Idaho liquor regulators have banned Five Wives Vodka from their state-run liquor stores, arguing that the product's name is offensive to Mormons as it presumably references polygamy, which is practiced by some sects of the LDS Church.
The middle-shelf, $20 label features five women, dressed in pioneer-era clothing with their arms linked. Ironically, the vodka is made at Ogden's Own Distillery in Utah -- where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has been based since the late 19th century.
In a letter to distributor Elite Spirits of Boise, the Idaho Liquor Division said it finds the Five Wives title offensive.
"We feel Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried," Howard Wasserstein, deputy director of the Liquor Division, explained in the letter, as published on the Ogden's Own Distillery's website.
Mormons make up 27 percent of Idaho's population, according to recent U.S. Census statistics.
Both Elite Spirits and Ogden's Own Distillery have expressed dismay and surprise over the ban, arguing that their product is a very popular choice among many, and serves as a homage to the early pioneers of the West.
"After several establishments requested the state for special orders of Five Wives Vodka, we were informed that the product would not be allowed to be sold," John Challenger, president of Elite Spirits said, as cited on the Ogden's Own Distillery website.
"It's disappointing as we have customers who want the product. It's a rare move for them to ban a product outright from special orders," Challenger added.
"We have a product that has sold nearly 1,000 cases in six months in Utah," Steve Conlin, partner and vice president of marketing at Ogden's Own Distillery, said on the company's website.
"If the reaction is because of a religious concern, we think they are extremely misguided," he added.
The brand is being offered in Utah, however, which controls all liquor, wine, and heavy beer distribution through state-run stores. Five Wives Vodka is also being sold in Wyoming. Wyoming and Idaho partially control liquor sales via state-run stores, but they do not have control over privately-run operated stores.
A few of the privately-operated stores in Idaho carry a beer entitled Polygamy Port, which is sold in grocery stores and convenience stores.
Conlin argues that the ban makes little sense, saying he was "a little dumbfounded" by the ban on Five Wives Vodka while Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Beers of Utah was still being sold.
The distillery is attempting to bounce back from the ban by promoting "Free the Five Wives T-Shirts" as well as offering media coverage. The hit will be felt, however, as now the distillery will be forced to withdraw from the Boise Music Festival, a huge source of revenue.
The liquor will be distributed in Missouri and Texas within the next 30 days, the distillery's website states.
Polygamy was officially banned by the LDS Church in 1890, and a survey published in January by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that most Mormons are against the practice. Nearly 86 percent of respondents said polygamy was morally wrong, while 11 percent said it was not a moral issue and 2 percent said it was morally acceptable.