Welcome to Act One of Macbeth, A Scotch Whisky Collection of 42 characters, with character notes by Dave Broom, whiskies by Elixir Distillers and illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake. The Macbeth Collection contains six series, and will be released in five Acts.
About the macbeth collection
Five REGAL MALTS
The Leads Series are five Regal Single Malts, each limited to 100 bottles worldwide.
Casting the good King Duncan required a whisky of marked nobility and grace. “It was imperative that King Duncan held the requisite status and gentle character. Over the many years we’ve been searching for casks, we have, on occasion, been fortunate to find those truly rare occurrences of whiskies of great age that retain great elegance. This Glen Grant, distilled on Speyside in 1965, fits the bill perfectly: the beautiful light fruit of the spirit, the suggestion of forest floor, dusty books… an abundance of sophisticated flavours that are created only after decades in the finest wood.” Oliver Chilton
The Thanes Series are 12 Noble Single Malts from the length and breadth of Scotland.
The first of the thanes are Angus and Menteith, who march to confront Macbeth in the play’s final act: portrayed respectively by a rich, complex Glen Garioch and a superbly fruity Benriach. Then we have the tragically fated Lady Macduff, who necessitated a particularly special whisky. ‘Linkwood is an all-time favourite distillery and it was a thrill to find a 31-year-old expression[…] distilled in 1991 that worked so perfectly — although I would probably have had to rewrite Macbeth if there wasn’t a place for this amazing whisky.’ Oliver Chilton
The Ghosts Series is a set of six Single Malt or Single Grain whiskies from ghost distilleries.
Vanishingly rare, ghost whiskies are those from distilleries that have since disappeared. When casting the First Ghost to torment Macbeth, there was no doubt that a lost distillery would play the part. ‘The selection of grain whisky offers a delicacy that reinforces the ethereal qualities of these apparitions,’ head blender Oliver Chilton explains. ‘This is shown in the First Ghost to be revealed, Single Grain Scotch Whisky aged 31 years, distilled at Cambus Distillery.’
The Witches Series is a set of four smoky Malts and Blends.
The weird sisters who prophesy Macbeth’s rise, and fall, called for devastating malts shrouded in mystery. ‘The speeches and potions of the witches, the most famous blenders, were almost written in language we would use for whisky already,’ explains Dave Broom. ‘In her first speech, the First Witch speaks of her cursing a sailor, a clue to the style of whisky being Maritime.’ While the identity of this sherried malt whisky have not been revealed, it's origins lie on Islay’s Kildalton coast.
The Murderers Series is a set of four Island Malts that, alongside the Witches, shall remain unnamed.
"Nobody really knows who the murderers are; they are hitmen, hired in from the outside. It made me think of all those island malts, brought in to give an underbelly of smoke to blended whiskies, without ever being identified." Alexis Burgess
For the First Murderer, we have chosen a whisky distilled on the Isle of Mull and aged for 18 years. This is a powerful Island malt filled with maritime notes of iodine and rockpools.
The Household Series are a set of ten characterful Scotch whiskies.
"The Household — a porter, doctors, messengers — are ideal for characterful whiskies; The Bloody Sergeant appears very early on, bleeding heavily from the battle… We found a fantastic Blair Athol, matured in wine casks, that tastes like blood; rich, earthy and slightly metallic. For Seyton, Macbeth’s Armourbearer, there is a deliciously conflicted Ardmore, full of smoke and wild honey, as you never really know what side he’s on." Alexis Burgess
"I have worked in whisky, on the design side, for a long time. Over the years, I’ve grown increasingly fascinated and read extensively on the industry, absorbed by histories of distilleries and the people around them - stories of allegiances and collective endeavour, but also ruthless ambition and intense rivalries. I thought “this is just like Macbeth”.
And that was it. The whole structure appeared in that one moment; the most famous Scottish play full of fantastic characters from across Scotland, bright to dark, light to heavy, from every class and realm, at different ages, all waiting to be cast as Scotch whiskies. And the fixed number of characters meant the series would be finite – key to creating a meaningful collection."
Alexis Livingstone Burgess is founder of Livingstone. Alexis also owns Burgess Studio, a design company working exclusively in Scotch. Macbeth is the first project by Livingstone.
"The idea of drawing the characters of Macbeth appealed to me immediately... I like whisky, and I’ve always thought of illustration as a kind of acting; I don’t observe the gestures so much as feel them."
Sir Quentin Blake is the world's most famous living illustrator. In 2004 he was awarded the ‘Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres’ by the French Government for services to literature and in 2007 was made Officier in the same order. In 2014 he was admitted to the Légion d’honneur. He received a knighthood for ‘services to illustration’ in the New Year’s Honours for 2013, became an Honorary Freeman of the City of London in 2015, and was appointed ‘Companion of Honour’ in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2022.
“The whiskies chosen were entirely character led: smoke to create the impression of wildness and danger a straying into the dark side; sherried whiskies for blood and gore; and the golden, honeyed, gentle sweetness of American oak to convey ‘goodness’ and light.”
Dave Broom is an award-winning writer, born and educated in Glasgow (a degree in English from Stirling University), who has specialised in spirits for around 30 years. He has published 14 books; the most recent, A Sense of Place, sees Dave travelling around his native Scotland visiting distilleries from Islay and Harris to Orkney and Speyside. Dave also explored “whisky, Scotland, and the weird and wonderful stuff in between” to gain a deeper understanding of his national drink on film in The Amber Light. He is a Master of the Quaich.
"Dave’s translation of the language and characters written by Shakespeare provided a chance to explore distilleries across Scotland and the full gamut of flavours within their whiskies. It was a privilege to be bottling these whiskies illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake and his vibrant, highly original take on the play."
Elixir Distillers is a creator, blender and bottler of fine spirits. Co-founders and owners Sukhinder Singh and Rajbir Singh - who in 1999 founded The Whisky Exchange - have assembled a team of spirits enthusiasts with immense product knowledge, who seek to create delicious, characterful spirits combined with beautiful design. Head Blender Oliver Chilton has worked with whisky for over 15 years. Having started out in the original Whisky Exchange shop in London, his palate helped secure a role selecting casks for independent bottling, leading the way to the creation of Elixir Distillers.
Max Bennett is fresh from an acclaimed performance as Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Alexis Burgess is the pioneer and brains behind a dazzling Scotch whisky collection — 42 bottles featuring every character from Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy. The two Macbeths sat down for Barley to talk (and sip) drams, dreams and the curse of the Scottish play.