Does Five Wives Vodka Offend Mormons?

Five Wives Vodka bottle is shown.

The deputy director of Idaho's State Liquor Division says that a new vodka called 'Five Wives' is offensive, without specifying to whom. In a letter, Howard Wasserstein calls it "offensive to a prominent segment of our population." He thus has forbidden its sale in state-owned stores.

Idaho's population is 27 percent Mormon, according to the U.S. Census.

Steve Conlin, head of marketing for Ogden's Own Distillery, maker of Five Wives, declares himself stunned by Idaho's decision.

Five Wives, he says, is approved for sale in Utah, where there are Mormons galore. Moreover, Idaho allows the sale of alcoholic beverages whose names might cause greater offense. These include Polygamy Porter, made by Wasach Beers in Park City, Utah. Its tag line: 'Why just have one?'

Conlin says the the name 'Five Wives' was picked not as a reference to polygamy but as a simple celebration of Western history: The first wagon train to Utah contained, he says, 66 men and 5 women. As to how many men the five were married to, he professes not to know.

Jeff Anderson, administrator for the Idaho State Liquor Division, says no objections by his state's Mormon community played any role in his agency's decision. He says a team of professional screeners decides the fate of every brand of liquor that tries to get itself stocked in Idaho's state-run stores.

In the case of Five Wives, he says, those screeners found the product wanting: The liquor was "an average product trying to get a premium price." The state already offers, says Anderson, 106 other vodkas in Five Wives' $21.95 price range. There was not room for another.

It's true, he says, that some people found the brand offensive-but they were not Mormons. They were female screeners on his staff.

The 'Five Wives' depicted on the label, they found, upon historical discovery, were not wives. They were sisters: the Barrison Sisters, a vaudeville troupe of dancers whose appeal was that they titilated by asking if audiences would like to see their female organs. They then would lift their skirts, revealing pussy-cats attached, says Anderson, "around their genitals."

ABC News re-contacted Steve Conlin, to impart this information.

"That's a new one," said Conlin. "We had not been aware of the history of the photo. Very interesting. The plot thickens, for sure."

He phoned back a few minutes later to add: "I'm not sure this changes our position. To us it's just an image. We love the fact that there was a mystery to where it came from. And so what? They're cats."