© Tristan Zilberman
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The Chartreuse, a liqueur

One hundred and thirty plants… Even today this is all we know about the recipe of the Chartreuse. If you don’t know all the manufacturing secrets, discover part of the history of this fabulous liqueur!

History of the Charterhouse in 5 key dates

1605 : The Marshal of Estrées gives the monks of the Chartreuse de Vauvert, in Paris, a manuscript revealing the formula of an “elixir” (containing almost all the medicinal plants of the time), the origin of which no one knows. The apothecary of the Grande-Chartreuse, Brother Jérôme Maubec, was commissioned to study it. He succeeded in definitively fixing the formula of what became the Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse.

1764 : The Chartreuse Verte, 55° known as “Liqueur de santé”, is perfected. Its success was immediate, but limited to the Dauphiné region.

1840 : The formula of the Chartreuse Verte is adapted to produce a milder and less alcoholic liqueur, the “Chartreuse Jaune”, quickly nicknamed “la Reine des Liqueurs”.

1903 : The Carthusian monks are expelled from France. They take away their secret and set up a distillery in Tarragona in Spain to make the liqueur. Liqueur that they will also make in Marseille from 1921 and until 1929, under the name of “Tarragona”. They returned to France some twenty years later, in their former Fourvoirie distillery, in the commune of St Laurent du Pont, near the Grande Chartreuse Monastery.

1935 : The buildings of Fourvoirie are destroyed in 1935 by a landslide. Production was then transferred to Voiron, where it is still carried out, after the plant selection work carried out inside the Monastery itself.

Manufacturing today

Only the Carthusian Fathers know the names of the 130 plants used to make the Chartreuse liqueur; 2 Carthusian monks, Dom Benoit and Brother Jean-Jacques, are in charge of the production.

The 18 tons of plants needed each year are delivered to the Grande-Chartreuse Monastery in St Pierre de Chartreuse. In the “plant room”, the dried plants are sorted, crushed, weighed and mixed according to the recipe of 1605. Then they are delivered to the Voiron distillery in large numbered bags.

Distillation: The plants are macerated in alcohol and then poured into the stills. Under the effect of heat, the alcohol takes on the scent of the plants and evaporates and then condenses in a coil bathed in cold water. At the end of the distillation process, a liquid is obtained, called an alcoholate.
The different alcoholates are then mixed, with the addition of distilled honey, sugar syrup and the decoction of plants which gives the liqueur its natural colour.
The Carthusian monks are the only liquorists in the world to know the secret of the green colouring by plants.

The ageing cellar: After several years of ageing in oak casks, the liqueur is analysed by the Carthusian monks, who are the only ones to decide whether the liqueur can be bottled and marketed.