Spirits and Sorcery: Scotland’s Witchcraft through Whisky

October 31, 2023
As an artist and designer, folklore and mythology have always been a fantastic source of inspiration, particularly those which stem from my native Scotland.

Scotland is a wellspring of weird and macabre folk tales, chronicling encounters with strange demons, malicious fairies and cunning witches. Though such things may now seem firmly within the realms of fantasy, the origins of these tales are rooted in a very real and bloodied history. 

The Scottish Witchcraft Series offered me a unique canvas to explore Scotland's deeply gouged connection to witchcraft. These tales from a dark and regrettable chapter of our history have endured, evolving into legends and birthing many of the persisting tropes we know today.

An unexpected bond ties Scotch whisky to the world of witchcraft. Historical records reveal that the early art of distillation was often entrusted to the hands of women, and the alchemical process of spirit distillation bore an uncanny resemblance to the creation of enchanted potions. Scotch whisky itself, given its own legendary status, has long been likened to a magical elixir, a source of inspiration and mystique.

The full collection of the Scottish Witchcraft Series weaves an investigative narrative around Scotland's role in the history of witchcraft. Our initial release paid tribute to the bizarre and tragic tale of Isobel Gowdie, whose fantastical 'confession' painted a vivid and scandalous portrayal of the occult, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to influence ideas about witchcraft even centuries later. The second release, “The Book of Daemonologie” delved into the origins of witchcraft hysteria in Scotland, King James VI of Scotland, who’s paranoid and vitriolic beliefs incited some of history’s most extensive witch hunts.

For the third instalment of the series, I've chosen to cast a spotlight on Scotland's most iconic fictional witches - “The Weird Sisters”, the mysterious entities which shaped the tragic fate of Macbeth. The tropes Shakespeare based these characters on were deeply influenced by the writings of King James VI of Scotland, who authored 'Daemonologie' less than a decade before. Shakespeare’s dramatisation of this proved so sensational that it immortalised the archetype of the witch that we are familiar with in pop culture today. 

Having found my way into whisky design through illustration, it remains my favourite form of storytelling. Whisky packaging lends itself so well to this, with the opportunity for beautiful and unique finishes that add depth and intrigue to a design.

Inspired by depictions of witchcraft in 16th century engravings, the artwork captures the essence of the classic scene in which the witches assemble around a bubbling cauldron, draped in rags, concocting an brew with 'eye of newt,' 'adder’s fork,' and 'tooth of wolf’ while they recite their grim prophecy. On the horizon, the silhouette of Cawdor Castle looms, of which the witches foretell Macbeth's rise to Thaneship.

The bottle holds another secret within itself, featuring a unique finish of invisible phosphorescent ink. Like each bottle in the series, after exposure to light, it unveils an alternative image that glows a lurid green in the dark. 

Most importantly, we needed a whisky that could transport you to the world of Macbeth. Blair Athol Distillery, located in the heart of the region where many acts of Macbeth take place, offered the perfect connection to the play's setting. It's a place steeped in history and legend, with many of the locations still existing to this day.

The Scottish Witchcraft series is a tribute to the enduring legacy of Scotland's strange and mystical past. This single cask offering yields just 219 bottles, giving you an exclusive chance to taste a sip of magic for yourself.

Hannah Sneddon

Subscribe to Cask Mail

Sign up for the latest offers, news and the chance to win a cask

Thank you.
We’ll be in touch shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.