LOS ANGELES – The fireball is under fire.
A class action lawsuit filed by a woman in Illinois claims that bottles of Fireball sold at gas stations and supermarkets don’t actually contain any whiskey at all, misleading customers who buy the brand’s bottles. They are often sold outside liquor stores for 99 cents.
The lawsuit called the labels “nearly identical,” saying the manufacturer intended consumers to make the mistake of what was inside.
The lawsuit goes on to explain the difference between the two liquids: whiskey is a distilled spirit, while a malt beverage is a fermented beverage into which flavors and colors are later added.
“Using the words ‘With Natural Whiskey & Other Flavors’ is a clever way of phrasing because consumers who make the effort to read this [not] see how his ‘Natural Whisky’ is distinct from ‘Other flavours'”, the lawsuit says. “They will think the product is a malt drink with natural whiskey and other flavors added.”
“What the label intends to say is that the product contains ‘Natural Whiskey Flavors & Other Flavors’, but by not including the word ‘Flavors’ after ‘Natural Whisky’, buyers looking closely will expect the distilled spirit of whiskey was added as a separate ingredient,” the lawsuit continues.
Fireball Cinnamon first debuted in 2020 and is marketed with a label on the bottle that reads “Malt drink with natural whiskey and other flavors and caramel color” on the label. Sales of malted beverages, which include hard seltzers, are not as tightly regulated as sales of distilled spirits.
The lawsuit alleges that Sazerac, which owns the brand, violated consumer fraud statutes and seeks to cover plaintiffs in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming.
While no specific number was provided in the statutory and punitive damages filing, the filing says the amount would likely be in excess of $5 million.
Photos attached to the lawsuit show the bottles for the larger Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey versus the mini bottles, which are labeled “Fireball Cinnamon.”