CHARTREUSE (Spirit Review)

By 1100/1200 A.D.  distillation was spreading rapidly throughout Europe. In an era of widespread poverty and pestilence Christian monks were the most educated members of society.  In addition to the habit they also took on the guise of physician, professor of medicine and alchemist. With the desire to create liquid antidotes for rife and far spreading illnesses the monks concocted creations using a myriad of herbs, barks and botanicals, the base of which would have been wine, grain or fruit based eau-de-vies .

Attributed to an order of Carthusian monks dating back to 1084  and with a recipe dated 1605  Chartreuse is perhaps the best known example of a monasterial liqueur. Only two Chartreuse Monks  (“Carthusians”) – Dom Benoît and Brother Jean-Jacques – know the names of the130 herbs and plants used to make Chartreuse : the ones mentioned in the manuscript they have been given more than 400 years ago.. They are also the only ones who know which plants they have to macerate to produce the 100%  natural colours.

GREEN CHARTREUSE Alcohol content : 55% (110° proof ) Wine Enthusiast: “This light green liquid features musky, herbal and botanical aromas: star anise, tarragon, basil and Dutch licorice. Flavors are bold and sweet, with a slight earthiness and alcohol heat. Finishes sharp, herbal, grassy, floral and complex. Thick and viscous. A classic for gin-based cocktails”

YELLOW CHARTREUSE 40% alcohol (80° proof ) Milder and sweeter than the famous Green Chartreuse, Yellow Chartreuse was introduced to the world in 1838. It also is presented in the traditional Chartreuse liqueur bottle embossed with the seal of La Grande Chartreuse. Its colour is entirely natural with no artificial flavours or preservatives.

How is it made today:

18 tons of herbs are delivered to the Grande-Chartreuse Monastery each year.
There, in the “Herb Room”, they are dried, crushed, and mixed in different series. Each serie is then kept in a bag carefully numbered and taken to the distillery in Voiron.

The Distillery in Voiron

In this room, only the 2 Monks – and 2 laymen helping them – may enter. Each series of herbs and plants macerates in alcohol. Each maceration is then distilled for about 8 hours. Since the 19th century the Monks have used the copper stills. A last maceration of plants gives its color to the liqueur. A final control is made by the Monks before the Chartreuse liqueur can be put to age in the oak-casks of the maturing cellar

The Ageing Cellar in Voiron

It is the largest liqueur cellar in the world : 164 metres long. Chartreuse ages in oak casks from Russia, Hungary or France. After several years, the Chartreuse Monks will test the liqueur and decide if it is ready to be bottled. Only they can take this decision.

The bottling line

The automated bottling-line is located on the ground floor above the cellar.

What to make with it?


1  part Green Chartreuse 1  part London Dry Gin 1  part Maraschino Liqueur  1  part Fresh Lime Juice

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