UK-based spirits company The Lakes Distillery has appointed former Diageo and William Grant & Sons executive James Pennefather as its CEO.

Pennefather, who spent 14 years at Diageo before eight at William Grant, succeeds The Lakes Distillery co-founder Nigel Mills.

Alongside Paul Currie, Mills set up The Lakes Distillery in 2012. The company, based in Cumbria, sells blended and single malt whiskies, as well as gin and vodka. He will become a non-executive director.

The Lakes Distillery launched its inaugural single malt whisky, The Whiskymaker’s Reserve, in 2019. Its first product was The Lakes Gin, a mid-priced gin that uses ingredients from the Cumbrian countryside.

On its website, the company says it sells in 14 countries, including the US and France.

Mills said: “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 ten 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.”

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Pennefather has spent the last two and a half years as managing director of William Grant’s business in Africa, the Middle East & the Indian Sub-Continent. He joined The Glenfiddich owner in 2014 as MD for India.

In more than a decade at Diageo, Pennefather held roles including group strategy director for East African Breweries.

He said: “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.”