The herb room of the Monastery
Only two Chartreuse Monks (“Carthusians”) – Dom Benoît and Brother Jean-Jacques – know the names of the130 herbs and plants used to make Chartreuse : the ones mentioned in the manuscript they have been given more than 400 years ago.
18 tons of them are delivered to the Grande-Chartreuse Monastery each year.
There, in the “Herb Room”, they are dried, crushed, and mixed in different series. Each serie is then kept in a bag carefully numbered and taken to the distillery in Voiron.
The Distillery in Voiron
In this room, only the 2 Monks – and 2 laymen helping them – may enter.
Each series of herbs and plants macerates in alcohol.
Each maceration is then distilled for about 8 hours.
Since the 19th century the Monks have used the copper stills. Today they are mainly dedicated to the Vodka “Vertical” made by the 2 laymen.
Most of the distillation of the liqueurs is today done in the stainless-steel stills.
They have been designed especially for Chartreuse, in order to enable a very accurate control of the distillation process. And, as important, to allow the Monks to monitor the distillation from the Monastery, 15 miles away from the distillery. One should never forget their vocation implies silence and solitude.
Heated by steam, the alcohol and the essence of the plants evaporate to the top of the swan neck, and then are cooled down in the condenser becoming an alcoholate.
A last maceration of plants gives its color to the liqueur.
A final control is made by the Monks before the Chartreuse liqueur can be put to age in the oak-casks of the maturing cellar
The Ageing Cellar in Voiron
Built in 1860 and enlarged in 1966 it is the largest liqueur cellar in the world : 164 metres long.
Chartreuse ages in oak casks from Russia, Hungary or France.
After several years, the Chartreuse Monks will test the liqueur and decide if it is ready to be bottled. Only they can take this decision.
The bottling line
The automated bottling-line is located on the ground floor above the cellar.
Chartreuse liquors will then be shipped to France or the 100 or so countries were it is sold today.