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1840-1869

Pleasure Wine: 1840-1869 Chartreuses

 

The Chartreuse of 1840-1869 (Grande Chartreuse / Fourvoirie)

 

In 1840, Brother Bruno Jacquet, who was just recently promoted to chief pharmacist of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery, was experimenting on the Mélisse Liqueur (an offshoot of the original green liqueur from 1764). After many tries, he came up with a sweeter yellow liqueur that had an alcohol content of 43% instead of 55%. The success was immediate. So much so that the people even nicknamed the new product "The Queen of Liqueurs".

The monks adopted the new moniker and even changed the original green liqueur's official name as well. The "Green Chartreuse" was born. These were the very first steps of the Chartreuse brand we still know today, as well as its first commercial triumph. That same year of 1840, the monks expanded their production workshop. In 1848, a chance encounter between ranking officers of the Army of the Alps and the Carthusian Fathers turned the aforementioned military men into their first brand ambassadors. They went on to advertise the Chartreuse in the entire country.

With celebrity came imitation. The 1940's and 1950's were hard on the monks, as many rivals came out of the woodwork, going as far as reusing the "Chartreuse" name on their labels. Charles Meunier, who actually had a copy of the original Chartreuse recipe since 1813, was one of the early competitors of the Carthusians in 1842. Meunier's labels bore the mention "Élixir de la Grande Chartreuse" and "Liqueur de Chartreuse". It's perfectly legal as well, because the Meunier family could freely use the Chartreuse brand since 1842, following an agreement with the monks.

Dom Louis Garnier, the director of the distillery since 1834, fought tooth and nail against many copycats, filing one lawsuit after the other. In 1853, the judges authorized the public use of the fledgling "Chartreuse" brand, on one condition: people could only use it in a comparison. Dozens of lawsuits of course followed this decision until 1869, as the Fathers' competitors were trying even harder to sell their "Chartreuse-like Liqueur" or "Spirits better than the Chartreuse".

1840-1869 was also the period during which the monks moved their workshop for the first time. The Grande Chartreuse Monastery was a thorn in the side of Pope Pius IX, as the holy man disliked the alcohol business and felt that the Carthusians were reneging on their vows of silence. Thus, in 1862, the entire distillery was relocated to the site of Fourvoirie, a dozen kilometers away from the monastery. And to store their bottles, the Fathers chose a warehouse in Voiron, located next to the railway tracks.

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