Fireball Sued for 'Misleading' Cinnamon Mini Bottles

An Illinois woman is suing the company behind the Fireball Cinnamon drink, complaining that it does not actually contain whiskey. The malt beverage is packaged in small bottles that look almost exactly like the real Fireball Cinnamon Whisky drink, Anna Marquez noted in the class-action lawsuit she filed earlier this month. The only major easily visible difference between the labels for the two drinks is that Fireball Cinnamon doesn't include the word "whisky" in bold print under the Fireball logo.

In her lawsuit against Sazerac Company, the maker of Fireball, Marquez called the Fireball Cinnamon label "misleading." Both drinks contain alcohol, but not what Marquez was expecting. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey has 33% alcohol by volume, and Fireball Cinnamon has 16.5% alcohol by volume.

Consumers "expecting those small bottles labeled 'Fireball Cinnamon' to contain whiskey 'was an easy mistake to make, and one intended by the manufacturer,'" the lawsuit reads, via CBS News. "In fact, what consumers were purchasing at non-liquor stores '[was] not whiskey at all' even though the[ir] labels are almost identical."

Federal and state regulations allow Sazerac to use the spirit brand name of Fireball for both drinks, but the lawsuit claims laws "prohibit the overall misleading impression" created by the Fireball Cinnamon label. The plaintiff notes that the specific details of what is really included the in the Fireball Cinnamon drink are printed in a tiny font. The non-Whisky version has "Malt Beverage With Natural Whisky & Other Flavors and Carmel Color" printed in small letters. The lawsuit calls this a "clever turn of phrase." It may lead consumers to believe the drink contains real whisky alongside "other favors," not "whisky flavors" and "other flavors."

"What the label means to say is that the Product contains 'Natural Whisky Flavors & Other Flavors,' but 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," the lawsuit reads. "However, even where a distilled spirit is used to manufacture flavors, it loses its class and type when blended with other ingredients. When viewed together with the Fireball distilled spirit brand name, the label misleads consumers into believing it is or contains distilled spirits."

The plaintiff even suggests that Sazerac is taking advantage of the misleading label by charging a "premium" price of $0.99 for 50 mL. Marquez is the only plaintiff in the case, but she is hoping to cover anyone who bought Fireball Cinnamon in Illinois and 11 other states.

Sazerac's Fireball website does spell out the difference between the whisky and malt products. "There are 2 key differences between the Fireball Cinnamon labels vs the Fireball Whisky label: Any package with Fireball 'Cinnamon Whisky' on the front label is our whisky-based product," the company notes. "Any product with Fireball 'Cinnamon' on the front label, without 'Whisky', is either our malt-based or wine-based product."