Irish cream liqueur sales have had a further sweet year of recovery according to new data from the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI).

Preliminary figures suggest exports of the drink have grown 8% so far this year, driven by strong demand from the US.

It follows the sale of 90 million bottles globally last year representing a 2.9% bump in sales compared to 2016.

The ABFI says the figures show the popular spirit category is staging something of a comeback following a "lost decade".

Sales in the Irish market have also increased the organisation says, with 1.2 million bottles sold here last year, up 5.6% on the previous year and further growth of around 8% so far this year.

The US is the biggest export destination for cream liqueur from Ireland, followed by the UK, Canada, Germany and Spain.

A geographical indication (GI) designation means Irish cream liqueur must be made in a certain technical way on this island from Irish dairy cream and Irish whiskey.

As a result, the industry requires 316 million litres of fresh cream from farmers here every year, making it an important "cash-cow" for the industry.

"As we look ahead to 2019, we anticipate that growth in the category will continue," said Patricia Callan from the ABFI.

"With this in mind, the continued protection of Irish cream liqueurs in export markets through the GI will be vitally important."

The Irish Spirits Association is currently working with the government and EU to invoke GI protection in Canada as there have been a number of cases there of Canadian-produced liqueurs being passed-off as ‘Irish Cream’, Ms Callan added.