ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From the Idaho State Liquor Division comes an odd case of what's either censorship or perhaps the enforcement of community standards. The ISLD has barred from the shelves of its state package stores bottles of Five Wives Vodka. The administrator of the Idaho body, Jeff Anderson, called the brand offensive to a prominent segment of our population, and the state liquor division later clarified that the offended segment of the Idaho population were Mormons, who make up about a quarter of Idaho's population and women who presumably make up half of the state's population.
Here is an odd twist to this story. Five Wives Vodka is distilled in Utah. Joining us from Ogden, Utah, is Steve Conlin, partner and vice president for marketing at Ogden's Own Distillery.
Welcome to the program.
STEVE CONLIN: Hi. Thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: And I'd like you to begin by describing the label of Five Wives Vodka.
CONLIN: The Five Wives label features a photograph from the 1890s to 1900s that has five women across the front and they're dressed in petticoats from head to toe and they're holding some kittens in their laps and they are reflective of the period.
SIEGEL: So reflective of the period it seems that the Idaho liquor regulators read this as an allusion to the days of Mormon polygamy. It doesn't say five wives, one husband, but I guess that's what they see implied by the picture. Is it an allusion to the old days?
CONLIN: You know, we've let people make their own interpretations of what the label is all about. Being in the Utah culture, the natural tendency is for people to make the polygamy connection, though we have never done it on our own.
SIEGEL: So you've never said that there weren't five husbands, for example...
SIEGEL: ...that would be related to the five wives?
CONLIN: No. We're not trying to make fun of anyone. We feel that our products can be interpreted in many different ways and, really, it's what the viewer or the reader of the label brings as baggage. I don't know if we presented Five Wives to someone in Florida that they would look at it as, say, a Five Guys Burgers type of product until they saw it was from Utah and then they'd have to make some association. What are they trying to say here?
And so the fact that someone in Idaho has decided they're going to make that judgment call for all the people in Idaho really seems to the extreme for me.
SIEGEL: Utah also has state stores, doesn't it?
CONLIN: It does. Yeah. Very much similar to Idaho in how they're run.
SIEGEL: And, presumably, you had to be approved by regulators in Utah.
CONLIN: We did. And the state here in Utah has taken the approach that if we have met the federal requirements and that we are not obscene, then they're going to let the federal guidelines for labeling control what comes into the state.
SIEGEL: Has anyone or anything given more publicity to Ogden's Own Distillery and Five Wives Vodka than Idaho's State Liquor Division has just done?
CONLIN: No. I mean, to be honest, it's been an amazing response. We're getting people buying t-shirts from us from Belgium and Brazil.
SIEGEL: You should describe the t-shirts that...
CONLIN: Our t-shirts have the logo on the front of them and then across it it says, banned in Idaho, and then in the back it says free the five wives with them in a jail cell. Out of all the t-shirts we sold, the ironic part is we're selling most of them to people in Idaho.
SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Conlin, thanks for talking with us about your product, Five Wives Vodka, evidently banned from the stores in Idaho.
CONLIN: Oh, I appreciate you giving me a chance to speak with you.
SIEGEL: Mr. Conlin is the vice president for marketing at Ogden's Own Distillery in Ogden, Utah.