Josh Holloway is an award-winning TV star best known for his role as Sawyer on Lost. But it is in the hinterland where his greatest purpose lies. “It’s my church,” explains the actor, who spends much of his downtime fly-fishing in the wild rivers of Wyoming and Montana. So when High West Distillery reached out with an opportunity to help protect American Prairie Reserve– the largest nature reserve in the lower 48 – he stated the partnership.
The unique collaboration is built around the launch of a mobile game with limited time called Prairie Dash. Each time it is played throughout the month of June, the distillery donates one dollar to the prairie conservation effort; up to $ 50,000 in total. It involves a collection of “fast-paced challenges” that one experiences through the eyes of a hook: the fastest land animal in the American West. It turns out that it is a mammal to which Holloway has his own special connection.
He also has a strong, long-standing connection with American whiskey … Although it has traditionally meant bourbon more than rye. In an exclusive interview with Forbes, Holloway talks honestly about the Prairie Reserve partnership and opens up about how both whiskey and the forest have helped shape his life and career.
The following interview is edited for length and clarity.
Where are you now?
Sitting here in Wyoming. We just got to Jackson Hole. It was a good 18-hour drive from Santa Barbara. We walked up past Vegas and then to Zion [National Park]. Talk about rubbing salt in my wounds – d’oh!
So you already shared a connection with this part of the world before the High West partnership?
I discovered this part of the world a long time ago. [The Intermountain West] is the jewel of the world to me. I’ve been all over the world and this was where I could Stay. If only I had married a mountain woman instead of an island girl [laughs]. So I’m a little stuck in Santa Barbara. But we have a cabin here and we come as much as possible – which is usually around 5-6 weeks in the summer … And then in the winter when we can.
What was the origin of your collaboration with the High West?
I’m not sure how they contacted me, except I think it’s known [in the entertainment industry] that I like bourbon … Because people have always sent me bourbon over the years [laughs]. I love it and I am also an avid outdoorsman and fly fisherman. So it has always been at the forefront of my concerns: nature and conservation. Anytime I can do anything associated with it, I am in!
High West contacted me and I said, ‘Absolutely, you have this interactive game, and anytime anyone plays it, does it pay to preserve the West? Hell yes, I’m in. ‘
It’s fun, because where I fish, I have to take care of the fork horn because they are everywhere up there. I see them all the time. And it immediately made me think of fishing. I was just very, very interested in it right away.
Were you already a fan of High West’s products prior to this?
I love their whiskey. I like to try different flavors. And the High West has a lot of flavor. But I’m more of a bourbon guy than a rye guy. My go-to would be their American Prairie Bourbon.
However, the distillery is much more known for their rye. Did this experience even serve as a gateway in that category?
I like that you said that. Because I was usually pretty faithful to it – did not like rye. But they sent me their Double Rye, and I had it [a few bottles] here in my closet … I certainly will not let any whiskey go to waste [laughs]. So I tried it and I definitely love it. Well, sh * t – they converted me. You are correct, sir! They brought me in and extended my horizons.
Let’s talk about the American prairie. This preservation is larger than Yellowstone, though it is far less well known.
Yes, it’s huge. That’s why I love this partnership. They are actively creating a huge conservation. I just drove all over this prairie, it was all covered in buffalo. It must be preserved, for without balance they are gone. I want to play as active a role as I can in it. I want to do a lot more of this work. Like, have you ever heard of Wild and scenic? It was sent back in the 60s to preserve America’s rivers, and so far less than 1% of them are actually protected. But this is a great piece of legislation. If you can prove it’s wild and scenic ‘, that have must be preserved. So I will continue. Anyone who wants to preserve nature, I’m in!
Have you had regular drinking friends on the set of Lost?
There were actually a couple of us. Not just the cast … But I’m big in the cast because I grew up with building crews. So oh, hell yes – there was a lot of bourbon drinking by the trucks after wrapping. You put in a 15-hour day, the whole crew, and then a couple of us would go back – the first season, Ian Somerhalder and I really loved going back to the truck with the boys and knocking some bourbon back, and it was a lot of fun!
And now [Ian Somerhalder’s] got its own bourbon brand …
Yes, now he has his own, that bastard … He better send me a bottle! He keeps saying he will … He’s send me pictures of it. But I’m just sitting here drinking High West, so I’m cool [laughs]. Yes, we used to love sitting and hitting a few back.
Well, maybe a little trade is okay?
Exactly. I expand his horizons.