Why Can't You Buy Chartreuse? The Answer May Surprise You

Chartreuse, the herbal liqueur made by French Carthusian monks, is facing an unprecedented shortage. Oddly, its worldwide scarcity doesn't stem from supply chain issues, but rather a deliberate choice by the monks themselves.

Chartreuse liqueur is an aromatic digestif that comes in two flavors: Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse. It's made from a wine alcohol base and includes 130 herbs, plants and flowers, and other secret ingredients. It takes its name from the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the Chartreuse Mountains, north of Grenoble, France. Chartreuse Verte (green) is its most famous expression, though Chartreuse Jaune (yellow) is also produced, as well as specialty releases.

According to legend, French soldier and diplomat Marshal François Annibal d'Estrées shared the original recipe with the monks in 1605. The elixir gained popularity through the centuries, surviving setbacks such as the monks’ expulsion from France in 1793 and the destruction of its original distillery in 1935.

After gathering dust on the back shelves of bars for most of the 20th century, people began to buy Chartreuse again in the early 2000s during the craft cocktail revolution. With its bright colors and bittersweet flavor profile, it’s a key ingredient in gin-based classics like The Last Word, the Bijou, and modern creations, such as the Naked and Famous.

As its popularity surged, so did sales, and Chartreuse struggled to keep up with demand. However, increasing production came into conflict with the monks' core mission of solitude and prayer. They also worried about the longterm environmental impact of spirits production in rural Aiguenoire, where their distillery is located. So, in 2019, the decision was made to cap production at 1.9 million bottles per year.

While enthusiasts fret over price gouging on the secondary market, the Carthusians remain resolute in their commitment to a mindful and sustainable approach. Chartreuse’s U.S. importer anticipates a resolution to the shortage by year-end with the release of new allocations. Though currently out of stock, Green Chartreuse remains a popular item in our shop.



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