The Order of Chartreuse was more than 500 years old when, in 1605, at a Chartreuse monastery in Vauvert, a small suburb of Paris, the monks received a gift from Duc Francois Hannibal d’Estrées: an already ancient manuscript from an “Elixir” soon to be nicknamed “Elixir of Long Life”. This manuscript was probably the work of a 16th century alchemist with a great knowledge of herbs and with the skill to blend, infuse, macerate the 130 of them to form a perfect balanced tonic. The manuscript’s recipe was so complex that only bits and pieces of it were understood and used at Vauvert. At the beginning of the 18th century, the manuscript was sent to the Mother House of the Order, La Grande Chartreuse, in the mountains not far from Grenoble. The Monastery’s Apothecary, Frère Jérôme Maubec, finally unravelled the mystery and, in 1737, drew up the practical formula for the preparation of the Elixir in 1764. In 1903, the French government nationalized the Chartreuse distillery and the monks were expelled. When it went bankrupt in 1929, the Monks regained ownership of the Chartreuse trademark. They returned to their distillery, which had been built in 1860 at Fourvoirie, not far from the Monastery, and resumed production of the true Chartreuse liqueurs. In 1935, Fourvoirie was almost destroyed by a landslide; manufacturing was transferred to Voiron where it is today.
The selection, crushing and mixing of the secret herbs, plants and other botanicals used in producing the liqueurs is done in the monastery by two monks. Once mixed the ingredients are taken to Voiron were they are first left to macerate in carefully selected alcohol, then distilled. Finally, these liqueurs are aged for several years in huge oak casks and placed into the world’s longest liqueur cellar for maturation.