Country of origin: France Alcohol content: 69% ABV
Élixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse is the progenitor of the world famous Green and Yellow Chartreuse liqueurs and has been produced by the Carthusian monks since 1764, the recipe of 130 aromatic plants and flowers being a well-guarded secret with unmarked botanical mixes used in production so as to conceal the exact blends. The bottle comes in a specially made wooden container that shields the elixir from light which can degrade not only the natural chlorophyl colour, but also the intense flavour.
A complex infusion with many intermingled herbal and spice notes, like an incredibly deep herbal tea with a long, bittersweet finish.
Traditionally served saturating a sugar cube or slightly diluted with sugary water, it can also be added to tea or used like a Chartreuse tincture in cocktails such as a Champs-Élysées.
In 1605 at a Carthusian monastery in Vauvert, Paris, the monks received a gift from Duc Francois Hannibal d’ Estrées: a manuscript for a tonic soon to be nicknamed “The Elixir of Long Life". The manuscript’s recipe was so complex that only bits and pieces were understood and used at Vauvert, producing a red medicinal tonic at 82% ABV. In the early 18th century the manuscript was sent to the Mother House of the order, La Grande Chartreuse in the mountans near Grenoble. The monastery’s apothecary, Frère Jerome Maubec, finally unravelled the mystery and in 1737 drew up the practical formula for production of the Elixir, which began in 1764 with sales in nearby Grenoble and surrounds.
The French Revoloution led to the expulsion of religious orders in 1789 and production ceased until the monks could return and recover the recipe. In 1840 the milder Green and Yellow Chartreuse were released as locals had gradually shifted from using the Elixir medicinally to drinking it diluted as a beverage. The popularity of Chartreuse grew strongly and led to the monks building a new distillery at Fourvoirie to accommodate demand and releasing the now extremely rare White Chartreuse in 1860.
In 1903 the French government nationalised the Chartreuse distillery and the monks were again expelled from France. The distillers went to Spain where they built a new distillery in Tarragona and, from 1921 to 1929, an additional one in Marseille, France. 1929 saw the monks return to Fourvoirie and regain the brand name “Chartreuse”, leading to the resumption of production 1932. This return was short-lived as a landslide destroyed the whole building and part of the stock in 1935. The oak barrels and large copper stills, which remained in good condition, were taken to the nearby town of Voiron where the monks owned a small warehouse and an ageing cellar. Production commenced in Voiron in 1936 with the Tarragona distillery continuing until 1989. A new facility was built in 2017 in Aiguenoire, and production was moved from Voiron with the cellar and a tourist centre remaining.