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Ex-Macallan whisky maker to create Craigellachie line

Former Macallan whisky maker Sarah Burgess has joined The Craigellachie Hotel to develop a new collection of spirits and sodas inspired by Speyside.

Sarah Burgess joins Craigellachie Hotel
Sarah Burgess is hoping to change the way people think about whisky with a new line of sodas

Burgess left the Edrington-owned single malt brand in January 2022 after nearly five years at the company. She helped to develop The Macallan Genesis and collaborations with the likes of Pantone and Sir Peter Blake. A replacement for Burgess’ role at The Macallan is yet to be announced.

Burgess has nearly 25 years of experience in the whisky industry and previously worked at Diageo for two decades, where she helped manage the Glenkinchie and Clynelish distilleries.

The Aberlour native has now returned home with her new role crafting a ‘luxury lifestyle collection’ at The Craigellachie in Speyside, one of the world’s oldest whisky hotels. The move marks her first time outside of the world of whisky in two decades.

Burgess will lead the creation of The Craigellachie Collection, a new range of sodas that tell the story of Speyside. The line of sodas have been created to “change the way people think about whisky”.

“I want to approach whisky in positive and inclusive way,” she explained. “The flexibility of these sodas mean you can mix them with whisky, gin or Tequila.”

The Craigellachie Collection will include a sparkling water, a still water, a tonic water, a light tonic water, a ginger ale and a grapefruit soda.

The products are made with botanicals from Speyside, as well as Highland Spring water from the Scottish region.

Burgess explained: “I wanted to create something within the range of sodas that mixes perfectly with whisky. There are traditionalists that won’t want to drink a Highball or mix a whisky but there are a lot of people who do want to add water to their whisky.”

Piers Adams, owner of The Craigellachie Hotel, added: “Sarah is a creative genius who personifies Speyside. She is one of the best whisky creators in the world from one of the biggest luxury brands in the world. Her guidance and hands-on development overseeing the concepts and product creation for The Craigellachie Collection is going to ensure that the very best of Speyside is encapsulated.

“Speyside is a region in Scotland known throughout the world for making pre-eminent spirits to textiles, and The Craigellachie Collection looks to bring this together with a series of products inspired by and produced by one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

The Craigellachie Collection of sodas will be revealed at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (27 April-2 May) and will be available to buy from spring 2022.

“What we intend to do is target the top 10 countries around the world for whisky, and 20 to 100 high-end bars and hotels in these countries,” Burgess noted.

Future products

A second six-strong range of sodas are also under flavour development, with Burgess exploring a collaboration with a Sri Lankan tea brand for one of the products.

Under the Craigellachie umbrella, Burgess will also create several spirits, including a Speyside gin and vodka, and a limited edition line of whiskies.

The recipe for the gin and vodka is under development and will be released in the “next few months”, Burgess said.

For the whisky, Burgess is looking at buying mature and new make spirit, with casks from across the world, including Spain, France and the US.

Burgess is also working on a beer and cider for the hotel.

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