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Bourbon Fraud, Neat

A class action lawsuit has been brought on behalf of purchasers of Old Charter bourbon. Old Carter represents they provide an 8-year aged bourbon, and these claims made by the company appear to be false and misleading.

Old Charter used to be aged for 8 years, but Defendants stopped that practice in January of 2014, nearly 3 years ago. The bourbon bearing the Old Charter name is now aged for significantly less than 8 years and is of inferior quality to its former, but in an attempt to up-sell the newer, younger, worser, inferior product, the company’s bottle labeling still misleads consumers to believe that the bourbon is aged 8 years. (You can see a picture of the company bottle below)

The misrepresentation appears in three places on the bottle: on the neck, on its own label on the top of the body, and in the text portion which reads “gently matured for eight
seasons in century old brick warehouses:”

The label from before and after the defendants’ switch was unchanged with one
minor exception. In an apparent game of fraud with consumers, Old Charter omitted the words “aged” and “years” from the label, but continued touting the number 8.

This deceptive change fails to inform anyone that Defendants’ product is now
composed of cheaper and lower-quality bourbon. The number 8 is still prominently shown in the same  three places on the bottle, and the label still reads “gently matured for eight seasons ….”

It is clear that the word “seasons” unambiguously means “years.” This is readily apparent from the labels of Defendants’ prior 8-year and 10-year aged Old Charter products,
which claimed to be matured for “eight seasons” and “ten seasons,” respectively:


The above photo also shows that the number 8 is not part of the name of the Old Charter product as the number 8 never appeared on the 10-year version of Old Charter.

The complaint suggests that “published reviews of Old Charter agree that quality has significantly dropped since Defendants stopped aging the bourbon for 8 years. One reviewer wrote that he had “mistakenly purchased a handle of Old Charter ‘8’ in Louisiana thinking it was the 8 year and had then found a[n old] bottle of the 8 year [and] decided that we needed to do another comparison. See if I should still be upset at the change.” After sampling both, the reviewer concluded that “for Old Charter 8 the NAS [non age-stated] release was strikingly inferior to the age-stated product.”

Countless consumers have complained online of Defendants’ deceiving practice.
For example, one consumer wrote:

Several bourbons are going this route and you can argue over the reasoning as to
why but it [angers me] that I bought Old Charter 8 yesterday thinking it was 8 yr
[sic] old and not the new no age statement 8.

Another wrote:
And what’s said is deceptive, very deceptive in fact . . . It’s still hogwash though
and deceptive . . . because what you’re really doing is selling younger whisky
while pretending it’s older.

Another wrote:
It’s one thing to have supply issues and be honest. It’s another to pull the years
but keep the number on the bottle to give the perception of an aged product. It’s
getting hard to support this companies [sic] products, very hard.

Another wrote:
Buffalo Trace/Sazerac has been extremely evasive and downright sneaky about
what they’re up to with dropping true age statements while craftily deceiving
people by leaving numbers on the labels.”

This deception did not occur by mistake or happenstance! The subtlety
of the changes to the labeling make clear that the defendants fully intended to mislead consumers into believing that Old Charter continues to be aged for 8 years, when it certainly is not.

Despite the fact that Old Charter switched the bourbon to a younger
and lower quality spirit, the price remained the same. Consumers, therefore got stuck paying the premium price of an 8-year bourbon for a much lower-value product.

The complaint compares the price premium associated with age-stated bourbon and how it is readily discernable from the defendants’ pricing of their other products. “For example, at Total Wine, the largest independently owned wine store in the United States, WL Weller 12 year, the age-stated version of Buffalo Trace’s Weller product, commands a 50% price increase over WL Weller Special Reserve, the non-age-stated version of the same bourbon.”

The is certainly something fishy going on over at Old Charter, and this appears to be a strong case. If you believe to be affected by this product please contact us immediately and we can direct you on which steps to take next!

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