Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon Review [In Depth]

Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon

Alex author
Founder, writer
Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon header

Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon Details

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 45%

Composition: Buffalo Trace mashbill #1

Aged: At least 4 years

Color: 1.2/2.0 on the color scale (chestnut, oloroso sherry)

Price: $18-20

From the company website:

Select barrels are chosen for this small batch bourbon by our Master Distiller. Bottled at 90 proof, this Small Batch bourbon is a testament to quality and craftsmanship.

Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon overview

Benchmark Old No. 8, not to be mistaken with Jack Daniel’s Old No.7, has been a super cheap staple of Buffalo Trace’s lineup for years. And first off, the standard Benchmark Bourbon is an awful Buffalo Trace substitute. But around 2020, the Benchmark brand was expanded to be more than just a cheap 3 year old bourbon.
Now, the brand includes Top Floor, Small Batch (the topic of this review), Bonded (Bottled in Bond), 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), and 2) explore various ways to blend / age bourbon.
Why wait 6-8 years for Buffalo Trace (my best guess) and 10 years for Eagle Rare when you can make it in ~4 years. Well, they also probably have a lot of not-as-great barrels that aren’t good enough for Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, or other mashbill #1 bourbons, so they need to sell them in a different way, aka Benchmark. I’m not trying to shame anyone for it, I’m just trying to highlight why this might be happening. Knowledge is power.
Compared to the regular Benchmark Bourbon, for an extra $5-8 you get a slightly older (1 year older) and higher ABV (5% more) version of Benchmark with likely better barrel selection. Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon should be at least 4 years old because it is labeled as straight bourbon and does not have an age statement. That’s just the rule.
Let’s find out whether small batches make this better in this Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon review.
Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon side 2

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 Small Batch Bourbon smell

At first I smell gentle honey, fennel, white pear, red apple peel, roasted oak, cinnamon, roasted grains, dried cherry, baked bread, licorice, and hints of caraway seed. Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon Smells like a toned-down and way less mature version of Buffalo Trace that’s less fruity, which makes sense because it’s the younger version of Buffalo Trace.
It has a little more youthful grain and vanilla, although it doesn’t smell overly / unpleasantly young. There’s no metallic scents either, unlike Old Forester 86 Proof.
After swirling I get honey, fennel, apricot, roasted oak, cinnamon, caraway seed, roasted oak, roasted grains, and mint. That’s an herbal and slightly fruity sweetness, but otherwise smells like a younger bourbon that’s pleasant enough. I don’t mind smelling it, but it’s nothing noteworthy.
Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon smells decent with some range and developing maturity, and nothing off or weird. Everything is surface level and lacks any semblance or richness, just about on par with Evan Williams Black Label. There are no surprises here.
Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon side 1

Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with honey, licorice, vanilla, apricot, roasted oak, cinnamon, orange peel, roasted grain and bread, and earthy caraway seed. Benchmark Small Batch has some bright fruitiness and herbalness with oaky spice, but overall still tastes on the younger side with more roasty grain and earthiness.
Oddly enough, it reminds me a lot of Evan Williams Black Label (read the review if you haven’t already): herbal forward with some sweetness and earthiness. The point – it tastes good enough, with nothing particularly great but nothing off putting. It is a massive upgrade from the regular Benchmark Bourbon, but not all that impressive.
After “chewing” I taste honey, licorice, apricot, red apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, vanilla, starfruit, caraway seed, and roasted grains. It tastes better with “chewing”, bringing forth a little more fruitiness and expressiveness, but nothing sticks out in a good way.
The finish starts with honey, roasted oak, white pear, caraway seed, licorice, and red apple peel with lingering sweet earthiness and grains. That lingering oaky earthiness really reinforces that this blend is primarily made up of more immature / less desirable barrels, although the aftertaste itself is pleasant enough.
After “chewing” it leaves honey, starfruit, apricot, roasted oak, cinnamon, and caraway seed with lingering dry oak, earthiness, and honey. It’s not bad at all.
Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon is unremarkable but has acceptable range and density that reminds me a lot of Evan Williams Black Label, which is a good budget bourbon for under $15. You can do a lot better and a lot worse.
Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon front
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 Small Batch Bourbon Rating

Mid Shelf
Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon delivers a good experience for $18-20. Everything feels somewhat developed and there’s nothing unpleasant or off, and that’s a victory in and of itself when it comes to bourbon this affordable. It’s drinkable and there’s nothing off or unpleasant about it. You get what you pay for, but you’re not getting screwed in the process.
I think that Buffalo Trace’s massive expansion over the past few years has led to a surge in younger Buffalo Trace-made bourbons (4ish years old), meaning more Benchmark Bourbon of various kinds. More Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare will take a little longer, so there will be a lot more Benchmark for the next few years.
So if you’re looking for a cheap bourbon then this is a decent one to try, but don’t do it because it’s associated with Buffalo Trace. This isn’t a great Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare replacement, so you’ll be disappointed if that’s what you’re trying to do.
If you want to save some more money and get a comparable experience, Evan Williams Black Label is your best bet. If you have the means to spend a little more, then I recommend Jim Beam Double Oaked, Elijah Craig Small Batch, and Evan Williams Bottled in Bond.
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)