Age: NAS (4 y/o?)
Style: High-corn bourbon
Proof: 80 (40% ABV)
Appearance: Light copper with thin-medium, fast legs.
Nose: Cool Ranch Doritos, caramel, alcohol
On the palate: Thin, a bit of sweetness and that weird cool ranch note again. Not much else going on.
Finish: Very light, slightly sweet with a fruitiness coming through in the end.
Mixed: When Benchmark is mixed, the results are themselves mixed. It’s invisible in manhattans, sours and cola. For whatever reason, it does pretty well in hot drinks like coffee and hot toddies. I have also found it adequate for Bourbon cream pies and soaking woodchips.
Parting words: It’s hard to believe this is the same recipe as George T. Stagg. No one is quite sure who McAfee is, but Benchmark is a relatively new brand. It was introduced in the 1960s and was produced by Seagram’s, along with its stablemate Eagle Rare, at what is now the Four Roses Distillery. When Seagram’s was dismantled in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Benchmark and Eagle Rare both came into the possession of Sazerac Co., present owner of Buffalo Trace Distillery. They are both currently made in there. Benchmark has always been lower-shelf bourbon, but Saz did experiment with a Single Barrel version which was actually quite good. It’s no longer available but still lingers on shelves (including one of mine) around the country.
Benchmark does what it sets out to do. It is cheap, well bourbon. At under $10 for a 750 ml bottle, it’s hard to expect too much, but $2-$3 more opens up many better possibilities. Even the mediocre Ancient Age shows up better. In light of all that, I cannot recommend Benchmark.