Cougar bourbon is named the authentic American sour mash whiskey confidently on the front of the bottle, right below the title. An American bourbon that is bottled in Australia, perhaps known most around Australia as the bourbon that's you can get yourself at the footy, it isn't usually considered a premium product. It's very easy to find in Australia and considered quite Aussie to drink, however it is most often found in a can. We put it to the test to find out if it can really shine with that "real smooth" flavour.
Upon first inspection, it is a much lighter liquid than many bourbons that we have tried in the past, perhaps suggesting related to the amount of time it spends in the oak barrels resting. As soon as you pour the shot the familiar scent fills the air, quite honestly it smells (from a distance) very similar to how it spends fresh from the can, which is not too bad, not abrasive: quite soft, smelling like there's both maple syrup and oak in the room - a mix of that classic bourbon smell with an extra helping of sweet. As you bring it closer to your face you're hit with a more potent version of the smell with a number of other notes present, such as a hint of vanilla and an almost creamy kind of fruitiness all beneath a powerful earthy, oaky scent. That alcohol smell is present, but honestly it is very subtle.
As soon as it touches down on the palette, your tastebuds rejoice is the easy somewhat watered down tasting refreshing taste that follows. At no point during the journey does this taste like there is an alcohol burn, which is great for anyone wanting to get into bourbon and the flavours are subtle without being too in your face. It starts with that watery charred oak bound flavour that you kind of expect based on the smell alone, but as you swallow your mouth becomes smokey and you don't really notice it go. The smokiness then disperses, slowly, but surely and if you wait before your second sip you are rewarded. Although the sweetness of this bourbon is present while it's in your mouth, that isn't what your focus on, you have to think about it to see it. You'll find a little after swallowing, your tastebuds begin to find more. Starting with a little vanilla to finish cancelling out the smoke you are met with a mild sweetness with is like rounded out with a maple syrup kind of flavour before disappearing into a more corney flavour. By corney, I don't mean silly, I literally mean corn, which makes sense after reading the label as this bad boy is full of the freshest corn, grains and pure aquifer water, which all can very easily be identified through the journey. We think the grains create that earthy flavour that kind of binds the flavour together the whole way through, remaining ever present in the background from start to finish.
The Bar Test
As soon as you pour the shot over ice is becomes more of a yellow colour, further demonstrating the lighter colour of this bourbon. Once with the coke however it holds the solid black colour, with very few bubbles as you'd know from the hundreds you've bought for so exorbitant price at the footy. It smells pretty much the same as the shot does when you hold the shot a long way from your face, obviously weaker and diluted by the coke. This seems like one drink that the scent really dictates the flavours rather actually prior to even tasting. The vibe in the room when we smelt this with coke was "I don't really know what a sour mash is, but after smelling it in the bar test, I think I get it".
The taste is a lot different to other bourbons, but it is still sweet. Honestly, even if you don't like bourbon you will probably enjoy this because there really isn't that much too it, there's nothing you can really point at and say "yeah I don't like that". It's simple and therefore effective. You can just drink it without thinking about it and the next minute you're just like: "wait, what - it's empty!" That's probably the main reason it's really taken off in Australia, it's got a simple flavour and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. So why not?
Flavour profile wise: simple is the main word to describe it. It blends perfectly with the coke, it's got a little sour vibe, but it isn't in your face. You can find the charred oak flavour, but once again you have to think about it to see it there. It's deceptively fizzy, which is nice - we like the coke to keep that nice fresh fizz that makes you extra happy on a hot summer day. The only way we could really describe the flavour that we agreed upon was to say it starts as coke and ends on a relaxed sherbet flavour, that isn't in your face, stays sweet the whole way through and aims to please.
Obviously, you can't expect top tier quality from such a cheap bourbon, but it honestly has a good go. It's not too bad by itself as a shot, we could imagine this being very easy to drink on the rocks or with some water because of the flavour profile kind of asking to be complimented. It is definitely, in our minds, at its best with coke. The bar test was a clear winner with the addition of ice and coke being the ideal combo, maybe even consider bring a tray of ice cubes to the footy to drop in your drink, because the ice really does help to round out the flavour.
It's a cheap as chips bourbon that is defiantly worth a go, regardless of your budget. We'd be surprised if you don't like it, because it is hard to dislike anything about it - its beautiful and simple, please don't change! It probably competes with some mid range bourbons because there is nothing wrong with the flavour other than a lack of complexity, but once again the simplicity is kind of a plus. We didn't come in expecting too much, but we were pleasantly surprised when we put it through the test! Might be nice in light summer cocktails, but we will explore that when the time is right in the cocktail corner!
- You can already smell the coke on the nose, but it maintains the potency in the smell of the shot. Cokey then oaky, the entire experience rhymes and honestly its not that bad. If you wanna drink it and explore the flavour at the same time, this is for you!
- The scent remains unchanged, which is kind of impressive considering it was affected as soon as the coke was added. Coke, then fizzy and followed by every single taste sensation of the Cougar hitting you at once as you swallow, shocking, but kind of cool. The main stars are the earthy and oaky flavours, but you get a hint of corn and vanilla sprinkled with sweetness in the milliseconds that it lasts for. This will probably keep you alert until you get used to it, but we did have to taste this a couple of times to understand what was happening.
- The scent starts to be quelled, but it held up well. You can still smell the entire profile of the shot, it is just running at about a 50% reduction in potency. The flavour does follow this idea, but your sip will start as fizzy and literally hit you with everything at once when you least expect it, there was a lot of surprise on our faces with this one because it is unexpected and you don't really know what's going on, but it is nice. I personally would avoid this mix, but no-one hated it and some of us liked it. There is once again nothing to hate about it, just we probably preferred other mixes of coke more.
- For some strange reason the scent of this one is completely different, it takes on a more sherbet-y form, with sweetness the main focus with like a hint of orange and it feels really fresh on the nostrils. Quite reminiscent of the orange explosion sunny boy icy pole from back in the '90s! It you don't know it look it up! If you were a kid in Australia in the '90s I reckon you'll remember as soon as you see it! Honestly, not much to the flavour, it does kind of stay true somehow creating what we can only describe as an orange flavour in the aftertaste of the coke, but who knows - maybe we were going crazy at this point, it didn't make sense to us either! This was incredibly easy to drink though, so maybe give it a go it you're feeling it, you can't really tell that it's bourbon anymore though.
$31.95 per 700ml bottle
Standard price at Dan Murphy's Australia, prices may vary.