In the closes of Niddrie and the stairwells of Pilton the rumours are rife. In Bristo Square and the Meadows park – even in the sophisticated offices of Ed Uncovered – there are whispers that something is afoot.
Is it true? Could it really be?
Is Buckfast, the drink of the gods, under threat?
Say it ain’t so. H–hold me guys.
The rumour appears to have started on Facebook, the place where most groundless rumours start. On the face of it, the story makes no sense. Why would J. Chandler & Co, producers extraordinaire of Govan champagne, pull their prime earner, a product with a turnover of £37 million?
It seems nonsensical.
The mother of all conspiracies
But what if the firm’s hand was forced by external powers? What if the Scottish government applied pressure on the monks of Buckfast Abbey, compelling them to withdraw a product that has been linked with over 5,000 crimes in the past three years?
It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve tried.
Then again, what’s to say the Scottish government would have to be the baddies of the piece? What if the call to ban the stingy pish came from an old adversary. Like, say, the English.
Yes, you read that right. It doesn’t require a tinfoil hat to suspect the Nigels’ involvement; the nectar is brewed on their turf after all.
“Made by the English for the Scots, so they can kill each other,” as a mate memorably put it.
Could the English government have ordered a ban as a giant fuck you to those pesky, breakaway Jocks?
As conspiracy theories go, that’s pretty wack, but then nothing about Buckfast makes much sense. From the mysterious numbering system to the colour of the bottle, Buckaroo provokes strong emotions in its devotees – and that’s before they’ve drunk it.
What is Buckfast?
Click here to read Patrick's report
Despite its popularity in Scotland – to the point where many consider the drink along with whisky and haggis juice to be a staple of the Scottish sideboard – Buckfast has its origins in a French recipe and an English abbey.
Founded in 1018 by King Cnut, Buckfast Abbey in Devon had a long, undistinguished and altogether monk-ish history as a place where not much happened until the 1890s. At that point, the monks living there got their act together and started doing what Benedictine monks do best – brewing a highly-caffeinated alcohol syrup based on traditional French recipes.
The resultant tonic wine-cum-crime slime has been largely ignored in most of the UK (where the perception goes that “it’s for dirty smackheads”). But north of the border, depending on who you ask, Buckie is either regarded as the blood of Christ himself or a cheap and nasty cocktail of stimulants favoured by poor, dirty, violent baboons (read: people from Lanarkshire).
A recent media panic over Buckfast-related assaults, alcohol legislation campaigns and a failed Police Scotland move to label Buckfast with crime-fighting stickers may all have added fuel to the rumour mill.
Here at EdUncovered we’ve heard whispers that Buckfast production is to be halted; that moves are underway to ban Buckfast from Scotland; or even that Westminster will embargo shipments of Buckfast if the Yes vote prevails.
Srs investigative journalism
Like sediment lurking in a #6, the truth was waiting to be found. To get to the bottom of it however, I would have to embark on a digital journey that would take me all the way to the heart of Buckfast HQ – via the Scottish Parliament.
This Ed Uncovered investigation is the culmination of intensive research and relentless tonic swigging. With the aid of EU’s erudite assistant, Patrick, I can reveal the true story behind wreck the hoos juice – its past, present and possible future.
I spoke to Government sources, Buckfast representatives and tonic connoisseurs. But first, in an effort to track down the source of the ungodly rumour, I took to Facebook and asked my mates.
Had they heard the horror story? And if so, were they making contingency plans in the event of the nightmare becoming a reality?
Through the grapevine
Within minutes of hitting up Facebook, I had my first reply. Tek – aka the man behind the Guideline Perfection EP – responded:
“I heard whispers of such a fate but I’m pretty sure it’s been chalked up to just being rumours and hearsay.”
So far, so murky.
The next soldier to reply was Jake, who’d heard a terrifying story:
orite man. there was a post on here saying the main factory?? will be shuttin ‘cos the buckfast that we ken of isnae there first priority, sales wise. Fuck knows what else they’re sellin.. the banter is there’s only 12 uk size loads left. So efter the next 12 deliverys get done countrywide…Nada.
Should The Worst Possible Outcome materialise, Jake had a plan:
“I’ve got 2 boxes coming on wednesday, jist in case.”
He went on to explain:
“I reckon two,” he added confidently.
To bottle or not to bottle?
With the rumour confirmed, I began searching for firm evidence of the tang’s demise. There was little in the way of web chatter, but I did discover this article from December 2013. In it, the Benedictine monks are urged to stop selling Buckfast to young people.
The article then reports:
“Health Minister Alex Neil said it would be “ideal” if the monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon stopped making the drink altogether.”
Altogether? All together now:
Judging by the comments, the Health Minister’s threat had not gone unnoticed:
Could Alex Neil’s remarks have been the source of the Buckfast rumours? Not according to the next mate I spoke to…
Werd on the street
According to the Welcome To Anywhere rapper, someone had shared an article predicting the death of Buckfast – a story which Werd had promptly dismissed as shite.
At my request, he searched for the story before linking me to this article. Werd had been right to be sceptical. The delicious satire included the following paragraph:
George Osborne said: “The stakes couldn’t be higher or the choice clearer. The certainty and syrupy high of Bucky or the uncertainty and risk of brewing your own. At the very heart of this choice is the bottle on your shelf and the very real prospect of having to drink 20/20 instead.”
Buckfast as a weapon for threatening the Scots: it’s an alluring tale – one that feeds on paranoia about England sabotaging independence.
Still, could Facebookers be that gullible? According to Werd, they certainly could:
The mundane but comforting truth – that Buckfast’s future is safe – was reinforced by Jinx, who wrote:
Jinx was right: so far the rumours have all hailed from the East Coast, a part of Scotland not known for its voracious Buckie consumption. If there was any mileage in the story, our West Coast brothers in tonic would surely know.
I picked up the phone and called Glasgow MOG. He promised to ask Delboy, a man whose relationship with the green bottle is maternal.
Upon forwarding the rumour to Delboy, MOG recalled: “He looked at me like I’d just telt him there was nae Santa Claus.”
So it’s true: bad news about Buckfast is strictly an Edinburgh phenomenon – which ties in neatly with the conspiracy. If the government was intent on prying the tonic from our cold dead hands, the last thing they’d want is for Glasgow to get wind of it. The outrage would make the London riots look like a Morris dance.
There was only one way to secure an unequivocal answer: by asking the government directly.
In an earnest email to the Health Secretary, I raised two key questions:
During the course of my investigation, I’ve found widespread evidence that ‘hardcore’ Buckfast drinkers are stockpiling crates of the tonic wine in the fear that it will soon be unavailable.
1. Can you provide assurances, on behalf of law-abiding Buckfast drinkers across the country, that production of Scotland’s national drink will continue?
2. If shops were to stop selling Buckfast, do you fear there would be social unrest?
The government’s response was as prompt as it was robust:
“We are not aware of any rumour about production stopping and so wouldn’t be in a position to comment until there is evidence of this.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is the increasing availability, affordability and excessive consumption of high-strength drinks which causes problems in Scotland. Focusing on only one product misses the real problem of excessive consumption of alcohol.”
“Any restrictions relating to the mixing of alcohol and caffeine would have to be based on evidence of harm. We are not aware of any convincing evidence that mixing alcohol and caffeine causes particular health problems.”
That’s right – the Scottish government just defended Buckfast.
As for the suggestion that Scotland’s national drink should be safeguarded, the spokesperson said: “It really wouldn’t be for the Scottish Government to provide assurances that the production of Buckfast will continue – you would need to speak to the company themselves.”
So that’s what I did.
The answer we’ve waited 1,500 words for?
Tonic is here to stay.
Buckfast representative Jim Wilson told me: “There is no way that Buckfast won’t be available in Scotland. Even if the government tried to ban it, the company would challenge the ruling in the Court of Session and in Europe – it would take forever and a day to legally do it.”
Did you hear that guys?
Delivering more music to our ears, Jim Wilson continued: “Buckfast is a legally accepted product throughout the whole of Europe. There is no way, under European laws of goods and service, that this would happen. You can’t discriminate [against Buckfast] – by the time it had gone through the courts it would have taken years. No one needs to stockpile Buckfast.”
Panic over. Jake, enjoy tanning your 24 case. There’s plenty more where that came from.
After dispelling the unfounded rumours, Jim Wilson also took a moment to deflect criticism regularly levelled against the drink, such as its regular appearance in crime reports.
If Buckfast is so dangerous, he pondered, why is lager referenced in an even higher number of Scottish crime reports? He also stated that vodka isn’t shy to appear in police notebooks either, and that it is related to a disproportionate number of violent crimes.
Is Scotland’s national drink under threat?
The answer to that question is a resounding “No!”, but as a Buckfast drinker and disciple of Betteridge’s law of headlines, you knew that before you even clicked on this article. Still, it sure feels good to have those lingering fears allayed.
Buckfast’s future is safe. Everything is going to be OK. Don’t believe the hype. Grab a bottle, pass it to the left and responsibly savour the sweet, fruity taste of the commotion lotion.
The Secret of Buckfast Abbey
If there really is a secret plot to stem the flow of Buckleberry Gin at the border, who could be behind it? And why would they do such a dastardly thing?
Well, assuming there is such a scheme, the most likely scenario looks like this:
Click here to read more
POLICE SCOTLAND – Fed up with alcohol-fuelled shenanigans, the po-po targeted the source in February 2013. Buckfast was identified as pound-for-punch the most volatile and cheapest bottle bomb since the Molotov. A predictable brew-haha followed.
HOLYROOD – The conspiracy must surely ascend further up the layer cake. Both the SNP and Scottish Labour have specifically singled out Buckfast in their attacks on alcohol, including per-unit pricing and restrictions on caffeine.
Calling off the police to let Parliament handle the problem could be a politically motivated move. We consider it more likely, however, that the scheme was ordered by
THE QUEEN – The queen is a renowned lizard person who controls the minds of everyone within a 5-mile radius of her pulsating head – including everyone who lives and works within Westminster. The clues are in the name, sheeple: ELIZARDbeth from BUCKingham Palace.
She works in conjunction with
THE ZOMBIE NAZIS – Who have buried secret gold deposits in the alien crypts under Balmoral House and Arthur’s Seat. It’s likely, however, that with the rapidly approaching centenary of the royal family’s name change from ‘Battenburg’ to ‘Windsor’, we’ll see Prince Phillip reveal his true face as a shambling undead officer of the Kriegsmarine. This explains his increasing racism and zombie-like face. The true mastermind is, of course, none other than
SEAN CONNERY – His role as a Franciscan monk in 1986’s The Name of the Rose was the perfect cover for our lord and shaviour to spend 6 months as a disciple at Buckfast Abbey, studying his character while under a vow of silence. There, he used his super sleuthing skills to discover the ingredients of the sacred tonic.
He’s spent the last three decades subtly manipulating the course of world politics in an attempt to banish the foul potion from our pure Highland glens forever.
Sean Connery discovered the terrible secret of Buckfast Abbey in order that we may live. He learnt its secret way of knowledge to save us the bother.
All hail our zombie overlord, Sean of the Dead.