posted a sharp drop in first-quarter profits Friday as its bottling arm continues to show weakness.

For its quarter ended Dec. 31, the Virgin Islands rum distributor earned $149,090, or 2 cents a share, down from the year-ago $851,284, or 15 cents a share. Revenue rose to $24.2 million from $22.4 million a year earlier.

"Our bulk alcohol and vinegar and cooking wine segments rebounded this quarter from the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004, and while we saw some improvement in our bottling operations sales, this segment is still performing below expectations," said CEO Jay Maltby. "In December 2004 we completed a consolidation of our bottling operations, closing all but one bottling line in our Lake Alfred, Fla., bottling facility. During January 2005, we further reduced the operations in the Lake Alfred bottling facility to one shift, in a continuing effort to reduce overhead and curtail losses. We expect to see improvement in our bottling operations in future quarters."

The profit decline comes less than two months after Todhunter posted a

disappointing fourth-quarter loss, as bulk alcohol sales were hurt by a slowdown in the high-margin citrus brandy and spirits lines, along with higher raw material and energy costs.

On Friday the company said sales of its flagship Cruzan brand surged 25% from a year ago in the latest period, and that Todhunter would continue to invest in its premium brands.

On Friday, Todhunter rose 17 cents to $13.44