40% of Scottish inmates drank Buckie, a caffeinated wine made by monks, before they got arrested

I have fond memories of my roommates and I singing and drinking along with "Bottle of Buckie" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists circa 2006. I gathered that the larger theme of the song had to with Ulster-Scots Protestants; but I didn't know anything about the "Buckie" of the title, beyond the fact that it was pretty clearly some sort of alcohol. Hence, it was fun to drink and sing along to.

By happenstance, I recently discovered this Atlas Obscura article about Buckfast, which they describe as "the caffeinated wine is made by British monks and loved by Scottish criminals."

Each bottle packs 15 percent alcohol and the caffeine equivalent of about 10 cans of Coke. Scots describe the sickly sweet red wine as having a taste like fruit bubblegum and cough medicine. But perhaps more interesting than its flavor are its biggest fans: Buckfast, or "Buckie," is very popular among Scottish criminals. 

Scots have been drinking Buckfast for decades—the earliest advertisements for it date back to the 1930s, in the wine stores of Dundee. Originally, Buckfast grew popular because of its so-called medicinal properties. Billed as a tonic, it could be sold in pharmacies anytime, while other brands of alcohol were available only during designated time periods on weekdays—and not at all on Sundays. As late as the 1960s, the wine was marketed as "a splendid pick-me-up that restores zest and sparkle," available at all good chemists.


While it's not popular among the general Scottish population—Buckfast makes up less than half a percent of all alcohol sales—over 40 percent of prison inmates surveyed by the Scottish Prison Service reported having drunk some quantity of the stuff before their last offense.

I'm going to be honest: now I'm morbidly curious to try the stuff.

Buckfast [Gastro Obscura]

Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons