Perhaps it is its special caffeine-and-sweet-wine recipe, which allows overly enthusiastic consumers to be tipsy and bouncy at the same time. Perhaps it is its array of snappy nicknames, including “Wreck the Hoose Juice” — hoose being a Scottish pronunciation of house — or its exotic provenance as the product of wine-making Benedictine monks at an abbey in England.
Whatever the cause, Buckfast has emerged as a symbol of Scotland’s entrenched drinking problems at a time when it is urgently debating how to address them. “For a large section of the Scottish population, their relationship with alcohol is damaging and harmful — to individuals, families, communities and to Scotland as a nation,” the Scottish government said in a recent report.
Buckfast does not seem to help. In a survey last year of 172 prisoners at a young offenders’ institution, 43 percent of the 117 people who drank alcohol before committing their crimes said they had drunk Buckfast. In a study of litter in a typical housing project, 35 percent of the items identified were Buckfast bottles. And the police in the depressed industrial district of Strathclyde recently told a BBC program that the drink had been mentioned in 5,638 crime reports between 2006 and 2009 (the bottle was used as a weapon in 114 of them).
A spokesman for J. Chandler & Company, which distributes the drink, said that Buckfast accounted for less than 1 percent of the alcoholic beverage market in Scotland and was being unfairly singled out. Nor, he said, is wine-making a sign that the monks of Buckfast Abbey have strayed from the teachings of St. Benedict, an accusation recently leveled by an Episcopal bishop.
“It’s always wise to remember that Jesus turned water into wine,” the spokesman, Jim Wilson, said in an interview.