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Corby Distilleries Ltd. reported Thursday a fourth-quarter profit of $6.6-million, or 23 cents per share, down from a year-ago $7.4-million, or 26 cents per share, as the liquor producer boosted advertising and promotional spending.

Sales grew to $38.2-million from $36.9-million and overall revenue, including commissions, edged higher to $42-million from $41.4-million.

"Fourth-quarter sales in the domestic market held virtually equal to the same quarter last year, even though the comparative period included additional sales resulting from a threatened labour disruption in Ontario," the Toronto-based distiller said in a statement.

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"The increase in fourth quarter sales was derived from the company's contract bottling business, in addition to having increased shipment volumes to international customers."

Corby, which produces alcohol under brands including Wiser's Canadian whiskies, Lamb's rum, Polar Ice vodka and McGuinness liqueurs, noted that "challenging economic conditions continued to impact consumer consumption" as the recession undermined buyer confidence and caused Canadians to rein in non-essential spending. Added to that, competition heated up with "aggressive price discounting" in the industry.

"I am pleased with the company's recent performance during such turbulent economic conditions," said president and chief executive officer Patrick O'Driscoll.

"We continue to strive to increase sales and maximize earnings, while expanding the visibility of Corby's brand portfolio in the Canadian spirits and wine markets."

For the full year, Corby saw a decline in profits to $20.7-million, or 73 cents per share, from $30.4-million, or $1.07, in fiscal 2009.

Earnings in 2010 included an after-tax non-cash impairment charge of $9.4-million related to its Seagram Coolers brand as "over the past two years, the brand underperformed relative to its competitive set due to aggressive competition and investment from both category leaders and new entrants in adjacent categories."

Excluding the charge, 2010 earnings were relatively unchanged from the prior year at $30.1-million.

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Operating revenue for the full year declined to $162.2-million from $169.3-million.

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