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There has been many whiskeys inspired by different things over the past few years—coffee, New York City and even gin, to name a few. But there’s a new single malt whisky series that goes all the way back to the Bard for its inspiration, and isn’t afraid of risking bad luck by naming the Scottish play—the new Macbeth collection.
The Macbeth series was created by independent bottler Elixir Distillers and whisky company Livingstone. Whisky writer Dave Broom was in charge of matching different characters from the play to individual expressions, and the labels were designed by renowned illustrator Quentin Blake who is best known for his work on many of Roald Dahl’s books. The collection will come out in “acts” over the next three years, and the first encompassing nine characters and their corresponding whiskies is available now. Lexi Livingstone Burgess, founder of Livingstone, looked to the history of Scotland’s whisky industry and the dichotomy of partnerships and rivalries over the years as his muse. “I thought, ‘This is just like Macbeth,’ and that was it,” he said in a statement. “The whole structure appeared in that one moment: the most famous Scottish play full of fantastic characters all waiting to be cast as Scotch whiskies.”
There will be a total of six series in the Macbeth collection, according to the brand—The Leads (five regal malts), The Thanes (12 noble malts), The Ghosts (six ghost distilleries), The Witches (threes malts and a blend), The Murderers (four island malts) and The Household (10 characterful whiskies). Act One will feature nine different whiskies including a 12-year-old Ardmore, 31-year-old whiskies from Cambus and Benriach, and a 56-year-old single malt from Glen Grant.
At 90 years old, Quentin Blake is still working and has a relationship with Burgess that spans two decades. “Obviously, I wanted Quentin to illustrate the characters; he showed limited interest, until I suggested drawing them as birds,” said Burgess. “It was one of the most exciting moments of my working life.” Writer Dave Broom reread the entire play before coming up with character profiles focusing on anthropomorphized tasting notes. “Smoke lends itself to creating the impression of wildness and danger, a straying to the dark side,” he said in a press release. “The blood and gore of this tragedy brought to mind rich, sherried whiskies; light and ‘goodness’ felt best conveyed by refill American oak: golden, honeyed, soft, gentle and sweet.”
Act One of the Macbeth collection is available now from The Whisky Exchange, with individual bottles ranging in price from about $300 to more than $10,000. Stay tuned for Act Two arriving next year, and the final curtain will fall in 2027.