Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Pure-play spirits maker Beam (UNKNOWN:BEAM.DL) reported second-quarter earnings on Thursday. Here's what you need to know about the company's recent performance .

Exceeding expectations
Beam's second-quarter organic net sales grew 7% to roughly $638 million. The maker of Pinnacle vodka, Maker's Mark bourbon, and Skinnygirl ready-to-drink cocktails reported profits of $0.46 per share, below Wall Street's expected second-quarter profits of $0.60 per share. Yet, excluding items involving the early extinguishment of debt, earnings per share rose 8% to $0.64. Shares were up roughly 3% midday Thursday. 

Sales growth
Distillers like Beam are expanding in developing markets where economic growth is creating a burgeoning middle class. In Beam's important Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) segment, comparable second-quarter net sales grew 7%. However, sales were down 3% for the quarter in the company's Asia Pacific/South America (APSA) segment, attributed to lower sales in India as Beam repositions its business in that Asian nation. The company posted solid growth in developed markets. For example, Beam's North America segment saw organic revenues grow a lip-licking 6% for the second quarter, aided by strong demand for the company's flagship Jim Beam brand. 

The race to the brown-liquor-sipping consumer
The surging popularity of whiskey and bourbon coupled with a tightened supply and lengthy barrel-aging process has large players making bold moves to add capacity. The company's botched attempt to increase capacity by watering down its Maker's Mark created not only consumer backlash but also a massive product run. First-quarter sales for the brand were up 44%. In the second quarter, premium innovations like Jim Beam Honey and Devil's Cut helped Beam's brown liquor sales.

U.K.-based rival Diageo (NYSE:DEO) recently upped its stake in India's United Spirits, giving it the leading position in the world's largest whiskey market. Last year, Diageo's Johnnie Walker brand reported net sales increases of 31%, 12%, and 18%, respectively, in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia Pacific. Amazingly, Diageo sells six bottles of Johnnie Walker worldwide every second. Just recently, Diageo further quenched investors' thirst when it reported impressive fiscal-year-end results, attributing its success to top-line growth and margin expansion in the U.S. spirits market and scale in emerging markets.

Foolish takeaway
Despite its near-term challenges and competitive landscape, the pure-play spirits maker boasts plenty of attractive growth opportunities. Beam's strong second-quarter results coupled with a recently announced stock buyback program reflect the company's commitment to create shareholder value. For the patient, long-term investor, Beam embraces a great deal to be optimistic about.