Review: Selections from the Macbeth Whiskey Collection, Act One

Ah, Macbeth. The Scottish play. The Thane of Glamis. The Murderous King. The… collection of 42 whiskies hand-selected by Livingstone and Elixir Distillers? OK, we’re listening.

This way-out-there concept celebrates Macbeth by taking 42 Scotch whiskies and pairing them with 42 characters from the famous play. At the top of the line is the £10,000 King Duncan, a 56 year old bottling from Glen Grant, with 100 bottles produced. Just about everyone in the play gets a whisky named for them, including the witches, Lady Macduff, and good old Macbeth himself — though at launch, with “Act One,” only 9 of the 42 whiskies are being initially unveiled. Each bottle includes an illustration by Quintin Blake and tasting notes by Dave Broom.

We received small samples of four of the nine Act One releases, to which we turn our present attention. All are exclusive to The Whisky Exchange.

Macbeth Act One Bloody Sergeant – Blair Athol 10 Years Old – A delightful Highland malt, bursting with rich vanilla notes paired with some citrus elements. (It was aged in bourbon and red wine casks.) Chewy notes of coconut and almond nougat brighten up a malt that already has plenty of brightness going on, the finish leaning into notes of taffy and baking spices. Straightforward but gorgeous, and an outstanding bargain for the quality on display. 103.6 proof.

Macbeth Act One First Murderer – The Isle of Mull 18 Years Old – Distillery officially unstated, it’s a heavily peated offering from Tobermory’s Ledaig brand, on account of it’s the only distillery on the island. The classic burnt rubber notes of Ledaig are quick to emerge, alongside notes of roasted meats, Band-Aids, and a touch of lemon peel and lime zest. Peppery, drying, and a little briny on the lengthy, smoky finish. Ledaig fans know what they’re getting into here. This doesn’t change the calculus. 101 proof.

Macbeth Act One First Ghost – Cambus 31 Years Old – All of the six “ghosts” in this collection are from shuttered distilleries… get it? The first one is a good old single grain from Cambus, with a few surprises in store. Well-aged single grain whisky often comes across as sweet, but this is something else, showcasing a burst of sugar, vanilla syrup, and butterscotch. A maple-adjacent character becomes prominent as the palate builds, where all of these sweet syrups start to meld together into something rather cloying — to the point where it’s hard to get much more out of it. 92.4 proof.

Macbeth Act One Lady Macduff – Linkwood 31 Years Old – Lastly we look at this bourbon-barreled Linkwood, a Speyside classic. There are certainly no complaints to be had here except from those your wallet may be making. Brisk and complex on the nose, a distinctly pastoral quality is counterbalanced by elements of mushroom, soy sauce, and red wine. Umami all the way as the finish builds, I would not have guessed this was a straight bourbon-barrel bottling, as it evokes a surprising and curious wine cask finish, with oxidized fruit, almonds, and a gummy, honeyed quality coming into focus. Lemon peel, florals, and lots of vanilla emerge the more time you let it linger in glass. Definitely the most exploration-worthy whisky in this lineup, it’s the sole sample that I wish I had more of just so I could keep figuring out its DNA. 96.4 proof. 

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