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Chartreuse: hasn't it really not been changed since the 18th century

I have just read an interesting article on Punch, which did discussed the rare Chartreuse Orange. No comments about this story...

However - as always when it comes to iconic brands, the original story has been written up:

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. Here an exhaustive study of the manuscript was undertaken.The Monastery’s Apothecary, Frère Jerome Maubec, finally unravelled the mystery and, in 1737, drew up the practical formula for the preparation of the Elixir in 1764.The distribution and sales of this new medicine were limited. One of the monks of La Grande Chartreuse, Frère Charles, would load his mule with the small bottles that he sold in Grenoble and other nearby villages.Today, this “Elixir of Long Life” is still made only by the Chartreuse monks following that ancient recipe, and is called Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse.This “liqueur of health” is all natural plants, herbs and other botanicals suspended in wine alcohol – 69% alcohol by volume, 138 proof.
The question is: is Chartreuse really still produced unchanged since 1764 - and the answer is quite straight forward:

No it isn't!

This is my favorite discussion point: yes - the botanicals (plants and herbs) might have been unchanged. But an important element of the character of a liquor (and liqueur) is the alcoholic base. In 1764 it has been for sure malt wines or unaged brandy. Today it is for sure neutral grain alcohol! The patent still (and any variation, which produces a similar clean distillate) has been just invented in the mid of the 18-hundreds.

Hence it would be really interesting to see, what would happen, if Chartreuse would go back and reimagine such a product. Not that I hold my breath, to wait for such a thing (if they would do that, they would basically confirm this contradiction in their marketing story...).

What do you think? Did I miss something here? Please comment!


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