gin.

Most contacted by The Herald insisted they have plans to move production to Scotland and that their botanics – the flavourings that make their beverages distinctive – are locally sourced, or even “foraged”. And they add that they do not claim that their product is distilled locally.

There is nothing to stop a manufacturer naming a gin after a place where it is not made. A Scotch whisky, however, would have to have a meaningful connection to a place in order to use its name.

An accreditation scheme run by the Scottish Craft Distillers Association is voluntary. Some industry insiders stress that it will never be easy to define exactly what makes a Scottish gin.

After all, there are cottage firms simply infusing imported gin in bathtubs. There are businesses re-distilling imported grain neutral spirit or GNS. And there are those which simply come up with an idea for a brand or a recipe and have that made at an industrial plant, usually in England.

Chrissie Fairclough, the Tastings Director at Gin Club Scotland, wants those behind their brands to be absolutely clear and upfront about which category they fall in to.

She said: “Gin sales are booming and Scottish gin is bang on trend. All the big names are from north of the Border: Hendrick’s; The Botanist; Edinburgh Gin; and - more recently - Harris Gin.

“In fact, Scotland can now boast making 70% of gin consumed in the UK. So it’s no wonder that budding distillers want to get in on the act and tap into the appetite for Scottish craft gin.

“The trouble is not all Scottish gin is made in Scotland. In an age where authenticity and provenance are held in such high esteem by an increasingly discerning consumer base, ambiguous claims about origin are starting to be examined more closely.

“Gin fans deserve to know that when they buy a gin with a Scottish place name on the label, for instance, that the gin is at least distilled and bottled in Scotland.

“And if it’s not actually made in Scotland, from a customer’s point of view that’s, at best, disingenuous or, at worst, misleading.”

Ian Smith, one of two Tiree men behind Tyree Gin, said plans were advanced to make the drink on the island. His ultimate aim is to bring whisky distilling back to Tiree. Making gin – initially under contract in London – is how he hopes to fund that. His business model is replicated by those behind other brads.

The best Scottish gins: what to buy this Christmas

Michael Morrison, whose firm Isle of Barra Distillers, is behind the Barra Gin was quick to admit he does not actually make his product on the island– but would very much like to do so by the end of next year.

Mr Morrison said: .”Our links to London are something I am personally proud of. Our business structure is sensible, and this has been reinforced by the help we have had from our bank. It sees our vision as realistic and heavily encouraged our initial link up with London.”

He added that customers were supportive when told the gin was made in London. He said: “They understand that life isn’t black and white and to reach your goals you need to be creative and work with what you have.”

HeraldScotland:

Another great year for Britain’s top spirit

Britons bought a record 47 million bottles of gin over the last year, up by seven million on 2016 as consumers named the G&T their favourite drink.

Gin moved up from third place last year as 29 per cent of consumers named it their favourite spirit, ahead of whisky (25 per cent) and vodka (23 per cent), the annual poll by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) found.

Sales of the quintessentially British spirit have doubled in value in the last six years to £1.2 billion in the 12 months to September, up from £630 million in 2011, WSTA’s market report figures show.

The equivalent of more than 8.8 million bottles of gin were sold in pubs, bars and restaurants to a value of £729 million, while 38.7 million bottles were sold in shops and supermarkets.

In the 12 weeks up to September, gin sales were up 26 per cent by volume in shops and supermarkets and up 34 per cent by value compared to the same time last year.

The best Scottish gins: what to buy this Christmas

HMRC figures early in the year showed that gin exports were outperforming those of British beef and soft drinks.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “The latest WSTA market report is showing yet another sparkling result for gin sales in the UK.

“The British public show no signs of growing tired of trying new gins with well over 100 brands now available on the UK market. It comes as no surprise that gin has climbed to the top of a poll of most popular spirit drinks.”

The spirit’s popularity has seen producers offering up an increasing range of locally-sourced botanicals, such as seaweed, rhubarb and Christmas gins with frankincense and myrrh.

Herald View: Why Scottish gin should be made in Scotland

A total of 45 new distilleries opened in the UK during 2016, according to HMRC, taking the total to an estimated 273, more than double 2012’s 128.

In March, the Office for National Statistics added it to its shopping basket of goods used to calculate inflation.