Jim Beam whiskey may sound a bit unappetizing for those who had a little too much green beer last night for St. Patrick's Day. However, Jim Beam is one of the brands giving Fortune Brands (NYSE:FO) a reason to celebrate. The company said that its first-quarter outlook is better than previously anticipated, sending the stock to a new 52-week high today.

Fortune Brands' management vowed to grow its first-quarter earnings per share by 19% or more in the coming first quarter, raising the estimate to $0.82 per share or more. It said several factors helped it raise expectations, including broad-based demand, improvements in supply chain efficiency, and the weak dollar.

This operating company is the name behind many very well-known brands, including Jim Beam's adult beverages, Moen faucets, Master Lock padlocks, and Swingline office products, including the famous staplers. (Here's more information on how holding companies work.)

While it's hard to resist using the term "luck o' the Irish" on the day after St. Paddy's Day, really, when you look at the current economic environment, there wasn't much luck involved in Fortune Brands' recent success. Homebuying is still in. People are more willing to spend money on luxuries like spirits, and probably golf, another Fortune business. Heck, some businesses are hiring again, and some of those hires will probably be looking for their new Swingline staplers. (Hopefully, not with the zeal of Milton Waddams from Office Space.)

When it comes to booze, Brown-Forman (NYSE:BFB) makes a strong competitor. It's in the whiskey biz, too, offering Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort. Other brands include Korbel champagnes and Fetzer wines. It also makes the Lenox and Dansk lines of china.

Both companies seem positioned to take advantage of an improving economic outlook. Back in February, Brown-Forman planned aggressive advertising to push its brands of spirits. Whether that will take some of the swagger out of Fortune Brands' Jim Beam remains to be seen.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned.