The maker of Fireball is being sued for selling a malt beverage that looks similar to its popular Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, but most of the bottles sold in Maine do contain hard liquor.

An Illinois woman is suing Sazerac Company, which has a bottling plant in Lewiston, for “misleading” packaging because Fireball Cinnamon, a malt beverage flavored to taste like Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, doesn’t actually contain whisky.

Fireball makes the malt beverage, which has 16.5 percent alcohol by volume compared with 33 percent for the whisky version, so it can sell it at 170,000 stores in the United States that are allowed to sell beer and wine but not spirits, according to its website.

While it appears mini bottles — or nips— of the malt version are sold in some Maine stores, many of the Fireball bottles you see on shelves here contain whisky. In fact, sales of the Fireball Cinnamon Whisky nips alone topped $3 million in 2021, according to the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

The plaintiff, Anna Marquez of Chicago, claims in the lawsuit she bought Fireball Cinnamon unaware that it didn’t contain whisky and is seeking more than $5 million in damages.

The lawsuit claims that the company’s labeling of Fireball Cinnamon is “false and misleading” because the bottles appear similar to Fireball Cinnamon Whisky bottles. The primary difference between the bottles is that the malt version is described as “Cinnamon” while the boozier one is called “Cinnamon Whisky.”

The suit is seeking class action status to cover people who bought Fireball Cinnamon in Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas and Utah.

Paul Koenig

Paul Koenig is chief digital editor at the Bangor Daily News. He previously spent six years at Maine magazine, as managing editor and then editor. Before that he worked at Old Port magazine, Mainebiz and...