Will the Fireball Whisky Recall Affect Sales?

fireballBy now, you’ve probably heard that Finland, Sweden, and Norway have issued a recall on a specific batch of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky that contains a slightly elevated level of “antifreeze chemical” propylene glycol. See, Europe is a bit stricter about the amount of propylene glycol that can go in its beverages, and a batch intended for US consumption accidentally got sent to Europe.

Here’s a quick explanation in grams and solutions, courtesy of Lehigh Valley Live:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows propylene glycol in food and beverages in a solution of up to 50 grams per kilogram, [Fireball marketing services director Meredith] Moody said; the European standard is less than 1 g/kg. The domestic Fireball formula uses an eighth of the limit set by the FDA, said Moody, though she said she could not be more specific.

But antifreeze chemical! Isn’t that bad? Shouldn’t we all panic? ABC News quotes Cornell food scientist Motoko Mukai to set the record straight:

“I saw a lot of media that it’s found in antifreeze; [propylene glycol] is found in environmentally friendly antifreeze,” she said.

Whew. I mean, as long as it’s environmentally friendly.

But look, you and I both know that ingesting small amounts of propylene glycol via Fireball whisky isn’t going to hurt us. Let’s confirm that with ABC:

For example, Mukai points out in liquor the chemical can make up to just 50 grams for each kilogram of liquid, or 5 percent. So, she said before a person would get sick from consuming a dangerous amount of the chemical, they would likely get sick from alcohol poisoning.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to look at the real question: does this Fireball whisky recall affect sales?

We’ll start with Time Magazine:

Yael Vengroff, Fireball aficionado and bar manager at Harvard & Stone in Los Angeles, begs to differ. She says the kind of folks who appreciate Fireball may not be the same kind of people who are easily spooked by scandal. “I feel that Fireball won’t suffer from the current recall,” she says, “because I don’t feel like its market and drinkers are in the business of playing it safe, if you will.”

Um… Fireball whisky is my favorite flavored alcohol beverage and I am totally in the business of playing it safe. Do you want to see my spreadsheets? What is this so-called reputation surrounding Fireball drinkers? The Daily Beast says everyone is drinking Fireball these days:

In 2011, Fireball had just $1.9 million in sales in the United States, reported Bloomberg Businessweek. By 2013, that figure rose to $61 million, surpassing Jameson Irish whiskey and Patron tequila. These figures don’t include sales at bars, meaning that sales of the drink were likely even higher.

See? Fireball is popular. It’s not just for risk-taking types who aren’t phased by small amounts of antifreeze chemical. It’s a best seller. The Twilight of booze. It even gets invited to weddings!

Wait—I just watched that—are they all drinking from the same bottle? That’s the kind of risk taking with which I am not comfortable. Also, that one dude did not pick up his hotel room before he started filming.

Back to sales for a minute, courtesy of another ABC News article:

An announcement on the Systembolaget website confirms that sales of Fireball have been stopped in Sweden due to high levels of propylene glycol. Customers who bought Fireball are welcome to return it for a refund, even if the bottle is opened.

Okay, so you can’t get Fireball in Sweden.

Alko, Finland’s state alcohol monopoly, has filed a complaint and recalled Fireball from store shelves due to excessive levels of propylene glycol.

Or in Finland. What about the rest of the world?

Fireball liqueur remains on shelves in the United States and in other countries.

Whew. Also, they called it a liqueur. That makes it sound classy. I’m picturing everyone in Downton Abbey sipping shooters filled with elegant Fireball liqueur. “Sadly, this new American liqueur is not warm enough to soften my cold nature,” Lady Mary says, right before rejecting four eligible suitors. “I heard, in a pinch, you can use it in your auto,” Branson says, incorrectly. Also, George Clooney is there, because of course he is.

So now we know. There’s a temporary lack of Fireball in two countries but sales everywhere else are still going strong, because Fireball is an delicious and popular adult beverage for classy, non-risk-taking adults that has no reputation whatsoever. Right, the Daily Beast?

It’s a defeat for bros—and a triumph for good taste.


Photo credit: dprotz



Show Comments

From Our Partners