After Sazerac Company initiated a major lawsuit this week against distributor RNDC, the spirits corporation now finds itself as the defendant in a brewing class action lawsuit.
The proposed class action lawsuit addresses the striking similarity between mini bottles of classic 33-percent ABV Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and the malt-based spinoff by the same brand. Plaintiff Anna Marquez of Illinois leads the class action group.
Spencer Sheehan, dubbed the “vanilla vigilante” for his string of high-caliber food labeling lawsuits involving vanilla, represents Marquez in the suit against Sazerac. This isn’t the first alcohol brand that Sheehan has targeted — earlier this year, the lawyer assisted in a case against Topo Chico’s hard seltzer Margaritas.
The 11-page suit asserts that Fireball Cinnamon, a malt-based beverage produced by Sazerac, is “misleading” in its similarity to full-proof Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. The plaintiff alleges that the two products have nearly identical branding, making it difficult for buyers to discern which product they are purchasing.
Phrasing on the products’ labels also contribute to the controversy. The malt-based beverage’s label currently reads “With Natural Whisky & Other Flavors and Caramel Color” — phrasing that plaintiffs believe intentionally confuses consumers. They instead suggest Fireball should change the wording to “Natural Whisky Flavors & Other Flavors.”
The mini malt-based bottles contain no actual whisky and include the words “malt beverage” in the smallest permitted font size. The two products can also be found in similar 50-milliliter bottles.
“Liquor stores reported a decline in sales of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, confirmed by their customers who told them they preferred to purchase it for lower prices elsewhere,” the lawsuit document states. “Expecting those small bottles labeled ‘Fireball Cinnamon’ to contain whiskey [was] an easy mistake to make, and one intended by the manufacturer.”
The January class action lawsuit looks to represent consumers who’ve purchased the malt-based Fireball Cinnamon and live in Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Arizona, South Carolina, or Utah.