John is a highly respected drinks industry veteran, with over 30 years’ experience in the sector, including 22 years with Diageo, where he held senior roles in sales, marketing and general management within Ireland, Europe and the Middle East. John also worked with Walsh Whiskey in Carlow, Ireland.
In 2021 John joined Belfast Distillery Company as CEO and is building the team which will bring distilling back to Belfast – via a new distillery to be built on a historic landmark site in Belfast city.
In his spare time John enjoys playing golf, coaching and ferrying his children around to their various sports events, ‘and best of all, watching from the sidelines’.
A chartered accountant, Patrick has worked at senior management and executive level in multi-national publicly traded companies, and in medium to large sized private enterprises. Working in a diverse range of sectors including construction, pharma, packaging, dairy processing and more recently banking, Patrick brings proven and extensive finance experience to the team.
Patrick graduated in accounting at Ulster University and received his professional training in Belfast and Hong Kong with PwC.
Patrick’s interests include golf, rugby union, walking, music, dining out (or experimenting, with mixed results, with recipes at home).
Graeme Millar is our Master Distiller and our Head of Supply and Distillery Operations. He lives in Newtownabbey with his partner Yvonne and son Callum. Following his studies of Food Technology at Loughry College, he has over 20 years’ experience in the food and drinks industry. During this time Graeme has completed an MBA and The Institute of Brewing and Distilling Diploma in Distilling. Graeme has been a Head Distiller in the Irish Whiskey industry for 8 years, however before this he held numerous senior roles within the food and drinks sector, which included being part of the team that built a rum distillery in the Caribbean, and the development of a well-known Irish Cream supply facility in Newtownabbey.
Graeme’s position within the J&J Distillery will oversee all supply and distillery related business. His role will be based at the Company’s new site at Crumlin Road Gaol and includes the development of distilling functions, building the team responsible for its smooth running, as well as management of the supply of the company’s award-winning McConnell’s Irish Whisky. Graeme’s focus is to develop the signature flavour of J&J McConnell’s Single Malt Irish Whisky and to develop the skills of the Distillery Team, building the legacy of Belfast quality spirit and harnessing the Belfast work ethic to re-kindle the craft that once helped put Belfast on the map.
Raised in Newtownabbey, North Belfast, Joanne has been working in the manufacturing industry for 35 years. She is educated to Level 5 Management & Leadership, APICS certified in Production and Inventory Management and is highly skilled in Business Operations, Customer and Supplier Relationship Management, Production Planning, Purchasing and Stores Management.
Prior to joining Belfast Distillery Joanne worked at Canyon Europe for almost 20 years. One of her greatest achievements at Canyon Europe was as Project Champion for the implementation of the ERP and Shop Floor Data Capture software systems which helped manage the rapid growth of the company at the time, this brought other benefits such as The Queens award for International Export, ISO9000 & UK Green efficiency IT awards.
Joanne lives with her partner Stephen and is a proud mother of two boys Sam and Kyle. Outside of work she spends time with my family, eating out and city breaks.
“It is a privilege being part of such a determined and passionate team at Belfast Distillery Team and I am hopeful my skills and experiences will help it be a huge success.”
After graduating from Queen’s University Belfast, Dessie became a chartered accountant while working in professional services. He has since held several commercial positions, most recently leading the growth of the North American operation of a global technology business. Dessie is particularly passionate about bringing local products to the international stage.
He is a dedicated Irish whiskey enthusiast, and has completed WSET Level 1, as well as the Certificate in Irish Whiskey. Away from work, when not spending time with his family, Dessie enjoys sports including football, rugby, running and golf.
After graduating in Business Studies from Ulster University, Sarah spent time in the corporate sector before joining the Belfast Distillery Company team. She recently completed her WSET Level 2 in Spirits, and is continuing her studies of the sector. ‘I see that knowledge is essential to our goal here – helping to bring a legendary whisky back to life,’ she says.
Born and bred in Belfast, Sarah loves her home city and is always keen to introduce people to it – and to McConnell’s. Happily, her role as brand manager allows her to combine these twin passions.
A busy mum, Sarah finds time when she can for running, live gigs – ‘and of course, the local whiskey clubs’.
Sean Rocks, our dedicated Brand Ambassador stationed in Belfast, embodies the essence of his hometown. With Belfast as his birthplace, Sean's professional journey has been enriched by a dynamic 12-year tenure in the hospitality sector, spanning across vibrant cities like Belfast, London, and Barcelona. A highlight of his career was serving as the head bartender at The Merchant Hotel's distinguished cocktail bar. Sean's fervor for locally-sourced and Irish products is matched only by his admiration for the unparalleled standards of service in the hospitality scene, both on local and global scales.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, Sean finds solace and inspiration in the simple pleasures of life. His devotion to family and friends is unwavering, and he seeks joy in the harmonious rhythms of music, the excitement of football, and the enriching experiences of travel.
Our Brand Ambassador, Corey Fitzpatrick, hails from Ballynahinch in Co. Down and has a deep connection to his roots. He pursued his education at Northumbria University, where he not only gained knowledge but also found his passion for the hospitality sector. Having graduated with a degree in Primary Education, Corey ventured into the world of Irish Whiskey, embarking on a journey as a tour guide at a nearby distillery. This experience ignited his enthusiasm and expertise in the realm of whiskey.
Beyond his professional pursuits, Corey finds joy in football, exploring new destinations, maintaining an active lifestyle, and immersing himself in the enchanting world of music, particularly live concerts.
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