Buckfast Tonic Wine

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A bottle of Buckfast Tonic Wine, bought from the Buckfast Abbey shop
A Buckfast Wine tanker on the A38 in Devon.

Buckfast Tonic Wine, commonly known as Buckfast or Buckie, is a fortified wine licensed from Buckfast Abbey in Devon and distributed by J. Chandler & Company in the United Kingdom and Grants of Ireland in Ireland.


The wine, which is still manufactured using many of the same ingredients, is based on a traditional recipe from France. The Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey first made the tonic wine in the 1890s. It was originally sold in small quantities as a medicine using the slogan "Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood".

In 1927 the Abbey lost its licence to sell wine. As a result, the Abbot allowed wine merchants to distribute on behalf of the Abbey. At the same time, the recipe was changed to increase the appeal of the product. These changes resulted in increased sales. Modern bottles carry a notice stating that the wine does not have tonic properties of the type claimed by the former slogan.

The wine, which comes in distinct brands depending on the market, has achieved popularity in working class, student and bohemian communities in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, Buckfast is packaged in a darker bottle, has a slightly lower alcoholic strength, and lacks the vanillin flavouring present in the British version. Buckfast sold in Northern Ireland is the same as the that sold in the rest of the UK.[1]

Buckfast has become associated with anti-social behaviour in Scotland and has entered the popular lexicon with nicknames such as "Wreck the Hoose Juice", "Commotion Lotion", "Mrs. Brown",[2] "Buckie Baracas" and "Coatbridge Table Wine".[3]

Controversy in Scotland[edit]

In Scotland, Buckfast is associated with drinkers who are prone to committing anti-social behaviour when drunk, especially drinkers under 18 years old. Its high strength (15% ABV/14.8% in the Republic of Ireland), relatively low price and sweetness are characteristics that appeal to under-age drinkers.[4] The drink also has a very high caffeine content, with each 750ml bottle containing the equivalent of eight cans of cola.[5]

Several Scottish politicians and social activists have singled out Buckfast Tonic Wine as being particularly responsible for crime, disorder, and general social deprivation in these communities. Although Buckfast accounts for only 0.5% of alcohol sales in Scotland, the figure is markedly higher in Lanarkshire.[6][7] Helen Liddell, former Secretary of State for Scotland, called for the wine to be banned. In 2005 Scottish Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson MSP, suggested that retailers should stop selling the wine. On a subsequent visit to Auchinleck within her constituency, she was greeted by teenagers chanting, "Don't ban Buckie".[8] Jamieson then received correspondence from lawyers acting for Buckfast distributors, J. Chandler & Company, in Andover.[9] A further consequence was that Buckfast sales increased substantially in the months following Jamieson's comments.[7]

In September 2006, Andy Kerr, the Scottish Executive's Health Minister, described the drink as "an irresponsible drink in its own right" and a contributor to anti-social behaviour. The distributors denied the claims and accused him of showing "bad manners" and a "complete lack of judgement" regarding the drink.[10] Kerr met with J. Chandler & Company to discuss ways of lessening Buckfast's impact on west Scotland but the talks broke up without agreement. Three months later, Jack McConnell, First Minister of Scotland stated that Buckfast had become a "a badge of pride amongst those who are involved in antisocial behaviour."[11] In response the distributors accused the Scottish Executive of trying to avoid having to deal with the consequences of failed social policy and the actual individuals involved in antisocial behaviour by blaming it on the drinks industry.[citation needed]

In January 2010 a BBC investigation revealed that Buckfast had been mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in the Strathclyde area of Scotland from 2006–2009, equating to an average of three per day. One in 10 of those offences had been violent and 114 times in that period a Buckfast bottle was used as a weapon. A survey at a Scottish young offenders’ institution showed of the 117 people who drank alcohol before committing their crimes, 43 percent said they had drunk Buckfast. In another study of litter around a typical council estate in Scotland, 35 percent of the items identified as rubbish were Buckfast bottles.[12][13]

The Buckfast distribution company, J. Chandler & Company, applied to the Court of Session in Edinburgh in February 2013 to stop Strathclyde Police from marking bottles of Buckfast so they could trace where under-age drinkers bought them. A company spokesman complained, "This is discrimination at the highest level. Buckfast is no more involved in crime than any other brand of alcohol." A former head of the Scottish Police Federation said: "Buckfast, the distributors and the lawyers who act on behalf of the monks refuse, point blank, to take any responsibility for the anti-social behaviour that's caused by the distribution and the consumption of Buckfast. Buckfast is a scourge on the young folk, they drink it to excess because of the alcohol content, the caffeine content and basically it drives them crazy. They spend half the night running amok, engaging in anti-social behaviour."[14]

The monks of Buckfast Abbey and their distribution partners deny that their product is particularly harmful, saying that it is responsibly and legally enjoyed by the great majority of purchasers. They also point out that the areas identified with its acute misuse have been economically deprived for decades and Buckfast represents less than one percent of the total alcohol sales across Scotland.[15]


The active ingredients listed below are those mentioned on the bottle label.

Green bottle Buckfast[edit]

This variant is found in the United Kingdom.

Brown bottle Buckfast[edit]

This variant is found in the Republic of Ireland.


Buckfast contains 15% alcohol in the 750 ml green-bottled UK version, and 14.8% in the brown-bottled Republic of Ireland version, which equates to roughly 11.25 UK units of alcohol.

The "brown bottle" Buckfast has a caffeine content about equal to brewed or percolated coffee, while the "green bottle" Buckfast has a caffeine content about equal to black tea.[16][17] However, according to Alex Riley's Britain's Really Disgusting Drinks, the "green bottle" Buckfast contains the caffeine normally contained within six cups of coffee. The series also mentions that drop for drop, Buckfast has more caffeine than Red Bull.[18]

Both variants of the drink contain disodium phosphate. Sodium and potassium glycerophosphate are salts of glycerol 3-phosphate, a biologically important sugar which has a role in cellular energy metabolism. Both glycerol-3-phosphate and its close relative 3-phosphoglycerate are intermediaries in the glycolysis pathway, the major biochemical pathway for energy production in animals. Glycerophosphate is used in intravenous drip solutions as a source of phosphate, a biologically important ion used in energy-requiring reactions.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McKittrick, David (2006-12-08). "Ireland demands tougher taxes on dreaded 'Buckie'". The Independent on Sunday (London). Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  2. ^ "Court threat over monks' tipple". BBC News. 14 February 2005. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  3. ^ Heald, Claire (2006-09-26). "Binge drinking - the Benedictine connection". BBC News. 
  4. ^ Hall, Sarah (2002-12-14). "New wave of 'sophisticated' alcopops fuels teenage binge drinking". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  5. ^ Macleod, Fiona (2010-01-18). "Crime link as Buckfast revealed to have as much caffeine as eight colas". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  6. ^ Lyall, Sarah (February 3, 2010). "For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  7. ^ a b Macmillan, Arthur (2005-05-08). "Buckfast Sales Surge". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Jamieson, Cathy (2005-03-03). "Letter from the Minister for Justice to Angus G MacLeod". Scotland.gov.uk. Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  10. ^ Macmillan, Arthur (2006-09-24). "Health minister condemns Buckfast tonic wine". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  11. ^ Macdonell, Hamish (2006-11-20). "McConnell joins the war of words on Buckfast, 'a seriously bad drink'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  12. ^ "Buckfast 'in 5,000 crime reports'". BBC News. 2010-01-18. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  13. ^ Lyall, Sarah (2010-02-04). "For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  14. ^ Buckie bosses get set to go to war with cops over labelling The Sun, 2013-02-22.
  15. ^ "Monks reject crime link to wine". BBC News. 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  16. ^ "Caffeine Content of Food and Drugs". Nutrition Action Health Newsletter. Center for Science in the Public Interest. December 1996. Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  17. ^ "Caffeine Content of Beverages, Foods, & Medications". Erowid. 2009-08-17. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  18. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00tthry/Britains_Really_Disgusting_Drinks/ |accessdate=2010-09-17
  19. ^ New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, Data Sheet: Glycophos . Retrieved 2 April 2010.

External links[edit]