Stellina

The Japan Times

This isn’t a story about Chartreuse, but let’s begin there.

In Voiron, near Grenoble in southeast France, Carthusian monks distill a liqueur from 130 medicinal herbs, roots and leaves. The recipe is a tightly guarded secret, known only to three holy brothers. It was conceived as an elixir of life, but so fine was the flavor that French toffs began drinking it with ice as a fancy digestif.

Chartreuse is a kaleidoscopic drink, sweet yet fiery, floral, minty and distinctly aniseedy; it is, said the stuttering Anthony Blanche in Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited,” like swallowing a sp-spectrum.

A green 110-proof Chartreuse and a yellow 80-proof version now furnish every half-decent bar in the world.

But this isn’t a story about Chartreuse; it’s a story about Stellina, an herbal liqueur distilled to a secret recipe by the freres de la Sainte Famille in Belley, France, 59 km north of the Chartreuse distillery. Stellina also comes in potent green or mellow yellow and tastes similar to Chartreuse, but there are two notable differences:

1. Chartreuse is single-distilled, Stellina double-distilled, making the latter a little smoother and softer.

2. Chartreuse is a global success and bar staple, Stellina isn’t.

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