It's the cusp of Memorial Day weekend. What better time to think about a substance that gives many people a happy buzz? Brown-Forman (NYSE:BFB) reported earnings last night, and it seems the high price of advertising its alcoholic wares gave it a bit of a hangover. Meanwhile, a tough environment for its consumer durables segment also contributed to a subdued quarter.

Brown-Forman's fourth-quarter earnings per share increased 5% to $0.47 per share. However, net profit fell 1% to $57.8 million. True, Brown-Forman did warn about this several months ago, when it said it planned an increase in liquor advertising to boost sales and reduce liquor inventory. Total sales increased 8% to $625 million.

Full-year earnings per share rose 16% in what the company called its largest percentage increase in EPS in nine years. That included a $0.06 per share reduction related to a charge in a settlement with Diageo (NYSE:DEO).

The advertising seems to have done the job, theoretically. The company's strong suit was its super hard liquor brands -- namely, Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort whiskey. The weak spot, according to the company's press announcement, was "a significant drop in profits from the consumer durables segment."

This is nothing new. Though the lion's share of its sales are generated by spirits, consumer durables have suffered lately. In the company's most recent 10-Q filing, net sales in that segment were flat, with gross profit declining 3%.

If you asked the same question I did -- what the heck are its consumer durables products -- they include china and flatware under brand names like Dansk and Lenox. However, one of its new and likely promising products is a Kate Spade line of china. In its conference call (courtesy of CCBN StreetEvents), the company cited a difficult environment for china and giftware; with the economy improving and the wedding season approaching, one might wonder if it might start looking up.

Meanwhile, it's hard to ignore rival Fortune Brands (NYSE:FO) -- its last quarter was stellar. It closely mirrors Brown-Forman's product line in many ways, as it provides Jim Beam whiskey and a lineup of wines. On the consumer side, its diversification comes from brands like Moen and Master, with golf products Titleist and Cobra.

There's other competition out there as well, like Diageo, which provides cocktail party essentials like Smirnoff, Tanqueray, Cuervo, Guinness, and Captain Morgan. Allied Domecq (NYSE:AED) may appeal to your sweet tooth with Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins, but also provides wines and liquor including Beefeater gin, Kahlua, and Harveys Bristol Cream.

Regardless, the companies that provide wine, spirits, liqueurs, and so forth, occupy a pretty important niche. Good times or bad, wine and liquor are popular consumer goods. And how. And that's not likely to change anytime soon.

Brown-Forman recently declared a dividend. And Mathew Emmert, who pens Motley Fool Income Investor, recently wrote about the dangers ofsin stocks, which would, of course, include those heavy on the booze. Consider a30-day free trialto Motley Fool Income Investor to find out what stocks Mathew has picked as safe bets for income.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She doesn't socialize with Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.