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Belfast Distillery Company eyes expansion with CEO appointment


John Kelly.

John Kelly.

John Kelly.

Building international markets for its fledgling McConnell’s Irish Whisky brand, and developing a new whiskey distillery and visitor attraction in North Belfast, are among expansion plans for the Belfast Distillery Company following its appointment of a new chief executive officer.

John Kelly will lead the business, bringing over 30 years of experience in the drinks sector to the role, most recently with Walsh Whiskey, where he was commercial director.

From Belfast, he has previously worked in a variety of sales, marketing and general manager roles in Ireland, Europe and Middle East during a 22-year career with Diageo.

Belfast Distillery Company launched McConnell’s Irish Whisky one year ago, and the brand has already achieved success in the USA. Kelly will oversee the search for additional distribution partners in markets around the globe, while taking forward plans to develop a new whiskey distillery and visitor attraction in North Belfast.

“I am delighted to take on the role,” said Kelly. “It’s a company with a group of investors that I have admired for some time. They have demonstrated unwavering determination to bring distilling of Irish whiskey back to Belfast, a city which has a long and proud history of whiskey production.

“My role and that of the team at Belfast Distillery Company will be to build a brand, a distillery and a visitor experience that all of Belfast can be proud of.

“The journey has already begun with McConnell’s Irish Whisky now available in Ireland, key European markets and of course the all-important USA market. In the coming months we are determined to build strong relationships with distribution partners across Europe and other priority markets for premium Irish whiskey.”

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James Ammeen, director, Belfast Distillery Company, said: “Appointing John to this all-important role is a significant step for Belfast Distillery Company in what will be a big year for the firm. Our McConnell’s Irish Whisky is already well established in key local and export markets and of course there is always room for growth.

“We have exciting plans for a whiskey distillery and visitor centre, and we are delighted that John is now in place to lead our team and take those plans forward.”

McConnell’s Irish Whisky is now available in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, Netherlands and Italy, with other markets in the pipeline.