The Irish spirits producer, Cooley Distillery, posted pre-tax profits of just over €1m in 2002, up 27% from the previous year. Sales revenues at the company, the only domestically-owned producer of Irish whiskey, rose by 9% to €9.1m.

However, the company's chairman and founder, John Teeling, warned of tough times ahead. Teeling said the duty hike announced in Ireland last December had already started to impact on domestic sales. Spirits consumption as a whole in the country had declined by 20% following the increase which had already damaged sales, he said.

Teeling also said continued profit growth could be undermined by the euro's strength against sterling. "We benefited when the euro was weaker. Irish whiskey is more expensive than scotch but the exchange rate made us look cheaper," Teeling said. He added that Cooley's profits had continued to rise in the first half of this year but that it was unlikely the company could continue to buck the trend.

Cooley's principal brands are Kilbeggan, Lockes, Tyrconnell and Connemara.