Irish whiskey beat Scotch for Pernod Ricard, as Jameson’s rocketing performance gave cause for optimism at the world’s second-largest distiller.

Overall sales growth was up 6% to €8.98bn (£8.05bn) for the year to June 2018, driven by a 14% jump in the Irish whiskey brand. While Jameson and cognac brand Martell led the way, Scotch had to settle for 3% growth in 2018, although Chivas made the picture rosier, returning to growth as sales rose 5%.

European sales grew just 2% despite “strong momentum” in the UK, Germany and Eastern Europe as 4% drops in both France and Spain pulled sales down. Further east brought more joy as markets in China and India blossomed, driving 9% growth in Asia.

First-half growth helped organic profits rise 6.3% to €2.36bn (£2.11bn), driven by pricing improvements. The strong first-half growth led to Pernod upping its profit growth guidance for its 2019 financial year from 4%-6% to 5%-7%.

Moody’s expects Pernod to achieve operating profit growth “in the mid-single digits”, after the improved forecast. Senior credit officer and vice president Ernesto Bisagno commented: “Pernod reported steady profit growth in line with our expectations, driven by a stronger product mix and tight cost management.”

The increased profit growth estimate remains restrained, said Société Générale’s Mitul Girotra, as Pernod Ricard remained cautious over commodity price impacts. “2019 guidance of 5%-7% organic operating profit growth is probably conservative knowing Pernod’s prudence and accommodates still-rising agave prices and hopefully all but the most severe incremental Goods and Service Tax (GST) hit,” he commented.Pernod shares ended the day flat at €138.45 despite a 3% dip in early trading on Wednesday. The shares are up 16.8% year-on-year.

Elsewhere, WH Smith’s travel business continued to go from strength to strength after yet more “good sales across all channels” in the division over the 12 months to 31 August. The retail group said its “strong” travel performance in the year meant it remained on course to meet full-year City expectations, with cost savings and margin improvements also on track in its declining high street business.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb said that “all the indications were that WH Smith had yet again delivered the goods over the key summer period for the travel business”, pointing to a 3.7% rise in Heathrow passenger traffic figures.

WH Smith shares were up 0.8% to 2,068p by Thursday lunchtime, having peaked at 2,098 ­earlier in the day.