Benchmark Bonded Bourbon Review [In Depth]

Benchmark Bonded Bourbon

Alex author
Founder, writer
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Benchmark Bonded Bourbon Details

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 50%

Composition: Buffalo Trace mashbill #1

Aged: At least 4 years

Color: 1.3/2.0 on the color scale (russet, muscat)

Price: $18-25

From the company website:

The Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897 set strict standards for bonded whiskey. This 100 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey aged four years to meet those standards. Enjoy the rich flavor and long smooth finish.

Benchmark Bonded Bourbon overview

Finally, we get an affordable and accessible bottled in bond bourbon from Buffalo Trace – Benchmark Bonded Bourbon. Don’t get me wrong, there are other ones, but they are so damn hard to find and frequently marked up…*cough cough* EH Taylor Small Batch Bourbon.
Apart from the standard Benchmark Old No.8, not to be mistaken with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, there’s Benchmark Small Batch, Bonded (this one), Top Floor, Single Barrel, and Full Proof Bourbon. It appears that there are two goals with this: 1) make money sooner with younger bourbon (probably 4-5 years old) because Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare take longer to age, and 2) explore various ways to blend / age bourbon.
If you don’t already know what Bottled in Bond (or Bonded) means, time for a brief lesson. The term, and its requirements, came from a time (the Bottled in Bond Act was passed in 1897) when whiskey was often being tampered with to make it seem better than it was. You often couldn’t trust that what you were drinking was purely bourbon…who the heck knew what else was in there.
So, the act was passed to require a certain set of actions that guaranteed a certain level of quality. To be considered bottled in bond, a whiskey has to be
  • Distilled in one season in one year (so the barrels in a blend were barreled within a few months of each other. This means that you cannot blend barrels from different years or seasons, so you don’t get blends of 4 year and 8 year bourbon)
  • Made by the same master distiller
  • Bottled at 100 proof
  • Aged least 4 years in a government bonded warehouse
  • With no additives or funny business
Now it doesn’t guarantee that the whiskey smells incredible and tastes amazing…it just guarantees a certain strict level of production and that it was aged and bottled without tampering.
So let’s find out if these extra requirements result in a higher quality bourbon in this Benchmark Bonded Bourbon review.
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As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Benchmark Bonded Bourbon smell

I initially smell dark honey, apricot, toasted oak (surprisingly decently refined and fragrant), cinnamon, vanilla, toasted caramel nougat, nutmeg, and a little orange peel and herbal fennel. There’s a little kick to it too.
You know what, Benchmark Bonded smells quite good. It’s not mind blowing or amazing, but I’m enjoying it. It’s dark, woody, spicy, balanced, and well put together. It honestly smells decently mature too, like 6ish years old. It’s a totally different vibe than the more fruity and herbal Buffalo Trace, and a total overhaul of the standard Benchmark Old No.8.
With swirling and rest, there’s dark honey, toasted oak, apricot, vanilla, sweet cinnamon, dried red apple peel, and some caramel nougat, maple syrup, and cherry. The balance leans towards dark sweetness in the form of solidly expressive honey, nougat, and maple syrup with a little bit of heat.
Benchmark Bonded Bourbon continues to smell good. It’s not so unique or noteworthy, but I can’t help but enjoy it for what it is – dark, sweet, and balanced. I’m happy with it.
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Benchmark Bonded Bourbon taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with dark honey, vanilla, baked red apple and orange peel, toasted oak, cinnamon, clove, and some earthy caraway seed and caramel nougat. Benchmark Bonded Bourbon is somewhat flabby and muddled, probably from a combination of age and less than ideal barrel selection, but the 100 proof still beefs up the body and flavor in a way that is still pleasant.
There’s pretty good dark sweetness with oaky and spicy backbone, and some fruit. Plus, it doesn’t feel weak and lacking. That’s always a plus.
With “chewing”, I taste caramel, vanilla, dried apricot, toasted oak, cinnamon, clove, herbal fennel, and a little cherry, caraway seed, and roasted coffee. Benchmark Bonded Bourbon brings a good amount of sweetness and some fruitiness that gets me to nod in positive acknowledgement.
As I chew, the fruitiness and vanilla does swell for a bit, which adds an extra touch of complexity. The flavors have good body and viscosity, although they’re not all that defined, layered, or complex. Correction, I can feel some of the layers starting to appear, especially with how the fruit and oak dance around each other through the sip. The range really isn’t bad at all either.
The finish initially leaves honey, dried red apple, toasted oak, cinnamon, and toasted grain. After “chewing”, it leaves honey, apricot, cherry, red apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, fennel, and vanilla with lingering toasted oak, honey, vanilla, nougat, and cinnamon.
Benchmark Bonded Bourbon is surprisingly dark, which is what I expected more from Benchmark Top Floor because of the extra wood influence that should come from aging higher up in the rickhouses. The flabbiness gives away its age and barrel selection, but the overall experience is actually very positive and I like how Benchmark Bonded tastes.
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I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Benchmark Bonded Bourbon Rating

Mid shelf+
Benchmark Bonded Bourbon is surprisingly…quite good. It’s not amazing, but I find it to be pleasant and interesting enough to give this rating. The dark sweetness leads the way, and good enough fruitiness is a nice touch. There’s no weirdness, no funk, and no unpleasantness. That is paramount for a bourbon this affordable.
Of course it’s not all sunshine and butterflies. The biggest drawback is the muddiness / flabbiness, so everything kind of melds into the next thing. It’s not a muddled disaster by any means, but it’s one of the more glaring ways that it reminds me that it’s not as…luxurious or mature. And it could be richer and more expressive too, but it is what it is.
I’ve reviewed a lot of affordable / cheap bourbon, and this is one of the best modern ones that I’ve had. This might be one of my favorite bourbons under $20, assuming you can find it at that price. It’s not bad either at $25, but under $20 (and I’ve seen it priced at $20 or less), it’s a real steal. It’s nice to drink neat and very accessible + guilt free for cocktails. It’s a winner for sure.
I’ll leave you with this. The reason that my tone is so positive is because of the price, although price does not impact my rating. I’d be utterly furious if this was an $80 bourbon, but for sub-$25, it’s hard to do much better. Spend the $20ish and give it a try, I think you’ll also be pleasantly surprised.
And this is why I’m not mad about praising this Buffalo Trace-made bourbon – it’s rarely marked up, very available in markets where it’s sold, and well done.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)