Fishermen from both sides of the Irish border netted an unexpected early Christmas present, hauling in bottles of cream liqueur near the English coast, a drinks company said. The bottles of Carolans Irish Cream liqueur were part of a consignment of 8,000 bottles lost last month when a container was swept overboard in a storm in the Bay of Biscay.

The fishermen's nets brought up the bottles in special presentation packs that had been destined for the Christmas market in Spain -- so they scored not only a tipple but also the glasses from which to drink it.

The unexpected haul recalls the classic 1949 comedy film "Whisky Galore!", which follows a group of Scottish islanders who raided a shipwreck for its cargo of of whisky and their attempts to hide the stash from eager customs men.

"The whole thing is stranger than fiction," John Chamney, export director for Ireland's C and C International drinks company, told AFP.

Carolans, the world's second-largest cream liqueur brand, is made from Irish whiskey, double cream and honey, and is named after a famous blind 17th-century Irish bard and harpist, Turlough O'Carolan.

Prawn fishing boats from Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay in southeast Ireland, Clogherhead in the northeast and Kilkeel in Northern Ireland had caught gift packs of liqueur fishing in an area off the English coast known as the Smalls, Chamney said.

"We don't know how it got to be there. The liqueur was in a container that was swept off a ship in the Bay of Biscay," he said.

"The container must have broken up when it hit the bottom and then I suppose the Gulf Stream must have taken it. I haven't spoken to anybody who has sampled the booze but it would appear it is in perfect condition.

The glasses hadn't been broken and the Carolans is very drinkable."