A superbly well kept litre bottle of rare 19th Century Chartreuse Yellow liqueur dating back to between 1878 and 1903 when production was located at Fourvoirie in France, has been consigned to auction. This bottle dates to before the Chartreuse monks moved their distillery from France to Spain and as this pristine bottle has such great significance to liqueur collectors and enthusiasts my first task was to discover why the bottle was so perfectly preserved, and so clean!
Chartreuse only gets better with age, it mellows and becomes more alluring and sophisticated.
My investigations took me on a surprising and wonderful journey of discovery. The bottle had been stored on its side in cool, dark cellar conditions for decades but the story of this bottle of Chartreuse actually began in 1897 with the birth of Freddie Lecomte in London.
Freddie’s French parents, Leon Louis and Julia Augustine Lecomte had recently married and were living in Leytonstone, East London. Leon worked for a telegraphic undersea cable company which had brought the family to London, but originally his parents were from Neauphle-le-Chateau (where Grand Marnier is produced), a town to the west of Paris, not too far from Versailles.
The family would holiday in France, either in Antibes in the south of France or in Freddie’s family’s home town and they would often return to London with bottles of liqueurs as gifts.
Young Freddie was eventually called up for French national service during the First World War, he never saw active duty and, most significantly to our bottle of Chartreuse, he went on to marry Renie Annie, a Londoner, in 1926.
This bottle of Yellow Chartreuse was given by Renie and her husband Freddie Leconte to the seller’s great grandparents Henry William and Doris ‘Nana Marsy’ Hebbard, their cousin (it is thought it was a wedding gift when Henry and Doris married in 1930).
Though the couple loved liqueurs the bottle just sat for years in the back of their walk in larder in Chingford, England. Why this bottle of Chartreuse was never opened no one in the family knows, all they know is that when Nana Marsy moved to a care home in 1993 the bottle was still there.
‘It’s so clean because they polished it!’
The seller’s grandparents acquired the bottle and ever since then it has been laid down at the back of their drinks cabinet and periodically dusted and given a wipe over. That’s until it was passed to their grandson at Christmas 2021.
The main label on the bottle is missing however there is a handwritten label which reads: Veritable Chartreuse Tres Vieille. The top of the cork is covered with residue of the original wax seal.