It has been a year of very little blogging by me – a whole host of reasons – many many less dinners and little or no travel all allied to a vast amount of work, almost all from home, which swerves to kill the desire to sit down at the same desk and blog. Apologies if you have missed them – more in 2021 I hope.
I always said I would write when I wanted to and certainly never wanted to feel bound to a post a week or some such regiment. One thing I have meant to write a few observations about, and that has been something of a discovery this year is Chartreuse. My interest was first aroused by Gary Birchtree – a trade friend who has always had something of an obsession with the stuff and is a fellow Negroni devotee. There there is the rather splendid bottles you see on Shelves (especially when in the Alps) and the fact that older bottlings are often seen on top restaurant lists.
It somehow panders to my inner geek as a subject. Now, all I want to do here is give my observations on the three bottles I have sipped my way though this year. All of which I bought myself from The Whisky Exchange amongst other options on the web. The history and intrigue behind the drink can be easily be read up on in a number of places including their own website and their wikipedia entry.
In almost ever case I have drunk these from a decent glass (Zalto Champagne most often) either cool or over ice and almost always after a meal. The obvious omission to the notes below is arguably the main drink – the normal bottling of the Green Chartreuse but may be in time I will come back to that – I have had it many times but never written a note on it. So to the bottles…
Chartreuse Yellow Liqueur – 70cl – 43%
Everything I have read suggests this is in many ways the “easiest” Chartreuse. Relaunched in 2019 at 43%. I enjoyed this very much and as comfortably (to my taste) the sweetest of the bottlings it is perfect after dinner instead of a pudding for me. “Honey and lemon but with a certain crisp focus, unctuous – more Auslese than Spatlese, the herbal elements sit underneath or behind the sweetness. It is very moreish indeed. The herbs are more fresh than dried and the lemon is ripe, the slight elements of honey from the initial nose seem to fade”. I challenge you not to like this.
Chartreuse Cuvee des MOF Sommeliers – 70cl – 45%
This is a special Chartreuse produced with a French guild of Master Sommeliers – “Meuilleurs Ouvriers de France-Sommeliers”. The suggestions put to me have been that it is aimed at a more complex “yellow” with some of the dimensions of the “green”. “Honeyed and herbal, lemon but with lime there too. Tiny bit of licorice, very good, obviously likeable yet complex at the same time. It is lively but then settles into a more herbal profile than the “yellow”. A menthol element is there as well but it does keep returning to a lemon and lime note with a little caraway in the background. I like this very very much, more provocative than the yellow and nearly as moreish”.
Chartreuse 9th Centenary Liqueur – 70cl – 47%
This bottling was created in 1984 to commemorate the 900th year of the Chartreuse Monks. The bottle is a replica of the one used in the 18th century. The placing in the range is more Green than yellow – described as a little sweeter than the “Green”. I was a big fan of this and found it the most serious of the three, the most complex may be and the more thought provoking. It would though be the last of the three I would use to introduce someone to Chartreuse. “Green herbs and then sweetness, vibrant green tea notes with definite elements of aniseed and caraway. This is stylishly pungent. There is a slightly more syrupy texture. Spearmint arrives as does a little white pepper and then a surprising note of dark chocolate. The only negative comment might be that there is a tiny hole in the middle of the palate where the sweetness of a more “yellow” bottling might be. All in all a stellar bottle.”
I hope this might give a few people a nudge to try Chartreuse. Here’s to a better 2021!