SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Five Wives Vodka was named in bad taste and won’t be stocked or special ordered at stores operated by the state of Idaho, regulators said.
The middle-shelf vodka is made by Ogden’s Own Distillery in Utah, where the Mormon church is based. Its label carries the name and an image of five women, an apparent reference to polygamy, a practice abandoned by the church more than a century ago.
Idaho State Liquor Division administrator Jeff Anderson said the brand is offensive to Mormons who make up over a quarter of Idaho’s population.
Regulators in Idaho notified Elite Spirits Distributor that the brand’s concept is “offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried,” according to a letter sent Thursday.
“The bottom line is, we represent everybody,” Anderson added Tuesday. “It’s masterful marketing on their part. But it doesn’t play here.”
Anderson said state stores already make hundreds of vodka brands available for sale and don’t have room for another brand priced at around $20 a bottle.
Ogden’s Own Distillery is trying to make the most of the rejection with a media campaign and sale of “Free the Five Wives” T-shirts.
It says the snub is unfair because a Utah beer named Polygamy Porter is available in Idaho. Anderson said Idaho doesn’t decide what beer brands can be sold in grocery and convenience stores.
“We’re a little dumbfounded by it all,” said Steve Conlin, a partner and marketing chief for Ogden’s Own Distillery. “The average person can look at our bottle and they don’t find it offensive. It’s certainly not obscene, which is what it would require for it to be banned.”
Five Wives Vodka has been approved for sale in Utah, a state dominated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s also available in Wyoming, another state that regulates liquor sales.
Nobody in Utah is raising a fuss over the brand, said Vickie Ashby, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Utah regulates all sales of hard liquor, wine and heavy beer, making the products available only at state-owned stores. Idaho and Wyoming control liquor sales with a mix of state-owned and privately-operated stores.
“We have a product that has sold nearly 1,000 cases in six months in Utah,” Conlin said. “If the reaction is because of a religious concern, we think they are extremely misguided.”
Miller reported from Boise, Idaho.
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