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Chartreuse Secrets

Some friends who meditate told me about the movie Into Great Silence, which follows the Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps. As I barely stop talking you can bet they weren't telling me about its depiction of the silent lifestyle of the monks as something of interest, but because there is footage of them making the famous liqueur Chartreuse.

Into great silence poster


So I rented the movie and the bonus disc on Netflix. I fell asleep watching the main disc (twice!) and didn't see anything about the liqueur. But on the bonus disc, which you can rent separately and skip all the chanting, there is about ten minutes focusing on making Chartreuse.

In it, a monk goes about weighing dried herbs. You can see about four of them but I couldn't identify them. It was a combination of dried leaves, flowers, some seed stuff, and some roots. If I had the time I'd do screen caps and we'd play "guess the herb."

Chartreuse_Verte_70cl The monk then grinds them together and places them into a sack. He then hands them off to the distillery where other people distil them. I'm assuming much of the secret of Chartreuse comes from this combination of herbs, roots, bark, etc. that is delivered to the distillers already ground up so they can't guess what the components are.

The monk interviewed in the story says there are 130 plants used to make Chartreuse but, "There is no need to seek to know more," about the production, because they aren't telling.

However, the film then goes on to reveal more: The ground plants are infused in alcohol, water is added, then this is distilled. The distillate, which would be clear at that point, then undergoes seven or eight macerations with more plants that give it its characteristic color.

I believe they said it takes a month to make a batch of Chartreuse. No wonder the stuff is expensive.

The liquid is then sent to the cellar, where it ages first in large vats, then in smaller ones. The liquids are then reblended and sold.

I know of a few people who have visited the Chartreuse facility but apparently you don't get to see the monks; just the aging vats. I'm not sure what else, but I do still want to go in person one day. This film was a little peek behind the curtain to see what happens before it goes into the barrel.

Get Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF.