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Sir Quentin Blake and Elixir Distillers team up for Macbeth whisky series

While Roald Dahl's books have been making headlines this month, the man that illustrated a lot of the novels has been part of a new whisky project.

Published: February 27, 2023

Elixir Distillers and Sir Quentin Blake have joined forces to create Macbeth, a Scotch Whisky collection representing forty-two characters from Shakespeare’s famous Scottish play.

It includes the bottling of a 56-year-old Glen Grant cast as King Duncan, intensely smoky Islay and island whiskies for the Witches and Murderers, and the vanishing stocks of ghost distilleries that appear, naturally, as the Ghosts.

These original limited editions all feature an illustration of the character drawn by Sir Quentin Blake and notes with the flavours woven into prose by whisky writer Dave Broom. 

The team behind the launch include Lexi Livingstone Burgess, founder of the project creators Livingstone and also Burgess Studio; Sukhinder Singh, owner of award-winning independent bottler, Elixir Distillers;  and Dave Broom, writer and author who has specialised in spirits for around 30 years. 

To bring everything to life, the unmistakable hand of one of the country’s most celebrated figures, is Sir Quentin Blake, who was knighted for his services to illustration.  

The whiskies

As a prolific whisky collector, Sukhinder found the Livingstone idea of Macbeth intriguing. He said “Sometimes in our industry a project presents itself that you can’t say no to. This was one of them,  a real one-off.”

Also present at that inaugural meeting was Oliver Chilton, head blender for Elixir Distillers. He said: “It was a chance to create a remarkable compilation of whiskies, tapping into every corner of our stocks, from a different perspective, each one inspired by some of  the most complete characters ever written and written about. It was a real passion project.” 

The illustrations

Lexi has worked with Sir Quentin Blake for more than 20 years, designing books and exhibitions. Lexi said: “He is an extraordinary person – 90 years old and still drawing all day, every day.

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"Obviously I wanted Quentin to illustrate the characters; he showed limited interest, until I suggested  drawing them as birds.

"Quentin, who has drawn anthropomorphic birds for decades and speaks of illustrating as a kind of acting, rather than observing the gestures, rang the following day  to say he had woken at 4am and completed a full set of rough drawings. It was one of the most  exciting moments of my working life,” remembered Lexi. 

The Macbeth characters

Macbeth whisky

With the drawings in hand, Lexi needed someone who knew Macbeth inside out and had encyclopaedic knowledge of Scotch to write the character descriptions in whisky terms.

This was when Dave Broom got involved. Having re-read the play in depth, he started to apply the drama to the whiskies. 

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The profiles he wrote were entirely character-led. Dave said: “Smoke lends itself to creating the impression of wildness and danger, a straying to the dark side; 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."

The Macbeth series

There are six series in the Macbeth collection: The Leads (five regal malts), The Thanes (12 noble malts),  The Ghosts (six ghost distilleries), The Witches three malts and a blend), The Murderers (four island malts),  and The Household (10 characterful whiskies).

Each series comprises a carefully curated selection of Scotch Whiskies that will appeal to whisky lovers and collectors alike. 

Macbeth - a Whisky Collection illustrated by Quentin Blake, will be revealed over three years.

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Released in ‘Acts’ featuring characters from across the six series, Act One of nine characters, selected to offer a range of styles, ages and prices, will launch on 27 February 2023.

These whiskies  will be available in limited quantities in select domestic markets around the world: including  UK (exclusive to The Whisky Exchange and Livingstone), France, Canada, Taiwan and Japan. 

Reflecting on the Macbeth collection, Lexi Burgess said: “It’s a testament to the play.

"We felt an enormous responsibility to live up to it, and I see the evidence of that hard work in the extraordinary  whiskies selected by Elixir Distillers, the eloquence and precision of Dave Broom’s character notes, and in the illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake, who somehow makes everything look effortless.” 

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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