The makers of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky are facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly “misleading” customers, by selling mini bottles of “Fireball Cinnamon” that don’t actually contain any whisky in them.
The beverage is made with malt or wine and flavoured to taste like whisky, according to Fireball’s website, and the mini bottles are sold in gas stations and convenience stores across the U.S. While Fireball whisky is 33 per cent alcohol by volume, Fireball Cinnamon ranges from 16.5 per cent (malt-based) to 21 per cent alcohol (wine-based).
The lawsuit was filed against the Sazerac Company by Anna Marquez, who claims that there isn’t a clear distinction between Fireball whisky and Fireball Cinnamon, and that customers are being misled into purchasing a non-whisky product.
It’s unclear if the non-whisky Fireballs are available in Canada. The brand writes on its website that Fireball Cinnamon is sold in “approximately 170,000 stores in the U.S. that can only sell beer, malt beverages and wine products, but not whisky.”
Fireball writes that it introduced Fireball Cinnamon so that customers could purchase their products in a wider variety of stores, like those without liquor licences. Mini bottles of Fireball whisky can still be purchased in liquor stores — it’s the mini bottles sold elsewhere that are drawing ire.
In the lawsuit filed Jan. 7, Marquez argues that the mini bottles of Fireball whisky are “almost identical” to the bottles of Fireball Cinnamon, and are intentionally deceptive.
Fireball says that customers can tell the products apart because their whisky-based beverage says “Fireball Cinnamon Whisky” on the front label while Fireball Cinnamon omits the word “Whisky.”
In addition to the similar labels, the lawsuit argues that the phrase describing Fireball Cinnamon’s composition is also confusing.
The label reads, “Malt Beverage With Natural Whisky & Other Flavors and Caramel Color.” The lawsuit claims the phrase “natural whisky and other flavors” is misleading because it appears to signal the drink is made with whisky rather than flavoured with it.
The lawsuit alleges that “by not including the word “Flavors” after “Natural Whisky,” purchasers who look closely will expect the distilled spirit of whisky was added as a separate ingredient.”
“When viewed together with the Fireball distilled spirit brand name, the label misleads consumers into believing it is or contains distilled spirits.”
According to the court documents, the plaintiff is seeking more than US$5 million in statutory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit was filed solely by Marquez but seeks to cover anyone in Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas, and Utah who has purchased Fireball Cinnamon.