Benchmark Bourbon Review [In Depth]
Benchmark Old No 8 Bourbon
Benchmark Old No 8 Bourbon Details
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: Buffalo Trace Mash #1, speculated to be ~10-12% rye
Aged: At least 3 years old
Price: $10-15 for 750mL
From the company website:
“In 1773, three McAfee Brothers named James, George and Robert left Virginia westward to explore the uncharted territory that would later become known as Kentucky. Traveling by canoe at first, the McAfee Company eventually followed a native trail overland that led to the great buffalo crossing, where the brothers surveyed the land now home to the world’s most award-winning distillery – Buffalo Trace Distillery. The surveyor marks left behind are known as benchmarks and this bourbon whiskey honors the pioneering spirits of these early American explorers.“
benchmark bourbon overview
While I write that it uses the same mashbill as those bourbons, it’s likely that Buffalo Trace uses barrels from specific rickhouse locations for Benchmark Bourbon and not their other mashbill #1 bourbons. And if you didn’t know by now, barrel selection has a huge impact on how the final bourbon smells and tastes (and Wild Turkey showed us why).
benchmark bourbon smell
At first sniff, Benchmark Bourbon doesn’t have much to offer. There’s some light honey, grain, vanilla, fennel, slightly dark apple juice, a drop of orange juice, and some dry and roasted oak. Similar to young craft bourbon, there’s a noticeable youthful graininess and pepperiness because the bourbon hasn’t had enough time to develop more sweetness.
Swirling brings some slightly floral honey and vanilla, pear, a drop of cherry, and herbal fennel up front. Then I start to get more of that earthy and dry grain, caraway seed, oak, and dry cracker that screams young and under-developed bourbon.
benchmark bourbon taste and aftertaste
Benchmark Old No 8 Bourbon starts off with light honey, pear, roasted oak, vanilla, roasted and dry grain, cinnamon, and then even more grain and some earthy rosemary. The youthful graininess, dry oak, and light sweetness and fruitiness again remind me that this is young and not developed-enough bourbon. It’s pretty bland, and after a second or so gets a little bitter too.
After “chewing” the finish starts-off fine enough, but it shortly takes a turns for the worse. It starts a little sweet and dry with honey, grain, fennel, and caraway seed, but then the sweetness tapers-off and the dry and bitter oak, black pepper, and earthy caraway seed take over.
I’m usually pretty forgiving here, but this pretty unpleasant and only gets worse with every sip
Benchmark Bourbon Rating
Benchmark Bourbon is cheap but unfortunately not fun to drink. While it has a little sweetness, fruitiness, and herbalness that hint at future potential, that dry and bitter oak, earthy caraway seed, and graininess hold back this experience from being even “Mid Shelf”.
Call me crazy, but I’d rather drink Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 because it’s actually kind of good. I also really enjoy baijiu (a Chinese clear spirit), so white dog is familiar and pleasant for me.
It’s a bit harsh, but I can’t think of a compelling reason to drink Benchmark Bourbon…unless your goal is to get drunk as cheaply as possible.
For everyone else looking for an enjoyable experience and/or expand your whiskey knowledge…go elsewhere. Let my experience (albeit intentional because the people need to know) deter you from ever putting this in your mouth.
Spend a little bit more and get Evan Williams Bottled in Bond for around $20. If you want to splurge, buy the 1.75L handle for ~$30 and it’ll last a while. Sure it’s a little more expensive than Benchmark Old No 8, but you’re paying for significantly higher quality.
All that said, it’s still interesting to drink the very young bourbon that eventually becomes Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.
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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