Buckfast Tonic Wine

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Buckfast Tonic Wine
A bottle of Buckfast Tonic Wine, bought from the Buckfast Abbey shop
TypeFortified wine with caffeine
ManufacturerBuckfast Abbey
DistributorJ. Chandler & Company (Great Britain)
James E McCabe Ltd (Northern Ireland)
Richmond Marketing (Republic of Ireland)
Region of originDevon
Alcohol by volume 15.0% (UK)
14.8% (Ireland)
Ingredientsfortified wine, caffeine
VariantsGreen Bottled (UK)
Brown Bottled (Ireland)
Related productsMistella

Buckfast Tonic Wine is a caffeinated alcoholic drink consisting of fortified wine with added caffeine,[2] originally made by monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England. It is now made under a licence granted by the monastery, and distributed by J. Chandler & Company in Great Britain, James E McCabe Ltd in Northern Ireland,[3] and Richmond Marketing Ltd in Ireland. It is based on a traditional recipe from France. The wine's distributor reported record sales of £43.2 million as of March 2017.[4]

Despite being marketed as a tonic, Buckfast has become notorious in some parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland for its association with ned culture and antisocial behaviour.[5] High retail sales are recorded in Lurgan, as well as throughout the Central Lowlands including Glasgow and the surrounding areas of East Kilbride, Hamilton, Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Cambuslang, Airdrie and Coatbridge.


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".[6]

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 be less of a patent medicine and more of a medicated wine.[6]

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, where it has been nicknamed "Lurgan champagne", is the same as that sold in the rest of the UK.[7][8]


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.

Both versions of the drink contain phosphate and glycerophosphate, each of these as the sodium and/or potassium salt.

The "brown bottle" Buckfast sold in Ireland has a caffeine content similar to an espresso coffee (60 mg/100 ml) and higher than Red Bull (32 mg/100 ml). The UK-sold "green bottle" Buckfast has a caffeine content higher than black tea but lower than coffee (37,5 mg/100 ml). [9][10]

Antisocial image[edit]

Photo of an empty bottle of Buckfast Tonic Wine
Buckfast's perception as being involved with street drinking, public intoxication and anti-social behaviour has caused controversy in Scotland.

In certain parts of Scotland, Buckfast is associated with drinkers who are prone to committing anti-social behaviour when drunk, especially drinkers under 18 years old.[11][12] The drink has a very high caffeine content, with each 750 ml bottle containing the equivalent of eight cans of cola.[13] It has been suggested that this may cause it to act as a stimulant, while removing inhibitions, self-control and a feeling of having drunk enough. Research into similar drinks have failed to find clear evidence for the latter effect.[14] A diet of four bottles a day has been described in a Scottish court as 'not conducive to a long life'.[15]

Buckfast has been viewed as emblematic of the problems of areas of Scotland suffering from deindustrialisation, such as this disused betting shop in Easterhouse.[16]

The beverage has entered the popular lexicon with nicknames such as "Wreck the Hoose Juice",[17][18][19] "Commotion Lotion",[17][18] "Cumbernauld Rocket Fuel",[18] "Mrs. Brown",[17] "Buckie Baracas",[20] "Coatbridge Table Wine", "Jakey Juice" ,[20] and a bottle of "What the hell are you looking at?"[20] It has earned the unofficial slogan, "Buckfast: gets you fucked fast".[19] The drink's prominence within the "Buckfast/Buckie Triangle" – an area east of Glasgow between Airdrie, Coatbridge and Bellshill – has raised concern.[19][20][21] The glass bottle has been blamed for allegedly contributing to litter and providing drunkards with a weapon.[18][20]

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.[22][23] There have been numerous calls for the drink to be banned, either throughout the country or in certain areas or shops, made more expensive to dissuade people from buying the product, or sold in plastic bottles to reduce glassing incidents. Helen Liddell, former Secretary of State for Scotland, called for the wine to be banned.[24]

In 2005, Scottish Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson 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".[25] All of these initiatives have been countered by lawyers acting for Buckfast distributors, J. Chandler & Company, in Andover.[24][26] A further consequence was that Buckfast sales increased substantially in the months following Jamieson's comments.[23]

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.[27] 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 badge of pride amongst those who are involved in antisocial behaviour."[5] 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."[5]

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 to 2009, equating to an average of three per day. In 2017, Scottish Police reported there had been 6,500 crimes related to the drink in the previous two years.[28] 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 that of the 117 people who drank alcohol before committing their crimes, 43 per cent said they had drunk Buckfast. In another study of litter around a typical council estate in Scotland, 35 per cent of the items identified as rubbish were Buckfast bottles.[11][29]

In 2016, a sheriff said there was a "very definite association between Buckfast and violence" while sentencing a man for hitting a 15-year-old boy over the head with a bottle at a birthday party.[30] In January 2018, a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh heard that a man had consumed lager and a whole bottle of Buckfast before ferociously stabbing a workmate.[31]

In July 2017, the British trade magazine The Grocer reported that increased sales of Buckfast in southeast England had pushed the drink up to 91 on the UK's top 100 alcoholic brands. The increased sales followed a marketing campaign to improve the drink's image.[28]

In 2017, thousands of empty Buckfast bottles were recovered during a clean-up of the Claddagh Basin in Galway, Ireland.[32]

Manufacturer's response[edit]

A Buckfast Wine tanker on the A38 in Devon.

The monks of Buckfast Abbey and their distribution partner, J. Chandler & Company, deny that their product is harmful, saying that it is responsibly and legally enjoyed by the great majority of purchasers. They point out that the areas identified with its acute misuse have been economically deprived for decades and Buckfast represents less than one per cent of the total alcohol sales across Scotland.[33] Abbot of Buckfast Abbey, David Charlesworth, has said that the tonic wine his monastery produces "is not made to be abused".[34]

In February 2013, J. Chandler & Company applied to the Court of Session in Edinburgh 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 antisocial behaviour that's caused by the distribution and the consumption of Buckfast. They even refuse to change the glass bottles to plastic bottles despite overwhelming evidence that large areas in play parks and certain areas in Scotland are littered with this green glass".[35][36]

In February 2014, the case was settled without any judgment being made by the court. Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson of Police Scotland apologised to J. Chandler & Co for asking a shopkeeper to stop selling Buckfast and gave written undertakings not to include the product in any bottle-marking scheme, unless it has "reasonable grounds" for doing so, and "not to request licensed retailers, situated anywhere in Scotland, to cease stocking for sale Buckfast Tonic Wine".[37]

In 2016 sales of Buckfast Tonic Wine reached record yearly profits of £8.8 million. The abbey trust, which is a shareholder of the Hampshire-based wine's distributor and seller, J. Chandler, gets a royalty fee for every bottle sold. Although the trust declined to release specific sales figures, it said it "strives to work with J. Chandler and Co to ensure that the tonic wine is marketed and distributed responsibly".[38]

Buckfast Day[edit]

In 2015, a "National Buckfast Day" was set up by fans to honour the tonic wine.[39] The organisers designated the second Saturday of each May National Buckfast Day. The organisers decided to rename the day World Buckfast Day for 2016.[40] By its third year, several celebratory events were held on different continents around the world.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tonic Wine". www.buckfast.org.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Buckfast: a drink with almost supernatural powers of destruction | Empire of Drinks". The Guardian. 27 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Our brands". JE McCabe Wholesalers. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Buckfast tonic wine hits record £43.2m sales high". www.thedrinksbusiness.com. 10 January 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Macdonell, Hamish (20 November 2006). "McConnell joins the war of words on Buckfast, 'a seriously bad drink'". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  6. ^ a b "History of the Tonic Wine". Buckfast Abbey. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  7. ^ McKittrick, David (8 December 2006). "Ireland demands tougher taxes on dreaded 'Buckie'". The Independent on Sunday. London. Archived from the original on 26 February 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
  8. ^ Michael Sheils McNamee (1 August 2017). "Northern Ireland's Buckfast-related arrests hit record high". Belfast Telegraph.
  9. ^ "Caffeine Content of Food and Drugs". Nutrition Action Health Newsletter. Center for Science in the Public Interest. December 1996. Archived from the original on 14 June 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  10. ^ "Caffeine Content of Beverages, Foods, & Medications". Erowid. 17 August 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  11. ^ a b Lyall, Sarah (3 February 2010). "For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  12. ^ Johnston, Jenifer (24 September 2006). "Kerr seeks meeting with Buckfast firm". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  13. ^ Macleod, Fiona (18 January 2010). "Crime link as Buckfast revealed to have as much caffeine as eight colas". The Scotsman. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  14. ^ Benson, Sarah; Verster, Joris C.; Alford, Chris; Scholey, Andrew (2014). "Effects of mixing alcohol with caffeinated beverages on subjective intoxication: A systematic review and meta-analysis". Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 47: 16–21. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.07.008. ISSN 0149-7634. PMID 25036891. S2CID 42390630.
  15. ^ "Drinking four bottles of Buckfast a day 'not conducive to a long life' sheriff tells Dunfermline man". Dunfermline Press. 27 October 2016.
  16. ^ McKenna, Kevin (16 December 2016). "Kevin McKenna's Diary on a love of Buckfast, seasonal drinkers and why the southside needs to 'free the tree'". GlasgowLive. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  17. ^ a b c "Court threat over monks' tipple". BBC News. 14 February 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  18. ^ a b c d Grundhauser, Eric (19 March 2015). "'Wreck the Hoose Juice': The Monks' Wine That Fuels Hooliganism". Slate. The Slate Group. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  19. ^ a b c Beck, John (15 October 2013). "A Voyage into the World of Buckfast: the Drink That Gets You Fucked Fast". Vice. Vice Media, Inc. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  20. ^ a b c d e Heald, Claire (26 September 2006). "Binge drinking - the Benedictine connection". BBC News.
  21. ^ Barr, Damian (3 February 2014). "Life in the Buckfast Triangle: drunk by noon, handcuffed by midnight". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  22. ^ Lyall, Sarah (3 February 2010). "For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  23. ^ a b Macmillan, Arthur (8 May 2005). "Buckfast Sales Surge". The Scotsman. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  24. ^ a b Leishman, David (27 June 2014). "Blame It on the Bucky!: The Positioning of Buckfast Tonic Wine between Acceptability and Transgression". ILCEA [fr] (19). doi:10.4000/ilcea.2412. ISSN 1639-6073. S2CID 142927306.
  25. ^ "Buckfast yobs give Jamieson hard time". Archived from the original on 10 March 2006. Retrieved 30 August 2005.
  26. ^ Jamieson, Cathy (3 March 2005). "Letter from the Minister for Justice to Angus G MacLeod" (PDF). Scotland.gov.uk. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  27. ^ Macmillan, Arthur (24 September 2006). "Health minister condemns Buckfast tonic wine". Scotland on Sunday. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  28. ^ a b "England gets a taste for Buckfast, the fortified wine that's linked to crime". The Daily Telegraph. 17 July 2017.
  29. ^ "Buckfast 'in 5,000 crime reports'". BBC News. 18 January 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  30. ^ "'Buckfast breeds violence' Sheriff blasts drink as he sentences thug who attacked boy with bottle at kid's party". Daily Record. 6 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Man jailed for 10 years after workmate knife attack". BBC News. 12 January 2018.
  32. ^ Bradley, Dara (20 February 2017). "Thousands of empty Buckfast bottles found in Claddagh Basin - Connacht Tribune". ConnachtTribune.ie. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  33. ^ "Monks reject crime link to wine". BBC News. 1 February 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  34. ^ "Buckfast monks reject blame for 'tonic wine crime'". BBC News. 25 December 2013.
  35. ^ "Buckfast tonic wine takes police force to court". The Scotsman. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  36. ^ "Buckfast tonic wine takes police to court". the drinks business. 25 February 2013.
  37. ^ Campbell, Glenn (1 February 2014). "Police Scotland apologise in Buckfast tonic wine case". BBC Scotland news. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  38. ^ "Buckfast monks make record £8.8m". BBC News. 14 December 2016.
  39. ^ "Thousands sign up to celebrate first National Buckfast Day". STV News. 5 May 2015.
  40. ^ "World Buckfast Day: 'Buckateers' everywhere celebrate as Scotland's favourite tonic wine goes global". The Daily Record. 11 May 2016.
  41. ^ "World Buckfast Day: Scotland's favourite tonic wine goes global as Bucky fans celebrate". Daily Record. 13 May 2017.

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