Benchmark

The first bourbon I reviewed for this blog was Ancient Age by the Buffalo Trace Distillery; and this second review will be of another Buffalo Trace expression in the same price segment. Seeing as I’ve already mentioned some distillery background in the Ancient Age post, I won’t repeat it in this review. So if you’re interested in a bit of history, hop on over to the AA review and I’ll kick back for a few minutes until you’re ready to continue.

All done? Okay, let’s move on then. This expression is probably more popular among regular bourbon drinkers than Ancient Age (though still less popular than the golden calf that is Buffalo Trace) however it is still both cheap and accessible. Much like Jack Daniels, Benchmark is often (perhaps even primarily) drank with a mixer, though it is perfectly drinkable alone. One of the most popular cocktails to use it in is Old Fashioned, which according to Wikipedia may be the oldest cocktail in the world. I’ve had a go at making one myself recently, using a recipe that I found on Dadshouseblog.com:

Drop a sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass (lowball glass)
Add a few dashes of bitter alcohol (like Angustora)
Add a shot of soda water
Muddle the sugar and bitter alcohol together (you can use the backside of a spoon)

Add an ice cube or two
Add 2 shots of bourbon
Stir

Garnish with a bit of orange peel, lemon peel, and a maraschino cherry

I initially made it exactly after the recipe and was quite pleased with the result, though I’ve since taken to reducing the amount of bitter alcohol and instead add some finely grated orange and lemon zest, probably about ½ – 1 teaspoon of each, which I’ve found gives it a nicer, more natural, flavor. I’ve also tried using 1½ teaspoons of Demerara sugar instead of the sugar cube, which the Mrs. preferred.

Neat, I detected hints of caramel, fruit (apple, cherries), cigar, a hint of mint and a faint whisper of vanilla. The palate presents a medium body with a touch of leather, tobacco and dried fruit. For the purpose of this review I also decided to re-test Ancient Age in order to determine which is better value (seeing as they are virtually the same price), and must say that I do prefer Benchmark, and would in fact recommend purchasing one – if not for its qualities when had neat, then for how well it goes in an old fashioned.

Eye: A medium amber.

Nose: Caramel, apple, cherries, cigar, mint and a faint whisper of vanilla.

Palate: Medium body, touch of leather, tobacco and dried fruit.

Want to buy this whiskey? Available in: UK & World (click)

Comments

  1. I’m a huge Benchmark fan, i bought it on the bottom shelf for years and have watched it creep up to eye level with more expensive bourbons, it’s highly underrated and I love your description, and assessment of it.

  2. Martin Leddy says:

    Having lived in Bardstown, Ky for a number of years…I “sampled” many bourbons. As a blind test I selected BenchMark over many more familier name like Markers Mark, Old Grand Dad, Blanton’s, Wild Turkey, and four others. I drink it neat, so nothing gets in the way of the true flavor. Bench Mark, it’s my choice.

  3. I’m the guy blogging everything (sorry for this everyone) about wanting a Tobacco Palate (note nose. palate ok ) in any type of whiskey from around the world + affordable + avail in Australia only. I am poor learner and trying learn this and any help would be appropriated on what brand or what makes this happen. SO Tobacco leathery. Not Heather. Leathery Buttery Tobacco Soft fat/chewy like. . I have bought countless complete opposite good bottles just there not what I wanted so did not like. It does not help when reviews are always different. Some say tobacco some not. I do have much to spend now but a cheap + med price one maybe and list a few pricer ones for later on.

  4. I seem to be the contrarian when it comes to Benchmark. I find it a bit bland. Maybe worthy of mixing up some Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, but probably better suited for a bourbon and ginger or coke.

  5. Benchmark totally surprised me. tastes way better than any others in its price range, but maybe tying with evan williams black. not top-shelf good, but I think comparable quality to jack, bulleit, or knob creek. (which is my favorite)

  6. I am a huge benchmark fan! I’m always looking for THE best bang for the buck out there. It used to be Ancient Age, but since i found Benchmark…..I’m sold. I’ve fooled plenty of bourbon afficianados by pouring it neat and having them think it was some special single barrel expensive stuff. Smooth, caramelly, great aroma. I’ll stack it up against bourbons costing 2, and 3 X as much.

  7. I totally agree with gsmooth: if money were no object I’d buy Crown Royal, but you absolutely cannot beat Benchmark for the price. I actually prefer Benchmark to Jack Daniels (Jack is usually twice the price), Evan Williams, and other more expensive brands — and I definitely prefer it to Canadian whiskey regardless of cost. It has the same oak barrel aged taste of Jack, but is smoother and not as strong tasting (in my opinion). It makes a wonderful Old Fashioned or Hot Toddy, but I usually drink it with tea (kind of my own versin of Long Island Iced Tea), ginger ale or orange juice.

    If you’ve never tried Benchmark, you really should — especially if you are on a budget but can afford to pay at least $17-$20 a bottle.

  8. I agree that for it’s amazingly low price, Benchmark is a real keeper. For those (and their guests) who enjoy mixers, I have found that Benchmark is as good as many $10.00 + more. Let’s face it, like Evan Williams + a few others, budget conscience ones today can’t do much better for mixed drinks. We get it here (Fla) for $15.00/1.75.

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