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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Consumer claims makers of Old Charter bourbon falsely advertises spirit's age

By Glenn Minnis | Dec 23, 2016

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) – A New York City man has filed suit against three major liquor manufacturers alleging that they strategically utilized inferior ingredients to make their product but continued to charge consumers and advertise the spirits as if it was of the same premium quality.

On behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Nicholas Parker filed his class-action complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York back in November, naming Buffalo Trace Distillery Inc., Old Charter Distillery Co. and Sazerac Co. Inc. as defendants responsible for the manufacturing and sale of Old Charter bourbon.

The suit specifically charges that the companies sought to maximize profits by means of “unfair or deceptive trade or commerce,” through breach of warranty, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

In seeking compensatory, statutory and punitive damages, the plaintiff also alleges seven counts of deceptive acts or practices, false advertising and unjust enrichment.

At issue is the question of if, at some point and time, the distilleries ceased with their still-advertised practice of aging their bourbon for eight years before making it available for purchase without making unsuspecting consumers aware of the change.

In his suit, Parker contends that to this day, labeling on the bottled products still misleads consumers into believing the bourbon is aged for eight years, with the advertisement "gently matured for eight seasons" still appearing in bold print on the bottle.

Old Charter was sold as an eight-year old bourbon until early 2014, when Buffalo Trace rebranded it as Old Charter 8 while keeping its pricing the same at around $18 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

Parker is seeking trial by jury, and the total class joining the suit is now estimated to be “in the hundreds of thousands.”

He is represented by the law firm of Bursor & Fisher PA, which has made news on the class-action consumer litigation front in recent times by successfully brokering a $12 million settlement from Starkist Tuna in an action alleging that the company routinely underfilled cans of its product sold to consumers.

In documents filed with the court related to the liquor dispute, attorneys for Parker argued “the bourbon bearing Old Charter name is now aged for significantly less than eight years and is of inferior quality to its former self.”

They also strongly suggested they are convinced the company was motivated into making the switch by its unwavering desire to increase profits.

Amy Preske, a spokesperson for Buffalo Trace, told the Legal Newsline “we do not comment on ongoing litigation,” thus offering no hint as to how the company might elect to fight off the accusations.

Earlier this year, Bursor & Fisher also slapped Starbucks with a suit alleging that the Seattle-based company regularly underfills its lattes. Back in June, a California federal court judge ruled that the suit filed by plaintiffs Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles contending that consumers are served roughly 25 percent less of a beverage than what’s advertised could move forward.

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Organizations in this Story

Bursor & Fisher, P.A U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York