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Buckfast tonic makes monks £8.8m

Sales of the caffeinated tonic wine Buckfast helped its Benedictine monk producers generate a record £8.8 million for their charitable trust in the 2014/15 financial year.

Buckfast Tonic has been made by the Benedictine monks in Devon since the 1920s

The caffeinated wine, made at Buckfast Abbey in Devon and sometimes known as ‘Bucky’ in Scotland, has been made at the Benedictine abbey since the 1920s.

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

While the breakdown of where this income came from was not specified, the vast majority of income to the monk’s charitable trust is made up from sales of the wine, which is made from red wine, phosphates, caffeine and vanillin.

£7.3 of the trust’s income was derived from “trading to raise funds”, which would include income generated by Buckfast.

While sales appear to be healthy as ever, the monks have battled against the tonic’s links to violent, behaviour, particularly in Scotland.

As reported by the BBC, between 2010 and 2012, Strathclyde Police said Buckfast was mentioned in almost 6,500 crime reports.

Last week a Scottish sheriff said there was a “very definite association between Buckfast and violence”.

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

“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.”

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”.

Last year the monks released its tonic in miniatures for the first time, with the 50ml bottles put on sale after brand owner J Chandler & Co claimed that it had been “inundated” with requests from collectors and fans wishing to give them as gifts. An initial trial run of 9,000 bottles was releases, priced at £2 each.

In 2015, Buckfast threatened to sue the BBC over a claim made on a Radio 4 show that the drink causes more deaths in the UK than heroin.

Host Simon Evans said on his show Simon Evans Goes to Market: “These monks buy the cheapest red wine available from the continent’s industrial drip trays and beef it up with highly caffeinated cough syrup”.

Buckfast has been at pains to improve its image lately, even enlisting the help of Michelin-starred chef Martin Blunos in July to help promote the drink as a cooking and cocktail ingredient.


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