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Chartreuse Jaune

Served ice cold. In the most beautiful liqueur glass you find in your closet. Set the glass a few minutes before the Serve in the freezer.

Like the better-known green herbal liqueur Chartreuse, yellow Chartreuse comes from a monastery of the Carthusian order in Voiron, near Grenoble.

It contains 130 different herbs and plant extracts and, with 43 percent alcohol, its effect should not be underestimated. However, you can hardly finish a nice meal more delicious.

Only two monks each guard the exact recipe of the liqueur, whose yellow color comes exclusively from the herbs used. The monastery’s bakery houses the herb room, where the herbs and other plants are dried and blended before being macerated with alcohol and distilled in the distillery, which was redesigned in 2018.

Then the herbal liqueur is stored in barrels in the cellar of the monastery for several years and then bottled. Here you have time to produce a quality product.

How good that the Carthusiansmonks had the recipe copied

In 1605, the Carthusian monks in France received a valuable gift from Francois Annibal d’Estrées, a court marshal of the then French King Henri IV: the recipe of an elixir, which probably goes back to an alchemist of the 16th century, who had recorded with this recipe his knowledge of preparing 130 herbs and plants for a special elixir.

The recipe was passed on to the monks’ motherhouse in the French Alps, near Grenoble. The complexity of the recipe meant that it was not until the 18th century that the monks there managed to produce the herbal liqueur and sell it under the name “Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse”.

To this day, the proceeds enable the Carthusian monks to live a life of silence and contemplation. Behind the liqueur is an interesting, eventful history.

As a result of the French Revolution France, many monks had to leave France in 1793. The monks made a copy of the closely guarded recipe for making the liqueur and left the copy to a friar who remained at the monastery in Chartreuse.

The monk, who had the original recipe with him when he escaped, was captured and taken to Bordeaux prison. Shortly before his arrest, he gave the prescription to a friend of the Order, who subsequently sold it to the pharmacist Llotard in Grenoble.

How good that a ministry did not recognize the quality of the recipe recognized

Monsieur Llotard refrained from producing the liqueur, but sent the recipe to Paris, in accordance with a decree from Napoleon, who ordered that all “secret” medicine recipes be sent to the then Ministry of the Interior.

The ministry there did not recognize the value that was hidden in it and sent the recipe of the liqueur back to Grenoble with the note “rejected”.

Monsieur Llotard’s heirs returned the recipe to the monks of the Carthusian Order, who had returned to their monastery near Grenoble in 1816.

To the original green Chartreuse liqueur, they developed a yellow variant, Chartreuse Jaune, in 1840.

Until  today, the monks produce the herbal liqueur according to the now again closely guarded recipe. Only two friars are initiated into the recipe at a time and know the 130 herbs and their mixing ratio.  

Even an interim nationalization of the distillery and the expulsion to Spain have survived the monks and their liqueur. The state distillery went bankrupt. Friends of the monastic order secured the patent and trademark rights and handed them back to the Carthusian monks, who had meanwhile returned to France from Spain.

How good that a bartender introduced us to the Chartreuse Jaune

This story also begins with: Once upon a time … because the restaurant Andrej’s Oyster Bar in Düsseldorf unfortunately no longer exists. It was a wonderful place to enjoy oysters and many other fish dishesin the best French style.

The tiny bar counter in the restaurant was also a meeting place for the chefs from surrounding restaurants, who liked to stop by for a drink after their shift.

During a visit on a cold, wet February evening, the bartender asked if we were in the mood for a digestif recommendation after enjoying fish and served two iced glasses of Chartreuse Jaune. Perfect.

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Especially after a substantial meal in the cold season, the herbs of yellow chartreuse are an excellent finishing touch. Since the herbal liqueur, like all liqueurs, contains sugar, it can replace a dessert.

If you want less sweetness, drink it on ice.

How good that ARTE exists

The city of Grenoble is presented in a short film of the series “City, Country, Art”. This short film is not about the liqueur, but the film makes you want to visit the city in the French Alps and the beautiful area around Grenoble.

Some space can then certainly be found in the trunk for a few bottles of Chartreuse Jaune for good friends and lovers of the French way of life.

If you like it more purist, we recommend the documentary “The Great Silence” by Philip Groening. The monks invited Philip Groening to make a film about their lives. The conditions they set: The film was to have no film crew, no artificial light, no interviews and no music. Only the choral songs of the monks themselves were allowed.

Philip Groening accepted the challenge, lived for four months in a monk’s cell in the monastery of the Carthusian monks and communicated with them by letter. This resulted in a fascinating film document that brings close the strictly planned and repetitive course of life in the monastery.

The unusual film unexpectedly became a great success.

80 percent of the novices of the Carthusian Order leave the monastery again after a short time. The austere life of seclusion, contemplation and work turns out to be too demanding for them.

Let the pleasure with history on the tongue – the Lockdown is only a small episode in the course of the eventful history of the liqueur.

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