British-based spirits giant Diageo, parent of Bulleit, Johnny Walker, Baileys, Guinness, Smirnoff and Crown Royal on Thursday reported financial results for the first half of the fiscal year that were essentially flat compared to the same period last year.
Bulleit, the company's premium bourbon and rye brand, remained a bright spot for the company and should hit record sales, said CEO Ivan Menezes.
For the first six months, Diageo reported sales of Bulleit were up 55 percent globally and even more in North America.
"Bulleit goes from strength to strength in North America, growing net sales 59 percent. It is now the number one rye whiskey in the U.S. and Bulleit Bourbon is ... likely to reach over 750,000 cases this year. That said, it still maintains its craft image," Menezes said.
The second quarter, which ended Dec. 31, showed improvement, Diageo officials said.
"We have improved our performance during the half and we have again shown the strength of our brands, which is driving our share gains; our strong innovation capability, which has enabled us to access new growth opportunities; and our focus on cost," Menezes said, in the results release.
Profit for the first six months was down 18 percent to 1.3 billion pounds ($1.96 billion); earnings per share before exceptional items was 53.7 pence (81 cents), down 18 percent per share driven mainly by the impact of foreign exchanges.
For the half year, reported net sales for Diageo's North American business fell by 2 per cent. U.S. sales of Smirnoff fell 7 percent while Johnnie Walker was down 14 percent.
However, Cîroc Pineapple and Crown Royal Regal Apple contributed to overall growth in Diageo's vodka and North American whiskey categories, up 6 percent and 3 percent respectively, while Captain Morgan gained share in rum driven by Captain Morgan White Rum, according to the company.
Demand for deluxe brands drove a 10 percent increase in products such as Don Julio and Bulleit.
Diageo is in the midst of building a $115 million distillery to produce Bulleit bourbon in Shelby County.