Friday, October 08, 2010

a bottle of fight the world

A website about Buckfast's source locality, Dartmoor, informs us that

a popular Scottish phenomenon is the 'Buckie Commando' who is an intoxicated, aggressive, fearless consumer of the Buckfast Tonic Wine... There now are numerous aliases that the wine is known by, some printable examples are; 'Commotion Lotion', 'Wreck the Hoose Juice' and 'Bottle of Fight the World'.

Strathclyde police confirm that there were

448 mentions of "Buckfast" in reports of murders, attempted murders, serious assaults and common assaults in 2008-09, out of a total of 7,483 violent offences. That equates to 6% of the total.

Of these 114 involved the use of a Buckfast bottle as a weapon. This equates to 1.5% of the total

A BBC investigation adds

This echoes a study carried out in 2007 at Polmont Young Offenders Institution. It found that of those offenders who had been drinking immediately before their offence, more than 40% had been drinking Buckfast.

The man who conducted that research, Alasdair Forsyth, says the findings were remarkable. "This is a product, a brand which unusually for any product, is always trumpeting how few units they sell, that they sell less than half of 1% of all the alcohol in Scotland," he says.

This has led to moves within the Scottish parliament to ban Buckfast in the country.

As Monty Python observed, 'contemporary government applies one standard to violence within the community and another to violence perpetrated by one community upon another'. There are times when that enhanced, fearless fighting spirit comes in handy. Are you being bombed by Nazis? Bucky will make it all palatable. This advert ran in the British press during the Second World War.

Buckfast Tonic Wine is made by a secret process and to a formula perfected by the monks many years ago. It is still made with the same unhurried care at Buckfast Abbey in the calm of the Devon Hills. Its recuperative properties are invaluable to meet the strain of war time conditions.

Nerves and depression are largely physical, the result of an unaccustomed drain on your strngth and vigour. A wineglassful of Buckfast two or three times a day will quickly restore your energies and help to maintain your strength and mental poise.

They were not the first to spot its propensity for making people confident in violent circumstances. Those commanding the first world war knew that turning petrified shellshocked boys into Buckie Commandoes would be good for the chances of victory. According to Lyn Macdonald's book Somme, British troops were issued with an English-French phrase book sponsored by Wincarnis Tonic Wine with the slogan 'for the relief of nerves in the trenches'.

Indeed, in July 1916 as the Battle of the Somme was raging the British Journal of Nursing listed Wincarnis, saying

the primary effect is immediate stimulation and invigoration of the system, and the secondary an upbuilding of mental and physical vigour, and that as the secondary follows immediately after the primary effect, the upbuilding of bodily vigour occurs before the stimulating effect has worn off

A bottle of fight the world indeed. Wincarnis was originally called Liebig’s Extract of Meat and Malt Wine. The subsequent brand name 'win-carnis' means 'wine-meat'. These days they make it without actual meat, and nothing of Buckfast's altercation-inviting caffeine avalanche, but it's still a right radge tipple.

We should perhaps be grateful that Buckfast only augments its alcohol with caffeine. When tonic wines became popular in the late 1800s, many of them

used potent, poorly understood and often addictive ingredients. These included strychnine, morphine, opium, quinine, lithium salts and cocaine.

Buckfast with cocaine? Imagine the possibilities.

Graham Harding's book A Wine Miscellany informs us that

Coca wine, with cocaine, was already flourishing in late nineteenth-century America when Dr. John S. Pemberton created his “French Wine Coca” in 1886. He was a latecomer to the market, which was dominated by Angelo Mariani’s Coca Wine. This product, conceived and marketed by a French priest, added cocaine to wine.
Pemberton added both kola nuts and damiana (a natural aphrodisiac) to his drink and marketed it as an aid to overcoming morphine addiction. It was advertised as an “intellectual beverage” with the capacity to “invigorate the brain.”

Cocaine was removed from the drink in 1904, though the Coca-Cola Company continued to use “decocainised” coca leaves as flavoring for some decades. It is possible that they may still do so.

In 2002, the Bolivian authorities authorized the export of 159 tons of coca leaf to the United States “for the manufacturing of the soft drink, Coca-Cola.” The company was equivocal in its response to inquiries. “The formula for Coca-Cola is a very closely guarded trade secret. Therefore we do not discuss the formula.” Make of that what you will.


David said...

Really interesting post but I don't think that Buckfast causes people to become violent, I think it is more to do with the kind of people who drink it. In fact I think these people would cause trouble or behave violently regardless of what they were drinking. I worked in an off-license when I was a student and trust me it was almost exclusively scumbags that were buying Buckfast.

Dunc said...

I don't think that Buckfast causes people to become violent

Arse. I'm about as peaceful and mild-mannered a man as you'd ever want to meet, but after a bottle of Buckie I could get into a fight in solitary confinement. Other drinks do not have anything like the same effect, because they don't contain the caffeine equivalent of half a litre of espresso.

There's plenty of "scumbags" (as you call them) drinking Special Brew and Tennant's Super (in fact, these tend to be the preferred option for the real hardcore), but those beverages are not involved in violent crime at anything like the same rate.

merrick said...

David, as Dunc says many radge folks and street drinkers quaff super strong lager without doing the same violence as Bucky is associated with.

Also, how can you know whether Bucky has caused or exacerbated their 'scumbag'ness, as opposed to your contention that they drink it in response to being that way?