Meet the Team that are Restoring the Legend



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’.

Joanne Paffey

Supply Chain Controller

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.” 



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).



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 1 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 ambassador 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’.

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