weather icon Clear

Fireball facing lawsuit over whiskey content

Fireball Whisky may not be getting you as drunk as you think it is, a new lawsuit alleges.

The popular adult beverage is ubiquitous at college fraternity parties and rowdy honkytonks. Its characteristic spicy-sweet cinnamon aftertaste masks the more offensive taste of middle-shelf whiskey. The drink’s slogan is “tastes like heaven, burns like hell,” but some refined palettes disagree, with food and drink site Delish instead suggesting it “tastes like Big Red gum soaked in pee.”

But according to some drinkers, you may not be able to taste anything at all. A class action lawsuit alleges some bottles don’t contain any whiskey at all.

Fireball gets itself into some spicy territory

The class action lawsuit, filed against parent company Sazerac on Jan. 7 in a federal court in Illinois, accuses Fireball of falsely representing what’s in some of its bottles — having customers believe they’re buying whiskey when they actually aren’t. The suit also claims Fireball was selling the misleading products for a premium.

Fireball allegedly failed to differentiate between bottles that contained whiskey and those that contained natural whiskey flavors; its bottles looked nearly identical.

Where one mini bottle is labeled “cinnamon whiskey,” at the bottom, the other is cleverly just called “cinnamon.”

The suit alleges that the products have been sold interchangeably across the U.S. in places like grocery stores and gas stations.

“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. It alleges the bottles instead contained malt liquor, a much less alcoholic ingredient.

For what it’s worth, Fireball is 66 proof, making it much weaker than most other whiskies, which are typically between 86-100 proof.

“Using the words ‘With Natural Whisky & Other Flavors’ is a clever turn of phrase because consumers who strain to read this will see how its ‘Natural Whisky’ is distinct from ‘Other Flavors,’” the suit says.

“[What] the label means to say is that the Product contains ‘Natural Whisky Flavors & Other Flavors’,” it continues. “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.”

This isn’t Fireball’s first time being in hot water

Fireball is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, several countries recalled the product, claiming it contained an ingredient commonly used in antifreeze.

Fireball emphasized it was safe to drink but did recall the drink and reformulate it to be sold in Europe.

“As I’m sure you are aware, Europe, as with many things, has different rules for product formulation,” Sazerac spokeswoman Amy Preske told The Huffington Post at the time. “Hence we have a different formula for Europe.”

Sazerac declined to comment on the issue. Sheehan & Associates, P.C, who is handling the case, told The Street that “customers shouldn’t have to be suspicious that what they’re buying may be different than what they expect.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.