Five Wives Vodka maker considers a First Amendment lawsuit

The Utah distillery that makes Five Wives Vodka may sue Idaho liquor regulators, who said the vodka won't be sold or poured in Idaho.

Both sides are giving different facts, but here's the gist of where they stand:

Why didn't they appeal?

Jeff Anderson, director of the state's liquor division, said Tuesday that the company, Ogden's Own Distillery, hadn't bothered trying an appeals process before it spread the story that caught fire nationally.

I talked to distillery partner Steve Conlin on Wednesday, and he basically said, "What appeals process?" According to Conlin, the company didn't know it had such an option.

Ogden's Own asked the state twice to let it sell Five Wives here — first in general and then for special orders. The rejection that caused the dust-up was the second one, which said the vodka was offensive to Idahoans.

"When somebody doesn't allow ordering [the liquor at all], I kind of question any type of appeals process," Conlin said. He didn't say if they would try changing the division's mind before going to court.

Is the label offensive to women and Mormons, or a tried-and-true marketing gimmick?

The label shows a row of women lifting their skirts to reveal cats over their crotches. Turns out it's from a photo of the Barrison Sisters, an 1890s vaudeville act.

Anderson said that while news coverage has focused on the LDS-offending part of the state's decision, the label's portrayal of women played a big role.

He asked Tuesday what the distillery was getting at with the illustration. "We think we get it," he said.

"Admittedly, it's a double entendre," Conlin said, then pointed to the Hooters brand. "Putting five supermodels across there would [have been] objectification, too."

The company "did a lot of market research here in Utah. ... People found it funny, but not offensive," he said.

The Five Wives name was a play on polygamy, Conlin said, but it also played off competitor Three Olives Vodka.

Censorship or a business decision?

The company is considering a First Amendment lawsuit, like one brought by Flying Dog Brewery against Michigan liquor regulators who rejected Raging Bitch beer. Flying Dog won that fight.

"We've been contacted by [an] attorney" who defended Raging Bitch, Conlin said.

The case "shows exactly the dangers of one person trying to make the rule for a population at large," he said.

Anderson said the decision wasn't his alone.

The division, whose staff includes Anderson and three deputy directors, has been pitched about 500 products in the past year. It's taken 150. But under what criteria? The packaging, product quality, marketing plan, price, profit margin, competitors on the shelf, and how the company proposes to sell it to bars and other liquor servers, said Anderson.

"It's not uncommon for us to deny" liquors, even for special order, he said. Here's an example of another Idaho-rejected liquor: an alcohol-infused chocolate milk called Adult Chocolate Milk.

"Of the 2,400 items we have in our price book, 150 of them do 80 percent of our sales," he said. That makes the division picky, and it opted against "an average product with a premium price point," he said.

Blatantly oversexed garbage


You fry wants with that?

Harmless visual pun

Can we make absolutely no jokes about our naughty parts?

I haven't dated in 5+4 years and toms spread feline leukemia

This is a dumber stunt than the trolley anyway.


You fry wants with that?

Give it Up Anderson!

So maybe this shouldn't be sold in a state-run liquor store, that's all the better reason for privatizing liquor sales. If one store sells it and people find it particularly offensive, then those offended can voice their concern and shop somewhere else. I'm Mormon, don't find this in the least bit offensive to me, but maybe the cats over the womens' crotches is taking it too far. Mr. Anderson could have certainly made his point better by not even addressing the potential to offend Mormons and simply stuck with his guns over the vulgarity of the label and the fact that it was an average product with a premium price tag and unlikely to sell well...

What if the alcohol was called "5 Indians," and showed native american women lifting their skirts to reveal a depiction of that mountain near Emmett? People would be up in arms and a state liquor store would never sell it, nor should they.

5 Indians

C'mon pogi.
You missed the true opportunity of "5 Squaws Vodka" lifting their leather skirts to reveal 5 friendly riparian critters.
Of course it would sell well in the city of Beaver, Utah.

Isangpogi the issue is not

Isangpogi the issue is not even connected to privatization of spirits............either your a liquor lobby troll or just another low information tater who blindly votes for the (R)...

Let the free market decide.........most likely isangpogi you don't even buy vodka and the issue doesn't even effect you, but you like to pass judgement on others and using your faith as a fake moral high to justify your fear of freedom and people rights........go back into your fear laden world and watch out the sky is falling.

Wait, what!? The sky is

Wait, what!? The sky is falling?? In all seriousness though, I think you either misread my post or I didn't make my point clear enough. What I'm saying is that this vodka probably doesn't belong in a state-run liquor store. Not because it's offensive to Mormons who don't typically frequent liquor stores, but because it makes a vulgar reference to female anatomy by placing cats over their crotches. So I agree, let the free market decide! Privatize liquor sales so that the state won't be endorsing vulgarity by selling it! I'm not a moral high-horse by any means, but am I the only one who thinks the cat reference is taking it too far??

Awesome! Please sue the overlords into oblivion.

Sue sue sue sue sue ... No I am not calling my 5 wives. I hope this distillery sues Idaho into oblivion.

Geez, you need a drink bad...NIHILISM?


You fry wants with that?


That dark cloud still chasing you around?

Please keep comments on-topic.

Please keep comments on-topic. Thanks.

Please keep comments on-topic.


Get in line Conlin,

Pam Lowe gets hers first. These state lackeys that are setting the moral standards for the rest of us, need to start paying for the lawsuits out of their own pockets.

Please, please file the

Please, please file the lawsuit and take Anderson and the idiots that work for him down! This is an example of the morons who are the decision-makers in our state.
And oh yea State of Idaho, Get out of the liquor sales business!

Oh yea, and thanks for

Oh yea, and thanks for making the State of Idaho a national embarassment.



Practice, you know the rest.


You fry wants with that?

Polygamy Porter Anyone?

No vodka but it's OK to sell beer.

The state liquor commission

The state liquor commission doesn't regulate beer.

Anderson is just CYA for

Anderson is just CYA for this stupid decision.

Playing God

just doesn't cut it...Jeff Anderson.
This situation is a travesty and just another ethical oopsie by this administration.


Thanks for the historical reference Audrey.

The 5 sisters did their infamous cat dance and sang about "Mein Klein Katz" (My Little Cat) as they slowly and slyly lifted up their skirts, exposing ten black stocking-clad legs [quoted]- in the 1890s.

Some reviews thought their act was vulgar then too.

Maybe we should start

Maybe we should start banning everything that someone thinks is offensive. Yea, that's the road we want to go down.

what the heck just happened

I bet Anderson really wishes he wouldn't have lost his rubber stamp of approval on this one. What a poo storm. With the plethora of vodka choices at a liquor store, most folks wouldn't have even noticed other than a little chuckle. That said the approval process at the State has be questioned at this point.

Serioussly?!?!?!?! Offend a

Serioussly?!?!?!?! Offend a Mormom???? Jeff Anderson is a Moron. Mormom's do not consume alcohol so how would they know about Five Wives Vodka in the first place???? Who gives people like Jeff Anderson a job?!?!?! Not sure how the label is a reference to polygamy?!??!?!?This practice was supposedly abandoned by the church more than a century ago.....NOT the practice of plural marriage continues among tens of thousands of members of various group members...its just behind closed doors.

This is just ridiculous.

This is just ridiculous. Let the consumers speak for themselves. If those who purchase and consume vodka don't like it, they won't buy it. Isn't this how capitalism works?

We really need to deregulate liquor--the state shouldn't have that much power in what is on the shelves when it's a 100% legal product.

...and for the record, I find the name funny, not offensive.

Welcome to the Nanny State of Idaho

First we should change the state constitution to remove the reference to a sober electorate. Second we should abolish state run liquor stores. If you believe in the free enterprise system then this whole problem would be solved by supply and demand.

Remove Anderson From His Job

Remove Jeff Anderson from the Liquor board due to incompetence. My tax dollars do not need to go toward defending a lawsuit. Let The Five Wives into Idaho and be done with it. Anything else is a waste of resources.

Is Anderson a Mormon?

Having Mormons in charge of liquor distribution has a long and distinguished history going back to the American Prophet himself.

"On 12 December 1843, the city council in Nauvoo passed a law allowing the mayor (i.e., Joseph) to sell spirits:
Be it ordained by the City Council of Nauvoo, that the Mayor of the city be and is hereby authorized to sell or give spirits of any quantity as he in his wisdom shall judge to be for the health and comfort, or convenience of such travelers or other persons as shall visit his house from time to time.[5]" website

Who are we to judge future Gods?