When national media outlets--from NPR to Fox News--reported that the Idaho State Liquor Division had divorced itself from Five Wives Vodka, most observers theorized that the title was offensive to Mormons. But the man who oversees Idaho's liquor laws said there was much more to the story than offending members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"For us to put a bottle on the shelf with five women hiking up their skirts with kittens over their genitals--we do have some shred of standards," said Jeff Anderson, ISLD administrator. "And at the end of the day, we can only carry so many things."
Anderson said it's not uncommon for his agency to deny products that are sold--even successfully--elsewhere. Products selected by the ISLD end up in more than 100 state liquor stores.
"The product is OK, it's average," said Anderson. "But at $21.95, we don't see it being successful in Idaho. The packaging was only the tie-breaker."
Anderson said the Five Wives brand, compared to an Idaho average of $7.95 for a bottle of vodka, helped lead him to his ultimate decision.
"Of the 2,400 [items] we carry, 10 percent of those represent 80 percent of sales," said Anderson. "In a market that has thousands of potential brands and sizes, nobody carries everything. In the last year, we had about 500 presented to us. We listed about 150."
Meanwhile, Anderson is paying closer attention to liquor in Washington, which privatized its spirit sales on June 1.
Anderson is skeptical of the new Washington model, pointing to some hefty taxes and fees when consumers face the cash register. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the tariffs include a 10 percent distributor fee and a 17 percent retail fee.
"They're not going to transition into the privatization model without price fluctuation," he said.