A collection of forty-two different whiskies from the length and breadth of Scotland selected and bottled by Livingstone in partnership with Elixir Distillers, each representing a character from the Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
With illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake, and character notes by Dave Broom.
The forty-two characters in the Macbeth Collection divided into six series:
THE LEADS | 5 REGAL MALTS THE THANES | 12 NOBLE MALTS THE GHOSTS | 6 GHOST DISTILLERY WHISKIES THE WITCHES | 4 SMOKY WHISKIES THE MURDERERS | 4 ISLAND MALTS THE HOUSEHOLD | 10 CHARACTERFUL WHISKIES
The collection will be released in three acts. Act One will release the first of nine characters.
FIVE REGAL MALTS
Casting the good King Duncan required Elixir Distillers to select a whisky of marked nobility and grace. After extensive consideration, company co-founder Sukhinder Singh and head blender Oliver Chilton settled on an exception single malt aged in oak for more than 50 years. ‘This Glen Grant. Distilled on Speyside in 1965, fits the bill perfectly,’ says Oliver. ‘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.’
The first of 12 noble thanes in the series 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.’
Scotland’s landscape is littered with ghost distilleries, once proud places left silent after times of hardship. 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 show in the First Ghost to be revealed, single grain Scotch whisky aged 31 years, distilled at Cambus distillery.’
The weird sisters who prophesy Macbeth’s rise, and fall, called for serious malt whiskies 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 sherries malt whisky have not been revealed, Elixir Distillers has hinted that it's origins lie on Islay’s Kildalton coast.
Four murderers who carry out Macbeth’s bidding will be realised as rugged drams from Scotland’s outer reaches. Like the witches, Shakespeare leaves the murderers unnamed, so the exact origins of these four whiskies will be left obscure. For the First Murderer, our bottles 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 — a porter, doctors, messengers — are ideal for characterful whiskies available in greater numbers and at a more accessible price,’ Alexis Livingstone tells us. The first of these to reach us are the Bloody Sergeant who announces Macbeth’s victory over the the rebellious Macdonwald, and the thane of Cawdor’s loyal armourer, Seyton. The former is portrayed by sweet yet earthy Blair Athol aged in bourbon hogsheads and red wine casks, while the latter appears as a herbaceous Ardmore full of smoke and minerality.
"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."
In 2004 Quentin Blake 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.
Livingstone commissioned Dave Broom to draw up the character descriptions for the whiskies prior to their selection, and subsequently write the character notes for each of them.
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, one of the first online whisky specialist retailers and now one of the most significant drinks retailers in the world - have assembled a team of spirits enthusiasts with immense product knowledge, who seek to create delicious, characterful spirits combined with beautiful design. Its expertise is primarily in Scotch whisky – and rum as well as Irish, Japanese and American whiskies and tequila. Their core brands include Port Askaig, Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland and Black Tot rum. They are building a new distillery on Islay, Portintruan, due to open in 2024, which will perfectly complement Speyside’s Tormore distillery in their portfolio.
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. Oliver is responsible for the purchase and management of all new make spirit and maturing whisky and rum stocks, as well as wood policy and spirit development at the Portintruan distillery on Islay and Tormore distillery, and the blending and cask selection for all products and partnerships.
Elixir Distillers currently exports its brands to more than 30 international markets.