The Chartreuse of 1985-1989 (Tarragona)
Seeing the Tarragona distillery in trouble, the municipality offered to buy the entire building in 1979, to make way for a housing project in the vicinity. At the time, the Carthusian Fathers refused to sell. In the 1980's Dom Michel Bulteau was sent to Spain by the French company Chartreuse Diffusion. They thought he was the perfect man to investigate the situation and find out whether things were still salvageable or not. His analysis helped the brand understand what had really been going on with their Spanish branch the last few years.
Chartreuse Diffusion soon realized that 80% of all the sales were localized around the town of Tarragona or in the greater region of Catalonia. Beyond that specific zone, the Chartreuse liqueur was seen by customers as a luxury good, which they would of course never buy. On top of that, there were not enough marketing efforts done to support the brand in Spain. Over there, the Chartreuse simply did not benefit from that aura of traditional digestif liqueur it had back in France. An image Chartreuse Diffusion spent years to create, with the help of huge advertising investments!
The monks knew they had to make a hard choice. The Tarragona company would cease to operate in December 1988 and then close its doors for good one year later. The last employees left the building and the remaining stock of bottles was shipped to France. The Catalonia region later bought half of the building and turned it into office spaces. The rest was abandoned, although a Chartreuse Museum might still be on the agenda. It was the end of an era, but things were not all doom and gloom: French customers had now been introduced to the Tarragona Chartreuse the monks brought back from Spain. These vintage liqueurs would soon become a favorite among spirits connoisseurs.
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