If you enjoy the finer things in life, you need to taste Tarragone Chartreuse, the ultimate drink or commonly referred to as the Monks’ drink, a Roman Catholics elixir.
The story is as such: in 1605, Francois Hannibal d’Estrees, marshal of the French king’s artillery, gave the Carthusian fathers at their monastery in Vauvert, near Paris, an already ancient manuscript bearing the title “elixir of long life”. Following the initial use of portions of the recipe at Vauvert, the manuscript was sent to La Grande Chartreuse.
As in all monasteries, at La Grande Chartreuse there was an apothecary, Brother Jerome Maubec, who served the medical needs of the monastery and the residents of the local area with remedies made from local herbs, plants, spices and other ingredients.
Early in the 18th century, Brother Maubec undertook the task of unraveling the manuscript’s complex directions for compounding the “elixir of long life.” Brother Maubec died before completing this challenge but, on his deathbed, he passed what he had learned on to his successor, Brother Antoine.
Brother Antoine completed the translation of the recipe in 1737 and, although it apparently did not prolong life, with 130 herbs and spices infused into a base of 71 percent wine alcohol, it did have many curative powers. The monks became distillers of this medicinal elixir.
In 1848, 30 officers from the Army of the Alps, stationed nearby the monastery, were invited to a tasting
of Yellow Chartreuse. “Reverend Father,” said the group’s senior officer, “This Yellow Chartreuse is
indeed a nectar” and the world must learn of its exquisite taste and its benefits to one’s health.
There are 30 officers here and our duties shall carry us to many other places, many other countries. Wherever we go, we shall demand Chartreuse. Prepare yourself to fill many bottles. The success of these “military salesmen” was astounding and the fame of Chartreuse liqueurs spread throughout Europe. By the
beginning of the 20th century, millions of bottles of Chartreuse liqueurs were being sold all over the world. Even the Russian Tsar Nicolas II insisted that a bottle of Chartreuse always be on his table.
The world-wide reputation of the Chartreuse liqueurs gave the Carthusians a high-profile in France and
the government coveted the profits the monks realized. In 1904, the French government nationalized both
the monastery and the distillery.
The monks, unwilling to give up the secret of making Chartreuse, fled to a Carthusian monastery in Tarragona, Spain where they built a new distillery in and around 1903. The French government brought chemists, botanists and other experts to the distillery and to the monastery where, in massive effort, they failed.
The public wanted the genuine liqueur and ignored the counterfeit beverage made by the government’s company. With a lack of sales, the French company counterfeiting Chartreuse could not survive. Local citizens in the area of the monastery bought the failed company and returned it, as a gift, to
the ownership of the Carthusians in 1929.
Today, although the monastery has been designated a national monument by the French government, the monks are allowed to live there.
Categories: Life Cycles