Benchmark … the name alone gives me shivers. Modern-day, 80-proof Benchmark is so low on my enjoyability scale, James Cameron can’t reach it. But how might a full-proof version with an extra year of aging fare? Let’s give this so-called “Baby Stagg” a try and find out.
Pour: Benchmark Full Proof
Age: at least 4 years
Nose: (grainy) corn, green apple, faint spice
Taste: (somewhat sharp) vanilla, tart oak, nutmeg
Finish: long w/ candy apple, caramel syrup, white pepper
Overall: If you’re looking for a young, high-proof bourbon for $25, Benchmark FP is here for you. Personally, Old Grand-Dad 114 is a better option (even if priced higher), but to each their own. It’s better than its 80-proof cousin, for whatever that’s worth.
Benchmark is one of two brands acquired by Sazerac from Seagram’s in the 1980s (the other being Eagle Rare). Today, it’s distilled by Buffalo Trace and is commonly found for less than $10 in liquor stores nationwide. Sounds like a deal, right? Don’t get your hopes up just yet.
Pour: Benchmark “Old No. 8” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 36 months
Nose: margarine, strawberry Greek yogurt, apple juice
Taste: canned corn, sour pears, pasteboard
Finish: not short enough – Lemon Pledge, sadness
Overall: Rarely can I not finish a bourbon. Benchmark is one such pour. Yes, it’s labeled “Kentucky straight,” but three years in oak just doesn’t cut it here. It’s thin, youthful, oddly sour, and unpleasant. If this is a benchmark of whiskey, I’m Tom Handy.
Rating: Gag Jr.