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Buckfast Tonic Wine

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Buckfast Tonic Wine, commonly known as Buckfast or Buckie or Tonic, is a fortified wine licensed by Buckfast Abbey in Devon, south west England. It is distributed by J. Chandler & Company.


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 license 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 into distinct brands depending on the market, has achieved popularity in working class, students and bohemian communities in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, Buckfast (packaged in a darker bottle) has a slightly lower alcoholic strength and lacks vanillin flavouring of the British version. Buckfast sold in Northern Ireland is the same as the rest of the UK.

Buckfast has become closely linked to the Scottish ned culture. Due to its notoriety, the drink has also entered the popular culture lexicon in Scotland leading to nicknames, such as "Wreck the Hoose Juice", "Commotion Lotion" and "Mrs. Brown". Other nicknames are "Bucky", "Lurgan Champagne", "Buckie Baracas", "Sauce" and "Coatbridge Table Wine".

Controversy in Scotland

In Scotland, Buckfast is associated with drinkers who are prone to committing anti-social behavior 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 are thought to appeal to underage drinkers. The drink also has a very high caffeine content, with each 750ml bottle containing the equivalent of eight cans of cola.

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.


"Green bottle" Buckfast tonic wine, usually found in the United Kingdom

- Red wine based aperitif, 15% abv.

- Sodium glycerophosphate, an emulsifier.

- Dipotassium phosphate, a protein stabilizer

- Disodium phosphate, a stabilizer and emulsifier.

- Caffeine, 37.5 mg/100ml (i.e. 0.0375 % w/v)

- Vanillin

"Brown bottle" Buckfast variant, typically from Ireland

- Red wine, 14.8% alcohol v/v.

- Sodium and potassium glycerophosphates - both measured at 0.65% w/v.

- Di-sodium phosphate, a stabilizer and emulsifier.

- Caffeine, 55 mg/100ml (i.e. 0.055% w/v)

- Sulfite preservatives.



Buckfast contains 15% alcohol in the 750 ml green-bottled UK version, and 14.8% in the brown-bottled Republic Of Ireland version. That equates to 11.25 units (UK) of ethanol.


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.

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.


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. They are downstream from glucose and therefore can be converted more quickly into energy than glucose. They therefore have a tonic property in people who are depleted of energy.

Glycerophosphate is used in intravenous drip solutions as a source of phosphate, a biologically important ion used in energy-requiring reactions.

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