For centuries the Benedictine monks have produced some fine brews such as the famous ‘Benedictine’ liqueur’ which was produced in 1510. The liqueur is said to be a secret blend of brandy and 27 plants and spices so clearly the monks know a thing or two about blending. In 1862 a group of exiled French Benedictine monks came to Dartmoor and re-established the old monastery. It was in 1880’s that once again the brothers turned their hand to blending alcoholic beverages in the form of ‘Buckfast Tonic Wine’. Originally these were Spanish base wines known as ‘mistellas’ mixed with secret ‘tonic’ ingredients. By the 1920’s the monks were annually selling around 1500 bottles. In 1927 the sales and distribution of the wine was taken over by a London company leaving the monks with simply producing the stuff. Around about the same time the wine was slightly altered to make it a more lighter, mature, medicated wine as opposed to the harsh, original product. Today, the wine is virtually made to this recipe except the mistellas now come from France.
I can remember calling on the assistant beekeeper at Buckfast who gave me a bottle of Buckfast Wine. Now mind, this was no ordinary bottle because its contents were the neat product as opposed to the diluted end product. He told me to be very careful as it contained, “a baby in every bottle”. When asked what he was on about, the reply came, “It’s mighty strong stuff and nearly everyone who has had some have ended up with a baby nine months later”. Hell, what a warning, but as it turned out there was nothing to worry about because when I got it home we had two glasses and woke up in the next morning still on the sofa. In my time I have drunk some powerful brews in varying sorts and quantities, but that beat all! Today, there still sits on the dresser a bottle of Buckfast Wine but now it’s the weaker variety as sold over the counter of the abbey shop. Believe me, even that is enough to earn a visit from the old ‘Tavistock Badger‘.
For many years Buckfast Tonic Wine has been a popular drink in Glasgow where there is now what’s called the ‘Buckfast Triangle’. Anyone who watched the TV series Rab C. Nesbitt will be familiar with the ‘Buckie’ or Buckfast Wine. This is an area east of Glasgow between Airdrie, Coatbridge and Cumbernauld where the wine is consumed with ‘gusto’ to put it mildly. On numerous occasions, the latest being October 2006, the Scottish health minister has held talks with the ‘Buckie’ distributors as there is a great concern that the drink is a main contributor to anti-social behaviour. Indeed a popular Scottish phenomenon is the ‘Buckie Commando’ who is an intoxicated, aggressive, fearless consumer of the Buckfast Tonic Wine. It has been suggested that worldwide the popularity of the drink has become almost a cult following. There now are numerous aliases that the wine is known by, some printable examples are; ‘Commotion Lotion’, ‘Bottle of Fight the World’, ‘Wreck the Hoose Juice’ and ‘Bottle of Fight the World’. There are also numerous cocktails that contain the wine, probably one of the weirdest is the ‘White Monk’ or ‘Buckshake’ which is milk and chilled Buckfast Wine??? Anyone who regularly drives the M5 will be familiar with the large silver tankers zooming up and down with the famous, “Buckfast Tonic Wine” slogan on the side. This is the mistellas wine being delivered to the abbey in readiness for the addition of the ‘secret tonic ingredients’.
Well, there are those who consider the Dartmoor folk to be ‘country yokels, ooo argh’. But ‘ooo, argh’ or not at least we aren’t daft enough to drink the ‘Buckie’ or as ’tis knawn down yer the – ‘Bendyerdick Broth’ we simply export it! ‘Sides, the ‘scrump‘ be enough ter contend with.