We don't usually associate whiskey with hunting and fishing, but in the case of the Rod & Rifle duo of straight Bourbon and blended American whiskey we make an exception, as the connection is aimed at charity for wildlife conservation.
Prestige Imports partners with Wildlife Forever, the nonprofit conservation arm of the North American Hunting & Fishing Clubs, with contributions from sales helping to fund its efforts in multi-species conservation.
Regardless of whether or not you ever pick up a rod or rifle, the spirits are quite conducive to pairing with a fine smoke.
Along with supporting the wildlife organization, sportsmen who buy the whiskeys receive a deduction on membership in Wildlife Forever through the Bucks & Ducks Cash program. Wildlife Forever will subtract $50 for a $29.99 Bourbon purchase or $25 for a $19.99 blended whiskey purchase. The deductions are applicable once for each yearly membership. (Visit rodandrifle.com for discount redemption.)
The whiskeys, which come in bottles emblazoned with a hunting and fishing motif, are made at a Tennessee distillery, using a mashbill of 75 percent corn, 20 percent rye and five percent barley. The barley quotient is roasted. The Bourbon expression is aged in new barrels for four years, while the blend marries straight whiskey (aged in new barrels) with spirit aged in reused barrels (no neutral spirits), according to Tom Cleaver, director of marketing at Prestige.
The Rod & Rifle Bourbon gift box comes with a commemorative shot glass, which Cleaver points out is made in America-as is every other aspect of the whiskeys' production. "I could have gotten a Chinese glass for half the price," he says, "but everything had to be made in America."
Cleaver also stresses that while the products are aimed at outdoorsmen they are intended for enjoyment after a day of enjoying the outdoors, reflecting the organizations dedication to responsible hunting and fishing
The whiskeys are currently available in 14 states, with distribution to every non-control state expected in the next two months.
Rod & Rifle Straight Bourbon (80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume; four years old; $29.95 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Olive oil color with hint of greenish brass. Comes down in thick, quick legs.
NOSE: Very herbal nose at first, then starts to reveal candied notes of fruit with cherry and orange.
PALATE: Interesting combination of honey and spice in the front of the palate. The candy and fruit arrive on the back end with a bit of a sparkle and a big dose of sugar.
FINISH: Just when it seems resolutely medium-bodied and bright, some toasty and nutty notes arrive on the finish.
(Note: We paired only the straight Bourbon version with cigar. Both, however, proved able partners in a cocktail.)
CIGAR PAIRING: La Palina El Diario KB II (6 inches by 40 ring gauge, $8.25, 90 Points, August 2013 Cigar Aficionado). Dried cherries and a burst of pepper come through on this long corona, which has a sweet finish that hints of nutmeg. It's attractively rolled, with a three-seam cap. We picked this cigar in the interest of matching the fruit of the whiskey-and weren't appointed. The cherry notes, especially, burst out on both smoke and drink. However, the unexpected dividend came when the whiskey developed a fuller body with rounder, woodier flavors and a deeper finish.
Paul Garmirian Gourmet Series Belicoso (6 1/4 inches by 54 ring gauge, $12.40, 90 Points, October 2013 Cigar Aficionado). A tannish torpedo with a full, open draw. An oaky, white wine note segues into earthy flavors with touches of wood, honey and dampness. The sweetness of the whiskey deepens quite a bit with the addition of the cigar, and takes on a fuller body with more of the barrel becoming evident. The wood on the cigar becomes fuller and more complex as the earthy notes transform into hints of leather.