Via the New York Times, a really interesting article about a French distillery, with some chemical manufacturing to boot:
Royalties go back to 380-some Carthusian monks and nuns residing in 22 charter houses spread across the globe, including Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and the United States.
Remarkably, among them, only two monks know the full 130-ingredient recipe.
“The secret of Chartreuse has long been the despair of distillers, just as the natural blue of forget-me-nots has been the despair of painters,” reads an 1886 document referred to in a recent history of the company and order. Father Holleran spent five years overseeing the distillation process, ordering ingredients and planning its production schedules. When he departed the site in 1990, he became the only living outsider to know the liqueur’s ancient formula.
“It’s safe with me,” he said. “Oddly enough, they didn’t make me sign anything when I left.”...
...Inside the Grande Chartreuse, skilled monks receive, measure and sort 130 unlabeled plants and herbs into giant unmarked (or, in 2020, QR-coded) sacks. Then, at the distillery, five non-Carthusian employees work alongside two white-robed monks to macerate, distill, blend and age the liqueur. A computerized system also allows them to virtually monitor the distilling from the monastery.
Along its five-week distilling process, and throughout the subsequent years of aging, those two monks are also the ones who taste the product and decide when it is ready to bottle and sell. “They are the quality control,” said Emmanuel Delafon, the current C.E.O. of Chartreuse Diffusion...
Guessing it takes years of OJT to get the palate right to do QC on the stuff!