Chartreuse has gotten notice in recent years as an important ingredient in popular gin cocktails such as the Last Word, but the spirit which named a color has a grand and winding history that goes back more than 400 years. Its recipe is something of legend but something is known about the process. At their sprawling stone monastery in the French Alps, two Carthusian monks oversee the crushing and blending of about 130 plants and herbs that are included ... each monk maintains a vow of silence in regard to these ingredients that are archived on the order's secret 400 year old manuscript. These pre-blended ingredients are macerated in alcohol and distilled by the monks in stages at their distillery in Voiron, the final maceration giving the liqueur its color. The finished concoction is stored in huge oak casks in the world's largest liqueur cellar for maturation until bottling (The VEP bottling sees extended wood age to the tune of eight years). The result is remarkable; perhaps the only spirit in the world that actually develops and improves with long-term age in the bottle like only the finest wines. Pour some over ice to see how the essential oils in the liqueur are so massively concentrated that they won't combine with the water of the melted ice ... the mixture shimmers in a delicate, rippling swirl. These herbal oils grant digestif powers to green Chartreuse that are unrivaled ... a few sips at the end of a hedonistic feast will quickly erase any discomfort or regret.
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