Originally produced as an elixir of long life by Carthusian monks from a recipe they acquired in 1605, Chartreuse—named for its green hue—has survived revolutions, landslides, and tangles with the French government, which twice attempted to appropriate the recipe. In 1810, Napoléon ordered that all secret medicinal recipes be delivered to the ministry of the interior, but the emperor returned the Chartreuse recipe to the monks without divulging its contents. In 1903, the monks temporarily fled to Spain with the recipe when the French government nationalized the distilling industry.
Today, the Alpine herb liqueur is still made by Carthusian monks, whose tradition of silence prevents them from speaking of the secret ingredients. Chartreuse V.E.P. (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) is made from those same ingredients as the traditional green liqueur, but extra-long aging makes it heady and herbaceous, with just a touch of sweetness. The bottle is a replica of the packaging that was used in 1840.