Produced in a quaint Devonian abbey, but drunk largely in Scottish and Irish sink estates, the “tonic” wine Buckfast is a complex beast. It hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons – labelled a blight on economically deprived areas and the people in them. But the producers – Benedictine monks – and the company responsible for distributing the drink have been keen to distance their product from the woes of the majority of its drinkers. The syrupy wine is boosted with caffeine – more than that of Red Bull percentage-wise. Its fans have called it “liquid speed” and claim it sits halfway between a drink and a drug.
\#14 "Alive!" she cried
One of the main problems with drinking alcohol is the depressive, sedative effect it has on the human body. If you want to keep the party alive – and if you’re considering drinking Buckfast you clearly do – the gargantuan levels of caffeine will keep things going well into the night and all at a price more affordable than vodka and Red Bull combos.
\#13 Thanks for the memories
Many Buckfast drinkers report a noticeable lucidity in their drunkenness – particularly when first starting out on the stuff. If you’re someone whose memory gets a bit fuzzy after a few shandies but for whom drinking less is not an option, this could be the answer. The only drawback may be that what you remember you wish you could forget.
\#12 Bang for buck
Despite the price creeping up in the last 10 years from less that £5 to closer to £8, the explosive contents still make Bucky an attractive option for the more enthusiastic, yet cash-strapped drinker. The “party-in-a-bottle” reputation is a deserved one, and if £8 is your party budget you could find worse ways to spend it. Buy some antacid with the change.
\#11 A brand new drink
If you’re over 25 and you’ve never tried it, it means there’s one truly unique drink out there that you have yet to try. It can be tedious drinking the same things. Lagers, reds, whites and spirits mixed with soft drinks are often the only numbers in our repertoires, so the excitement of trying something as weird and (potentially) wonderful as Bucky could be too much to resist. No promises, however.
\#10 A brand new sport
Should you develop a taste or tolerance for Buckfast, you could go one step further and take the “Bucky challenge” – downing an entire bottle in one go. Not for the faint hearted, the internet is awash with home videos of Scotland’s youth attempting the challenge with varying degrees of success. One the plus side, achieving it could make you famous; on the down side…well, take your pick.
\#9 Drink of the gods
It’s not often you get to drink something made by religious men at a significant catholic site in England. This seeming stamp of approval by the big man himself is just the thing to tip the balance for a Buckfast drinker racked with guilt, regret and indecision. Bear in mind that the producers recommend just one small glass in the evening.
\#8 The sweetest thing
This straddles the two categories nicely, because while some people really like the syrupy, almost vanilla-like medicinal quality of Buckfast’s taste, others – quite rightly in this writer’s opinion – detest the stuff. The sweetness might help explain its widely reported popularity among younger drinkers, but a spoonful of sugar – never mind 20 – doesn’t always help the medicine go down.
\#7 Just the tonic
Despite being a “tonic” wine, the label clearly states this name “does not imply any health-giving or medicinal properties”. No-one who’s ever drunk it will need telling this. The opposite is closer to the truth, and some of the down-sides of regular use – not to mention ab-use – are the inherent health implications. The sugary sweetness will rot your teeth, the 15 per cent alcohol your liver and the reputation of the drink will rot your own social standing.
\#6 Feel the power
Alcohol generally has a kind of inbuilt safety device, which means although you may be blind drunk, you will be generally be taking part in reckless activities at such a slow speed that the damage will at least be limited. Drunk on Buckfast, the high-powered imbecilities you will engage in will ravage your body with scars, bumps, breaks and bruises of the worst kind.
\#5 The look
Much like glue-sniffing, a Buckfast habit is largely the preserve of ne’er-do-well teens and those street-drinking nomads fondly referred to as tramps. Buying a bottle says to the world “I’m getting ripped in the most outrageous way, and I don’t care who knows it”. If this is you, proceed, good sir.
It’s not uncommon for a Buckfast drinker – especially an uninitiated one – to overdo it, booze-wise. Vomiting is a real danger. Clutching your stomach and spewing blood red liquid into the gutter should get any normal person worried. If you think your life could do without a regular fear that you are vomiting blood, perhaps go easy on the Buckfast.
\#3 Mistakes were made
Unfortunately, not everyone has heard of Buckfast, and otherwise upstanding members of the public have unwittingly bought a bottle in the hope it will go well with the spaghetti Bolognese that’s cooking back at home. It won’t, and anyone caught up in this confusion will, perhaps quite rightly, question why such an abomination was ever allowed end up in a wine bottle.
Related: You know you're Glaswegian when...
\#2 You might be a criminal
Buckfast was linked to nearly 7000 crimes in Scotland in the last three years, prompting the country’s Daily Record to describe it as a “Buckfast crimewave.” They reported crimes, including everything from sexual assaults to attempted murder, were linked to the drink. Buckfast distributors – J Chandler and Co – denied the drink was to blame, so perhaps Buckfast is simply the choice drink of criminals. Does this mean you?
\#1 You might be believing the hype
Contrary to Public Enemy’s advice, many people are quick to believe the hype – both the scary press reports and wild promises of Buckfast advocates. Despite no marketing the drink has achieved this cult status in certain areas, but there are many areas where Buckfast is sold and consumed as a normal drink – even France. No figures are collected on the links between any other specific drink in Scotland and crime, so could the statistics be misleading and unfair? Regardless of the hype, there's only one way you'll know what the pros and cons are of a drink with a history far longer than its reputation. Buy a bottle and take the plunge, but perhaps hold off on the Bucky challenge until you're a pro.