English Monks Making Millions on Caffeinated Wine Known for Causing Rowdy Behavior

By Mike Pomranz |
buck fast

© Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images

Many Americans are probably familiar with Four Loko – the sugary, malt beverage once packed with caffeine that was equal parts booze and energy drink. The brand became so controversial for creating reckless behavior that it eventually had to ax its caffeine content. Now imagine if Four Loko was produced by English monks with earnings going to support the trust of their abbey and you basically have Buckfast – a 15 percent ABV, sweet, caffeinated tonic wine that some consider to be the bane of Scotland.

According to CNBC, just last week, a judge in Scotland suggested there was a “very definite association between Buckfast and violence.” You’d think the religious types who inhabit the Buckfast Abbey would be disappointed to hear this – and indeed, the abbey said it was “saddened” by the opinion – but apparently Buckfast tonic wine is also big business, earning the abbey about $11 million last year – a record amount for the abbey’s trust with wine sales accounting for almost all of that income.

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In defense of its signature product, the abbey reportedly responded by saying it was upset that a “small number of people in Scotland are not enjoying Buckfast in a responsible way.” However, some question just how “small” that number is. According to the BBC, between 2010 and 2012, police in the Strathclyde region of Scotland said Buckfast was mentioned in almost 6,500 crime reports – which doesn’t seem like the best way to build word of mouth.

It’s easy to see why the drink gets people riled up: Not only does Buckfast clock in at 15 percent ABV, but each 750 milliliter bottle also has 375 milligrams of caffeine, more than what is found in three Red Bulls – all at a price well under $10. Despite those numbers, Buckfast Abbey insists everything is on the up-and-up. “The majority of people who drink the tonic wine do so responsibly,” the BBC quoted the abbey as saying. Regardless, something makes me think this isn’t the kind of wine where people are breaking out their finest glassware and sipping it alongside a nice roast.

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