| SALMON, Idaho, June 6
SALMON, Idaho, June 6 A Utah-based distillery on
Wednesday threatened to sue Idaho for banning the sale of its
Five Wives Vodka, which the state deemed an affront to Mormon
residents because of its allusion to polygamy.
Ogden's Own Distillery earlier this year unsuccessfully
sought permission from Idaho to stock Five Wives Vodka at
The vodka's bottles are emblazoned with the image of five
women from the late 19th century exposing their petticoats.
Idaho banned distribution of the vodka because it "is
offensive to a prominent segment" of the state's population,
Howard Wasserstein, deputy director for procurement,
distribution and retail operations with the Idaho liquor office,
said in a statement.
More than 400,000 Idaho residents - or about a third of the
state's population - are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon church.
Idaho ranks behind only Utah and California for its
concentration of Mormons.
The distillery, approved to sell Five Wives in Utah where
the church is headquartered, last month began selling a line of
T-shirts with the slogan "Free the Five Wives" in an attempt to
make Idaho reconsider.
With no further word from the state, the company of four
employees on Wednesday announced it had hired Jonathan Turley, a
high-profile legal scholar from George Washington University, to
plead its case.
In a letter to the Idaho state Liquor Division, Turley
accused officials of smearing Ogden's Own and disparaging its
product as "low class."
"I am, frankly, astonished by the vitriol and venom directed
at this small company," he wrote. "It is clear from the
continuing attacks from your office that nothing short of a
lawsuit will compel your agency to reconsider its decision."
He accused Idaho of constitutional violations such as
interfering with interstate commerce and restraining free
Wasserstein and Jeffrey Anderson, director of the state
Liquor Division, did not respond to requests for comment on the
threat of legal action.
Steve Conlin, a partner with Ogden's Own, said the company
hopes to get the Idaho ban lifted without litigation. In the
crowded vodka market, the distillery branded its drink as Five
Wives to win attention, he said.
"We want to be able to sell our vodka in Idaho; that's the
bottom line," Conlin said.
It is unclear what effect, if any, the debate is having on a
church that abandoned polygamy, or plural marriage, in 1890 and
eschews alcoholic and hot beverages.
"I can't think of too many vodka-drinking LDS members,"
church spokesman Eric Hawkins told Reuters.
In addition to Utah, Five Wives is sold at some outlets in
Wyoming, online in California and is planned for distribution in
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Colleen Jenkins and Richard