Utah Distillery To Challenge Idaho Ban On “Five Wives Vodka”

This morning, the Idaho Attorney General and Director of the Idaho State Liquor Division was informed that Ogden’s Own Distillery has retained my services to challenge the decision to block sales of “Five Wives Vodka” in Idaho. The businesses in Idaho were denied the right to “special order” the vodka because it was viewed as offensive to the large Mormon population in the state. The state also denied “general listing” to allow stores to sell the product. As on our other cases, I have to be circumspect on what I can say about the case in light of the pending litigation.

The letter below informs the state of the decision to seek judicial relief unless the state reverses its decision to block special orders as well as its policy to bar sales based on the need to protect religious sensibilities. The letter states in part:

Throughout this process, Ogden’s Own has tried to discuss and resolve any problems or concerns with your agency. They applied for entry into the Idaho market in good faith as they have done in other states. Idaho is the only state to raise religious and social sensibilities as a basis to deny entry to this product. To make matters worse, the agency proceeded to engage in public attacks on the company and its products. Mr. Wasserstein opted to inform third parties that the product was an insult to Mormons and later pledged that it would never be sold in the State of Idaho. He then expanded these attacks with criticism of the picture on the bottle, suggesting a bizarre misogynist hidden message. When public criticism grew over the use of religious sensibilities as a criterion for blocking the sale of a product, both Mr. Wasserstein and yourself proceeded to attack the quality of the vodka—disparaging both the product and the producers at this small distillery. Just last Friday, you were quoted attacking the product as “low class” and not “something we want to have on our shelf, sitting next to Absolut vodka.”

My clients would be the last to disagree with your praise and high regard for Absolut vodka. They have never disparaged other products. Just as the distillers in Sweden are rightfully proud of Absolut, the distillers of Ogden’s Own are equally proud of their product. While they are tiny in comparison to the Swedish company, these American distillers resent your suggestion that they should not be seen on the same shelf with Absolut. I am, frankly, astonished by the vitriol and venom directed at this small company because it had the temerity to ask to enter the Idaho market and then objected to being blocked by religious sensibilities.

There is no reason for Ogden’s Own to respond tit-for-tat to these public attacks by you and Mr. Wasserstein. Unlike your vodka of choice, your power is not absolute. We have a court system designed to protect citizens and companies from arbitrary and abusive governmental actions. It is clear from the continuing attacks from your office that nothing short of a lawsuit will compel your agency to reconsider its decision as well as its underlying policy.

I am honored to represent Ogden’s Own in what is an important case involving free speech and due process. We are committed to vindicating the rights of this small distillery and its right to market its product. This case may test the limits of the government in advancing the sectarian demands of any religious groups and the exercise of arbitrary power. Frankly, to paraphrase the Irish proverb, the exercise of arbitrary power “is sweet to drink but bitter to pay for.” I am remain hopeful that the state will reconsider its actions and allow bars and citizens in Idaho to buy to exercise their own judgment on buying this and other products.

Jonathan Turley

Here is the letter sent this morning to the Idaho officials: Letter.Anderson.Five Wives

47 thoughts on “Utah Distillery To Challenge Idaho Ban On “Five Wives Vodka””

  1. Commercial Speech tempered with the states ability to regulate alcohol sales within its borders….. It’ll be a rational basis test……. I predict a loser at the district court level…. A win in the 9th circuit and the Sct refusing to take it up……

  2. Having bypassed for the instant the other many comments,
    let me say that I hope I am the first to invite Five Wives’s to apply for the right to be sold in the home of Absolut Vodka. Such uses of arbitrary power are also contestable here.

    And the Absolut people would be idiots not to welcome the association with a hot attention-getter like this occasion and competitor.

    On the wondrouus occasion that Five Wives should take up my invitation (not an official one), and then be denied on similar grounds here, I hope we will be honored to see the Professor here, representing his illustrious client on a PR visit.

    I wonder who Assange has approached there with queries as to possible representation. Would the professor say whether he would welcome such a query in principle?

  3. I’m a wuss in the drinks department. I stick to imported beers no one has ever heard of. I like Rodenbach (Belgium), Victoria Bitter (Australia), Vetins, Beck, and Radeberger (Germany). I’m a beer snob, so sue me =) I’ll drink Sam Adams Blueberry Wheat when no one is looking. Awesome beer, in small quantities.

  4. Gene, I like bourbon or a good Tennessee product like Jack Daniels #7. I am also fond of rum. As for mixed drinks, I think my favorite is a margarita.

    This may be hard to believe, I never really cared for Scotch unless it is a truly high end single malt such as The Macallan. That stuff runs about $160 for a bottle. In 2010, a bottle of The Macallan 64-year-old single malt whisky in a one-of-a-kind “Lalique: Cire Perdue” crystal decanter was sold for $460,000. I have never been able to talk anyone into buying me a gift bottle. Cheapskates. Cheaper blended Scotch tastes too much like iodine.

  5. Mike,

    I’m in total agreement on the tequila and gin . . . or any liquor with flavor. I too drink primarily socially other than the occasional ale or beer at home, but I’ve often wondered what the bar profile so to speak of what the regulars here would drink should we all meet at one big party. I know mespo would be having scotch and I think Bob would too. Gyges is a well known quality beer man. MetroCowboy and me would be hitting the vodka although I may stray into a good G&T or a Mojito. A good ale in always an option for me but I don’t mix beer and anything else. Elaine and Blouise like wine, but I also recall one (or perhaps both) mentioning they like rum as well. The Prof mentions wine quite a bit. OS likes bourbon and I think Bron has said something about it too. I think I recall LK saying she like tequila too but I might be mistaken. I don’t think Nal or Mike A. has ever expressed a preference or any of the other regulars I can recall.

    One thing is for sure.

    It would be one helluva party with some really interesting conversation.

    Out of pure curiosity, regulars, what is your drink of choice?

    1. Gene,
      That would be a fun scene. I’d be sipping Tequila Patron’ Gold straight in a small snifter. If I wanted staying power though it would be Riesling. On a cold winter night it would be Remy VSOP.

  6. Lets all belly-up to the bar, the drinks, vodka that is, are on the Professor

  7. Back in the early 1990s, a local New Orleans beer, Dixie Voodoo Lager, was banned in Texas because of its name and label conjured up images of black magic. Texas backed down before it made it to the courts. Good luck.

  8. Professor Turley,

    Wasn’t being factitious. I have no doubt they really do appreciate your help.

  9. LOL, you go Professor! If the case is won, as it certainly should be, I hope Ogdon’s Own runs off a special batch celebrating the First Amendment. I want to be on that order list. 🙂

  10. Otteray Scribe said, “I seem to recall hearing about Donald Duck being banned somewhere because he did not wear pants.”

    I watched a Mickey Mouse Club episode with a grandson recently. You’re right that Donald only wears a sailor blouse; however when he appeared topless to take a bath, he was wearing swimming trunks.

  11. RandyJet said, “I have no idea why the Utah folks think it must be five current wives.”

    I thought they could be 5 married women in a carpool, 5 married women in a book club, 5 married women who meet for coffee, or any other collection of 5 wives of 5 husbands.

  12. Wow! I live in CDA and never would have heard of this vodka if it weren’t for all of the recent publication. ID blew it! I want to send to all of my family all over the world now! Instead, I am waiting for the t-shirts ordered from the distiller. Proudly will display as I work out at PEAK Fitness. I come from a long line of attorneys and am pleased to see you take this on! Best of luck and Ogden’s Own, hang in there! Lot’s of support in NORTHERN ID!

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