In 1505 an Italian monk in the Benedictine order, Dom Bernardo Vincelli, was sent to Normandy, France with other Italian friars. Vincelli was an alchemist. While most people associate alchemy with the pursuit of transmuting base metals into silver and gold, another less well known goal of alchemists at the time was to develop a universal elixir that would prolong life. Vincelli developed an elixir using 27 herbs and spices. For nearly three centuries afterwards the Benedictine order in Normandy produced this elixir, until 1789 when the French Revolution occurred and the monks were banished resulting in the loss of the recipe.
Nearly 100 years later in 1863, while going through some very old family papers, a wine merchant in Fécamp, Alexandre Le Grand, came across an old recipe book, a manuscript dated 1510, which included nearly 200 pages written in Gothic script by a monk named Vincelli. Le Grand used this recipe to re-create the elixir.
I realize that Fecamp is a long ways from Portland, Oregon, but if you are ever in Normandy, France - I'd highly recommend taking a tour of the Bénédictine Distillery - it's a product manufactured in a unique way (see: Bénédictine D.O.M.). In the mean time, I hope you'll enjoy a glass of Bénédictine this holiday season. Here's to your health and a long life!