Buckfast monks make record £8.8m

By Jonathan Morris
BBC News Online

Image caption, A Scottish sheriff said there was was a "very definite association between Buckfast and violence"

Monks who make Buckfast tonic wine linked to violent crime in Scotland raked in a record £8.8m in a year.

Sales of the caffeine-fuelled wine made at Buckfast Abbey in Devon make up most of the income to its charitable trust.

The abbey said it was "saddened" by the "judge's opinion" that a "small number of people in Scotland are not enjoying Buckfast in a responsible way".

Figures from the Charity Commission showed Buckfast Abbey Trust's income was £8.8m in 2014-15, the latest year for which figures are available.

The caffeinated wine, sometimes known as Bucky, has been made at the Benedictine abbey since the 1920s.

Image caption, The drink has been made by the Benedictine monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon since the 1920s and a new winery was built in 2011

Buckfast wine

  • In the 1920s Benedictine brothers developed tonic wine sold from the abbey
  • The base wine was first imported from Spain, and nowadays from France
  • Ingredients include red wine, phosphates, caffeine and vanillin
  • In 1927 distribution and sales were passed to J Chandler in Andover, Hampshire
  • In 2011 a new winery was completed at the abbey. The site has four vats, each holding 130,000 litres of wine

The abbey trust is a shareholder in the wine's distributor and seller, J Chandler, based in Hampshire, and gets a royalty fee for every bottle sold.

The monks have invested millions of pounds in the restoration of the abbey and visitor facilities and have also earmarked £3m for updating its 33-bedroom hotel and its conference centre.

'Marketed responsibly'

The abbey declined to give figures for income directly from wine sales, saying it was "commercially sensitive" and said the hotel and conference centre "also contributed to the increase in income".

It also said the trust "strives to work with J Chandler and Co to ensure that the tonic wine is marketed and distributed responsibly".

"The majority of people who drink the tonic wine do so responsibly," it said, adding that it supported charities such as Drinkaware.

Image caption, The Devon-made drink Buckfast, or Bucky as it is known locally, is well known on the streets of Scotland

Last week Dundee Sheriff Court heard about an attack on a boy by a teenager who had downed two-and-a-half bottles of the caffeinated tonic wine.

Sheriff Alastair Brown told the court: "Someone who drinks two-and-a-half bottles of Buckfast is drinking something which is often seen as a feature of cases involving violence.

"I'm aware that the monks of Buckfast Abbey advertise this as something to be taken in moderation.

"The fact is that some people drink far too much of it and get violent."

Between 2010 and 2012, Strathclyde Police said Buckfast was mentioned in almost 6,500 crime reports.

Image caption, The monks have invested millions of pounds in the restoration of the abbey and visitor facilities and have earmarked £3m for updating its hotel and its conference centre

Alcohol Focus Scotland, the national charity on preventing alcohol-related harm, said consumption of Buckfast was "very small" compared with overall alcohol consumption in Scotland.

But there was "increasing international evidence about the specific risks associated with caffeinated alcoholic drinks", said chief executive Alison Douglas.

"We know from police figures that Buckfast is mentioned in thousands of anti-social behaviour and crime reports in certain parts of the country," she said.

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) said it was concerned a focus on caffeinated alcoholic drinks, and specifically Buckfast, "might encourage complacency about other products".

Eric Carlin, SHAAP director, said there was a "need for changes in drinking behaviours of many people across all of our communities".

Police declined to comment further.

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