Meet James Pennefather, our new CEO

News  •  16.06.23

Meet James Pennefather, our new CEO

We are delighted to announce the appointment of James Pennefather as our new Chief Executive Officer.

Joining our team on 1 July, James has family ties to the Lake District and brings a wealth of commercial, operational, and leadership experience amassed building brands for Diageo and, more recently, William Grant & Sons, where he spent the last nine years as the managing director of operations in India and regional director of the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.

An established figure in the global whisky industry, James takes the helm at a time when accelerating international expansion offers the next phase of growth:

"I first visited The Lakes Distillery on a tour with my family and was extremely impressed. What shone through was a passion to create a remarkably complex and multi-layered liquid, and an unwavering ambition to reach way beyond its borders,” 

James has worked in the spirits industry for more than 20 years.
"I’ve worked in the premium spirits industry for more than 20 years, both in the UK and abroad, and it was clear to me that The Lakes has the potential to become one of the great luxury international spirits brands. As someone with proud Lake District roots, I could not pass on the opportunity to join the team and help to deliver on this vision.
The next phase of growth requires us to establish The Lakes as an aspirational brand in international markets. It will bring new challenges but what I can confidently say is that the whisky being made at The Lakes is perfectly placed to succeed on a global stage where opportunity abounds and having an obsession for flavour is paramount."


James succeeds co-founder Nigel Mills CBE, who has led The Lakes Distillery since 2012 when he established the enterprise with Paul Currie. From a derelict Victorian model farm to a forward-thinking, design-led single malt whisky distillery selling worldwide, The Lakes Distillery has come a long way in a relatively short time.

"Together with Paul and the team, Nigel has built The Lakes Distillery from the ground up and helped to inspire the regeneration of the English whisky industry. The journey the business has been on is quite remarkable, and Nigel has not only ensured we have firm foundations from which to build but will also continue to support both James and the whole team in his new role as a non-executive board director."

Tim Farazmand, The Lakes Distillery chairman.

James succeeds co-founder Nigel Mills CBE, who has led The Lakes Distillery since 2012.

As he moves to a new role on our board, Nigel Mills commented;

"Now is the right time for me to step away from the day-to-day running of The Lakes. I have been thinking about succession for some time and believe that in a little over 10 years we have built a modern and progressive whisky distillery with the building blocks in place for a very exciting new era of growth and innovation.
In the last two years alone, we have tripled spirit-making capacity, seen single malt whisky sales grow by 85% year-on-year, and expanded our footprint into 14 countries, including the US, France, Japan, and China.
I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved but also know that James’ experience in domestic and international markets is exactly what the business needs at this stage of our journey. I look forward to seeing The Lakes Distillery develop and scale under his leadership."


James Pennefather’s appointment follows Sarah Burgess, former Lead Whiskymaker at The Macallan, joining The Lakes whiskymaking team in January to take responsibility for all whiskymaking operations.