Today, we're reviewing Benchmark Bonded, the fourth whiskey in the new collection of special-edition bourbons bearing the Benchmark name. After last week's Benchmark Single Barrel was a huge letdown, we're hoping the brand can rebound in a big way this week.
The following review is taken from our episode "Sunset Boulevard/Benchmark Bonded Bourbon" Click the link to listen to this review in audio format.
Bob: So again, if you've been following along, we are drinking five new releases that Buffalo Trace is bottling under the Benchmark label. We started with the cheapest one and the lowest proof, and we're working our way up to the highest proof one. We really liked the first week, Benchmark Top Floor. The second week we were very split on. That was the Benchmark Small Batch. Last week we tried Benchmark Single Barrel, which neither of us liked. And so we're hoping that we can really get back on track here with this 100-proof Benchmark Bonded.
Brad: Yeah. And as I jumped into the nose on this one I found a decent amount of cinnamon that led into caramel apple. There was some oak and the longer I sat with it, the more I got mixed berries. It was a solid, approachable nose that I gave a 7/10 to.
Bob: I also gave it a 7/10. Caramel jumped out to me. With Buffalo Trace, oak is always going to be a note on the nose, on the taste, and on the finish. I find sometimes that Buffalo Trace products are overly oaky, especially on the finish. Brown sugar and green apple were also present here. There was a lot of apple peel on this. One of the concerning things with these five Benchmarks we're doing is that as they go up in proof, the alcohol is not only just present on the palate, but it's noticeable on the nose too. This had a very ethanol-forward nose, and that's what kept it from getting a higher score.
Brad: When we moved into the palate, there was almost a Juicy Fruit gum flavor at the tip of my tongue, and there was some nice, sweet, savory, almost caramel, notes, and then I got some of those baking spices again. I got a little bit of nutmeg, some cinnamon. I gave it an 8/10 on the palate. Bob. This is a really solid B-minus type of palate.
Bob: I didn't get almost any of that. I found that the exact same notes that were on the nose were there on the palate, except that it was even oakier than it was on the nose. But I didn't find it to open up. I didn't find it to get any more complex. And so I'm once again just going to give it a 7/10 on the taste.
Brad: The finish moved into some rye-forward area. It was very oaky and there's a bit of leather. I'll give it a 7.5/10.
Bob: I thought it actually turned a bit sour. The grain kind of soured in my mouth a bit as I went to swallow. I think that the bitterness of the oak mixed with the fact that it kind of soured for me, brought my score down a step on the finish. I'm going to give it a 6/10.
Brad: With balance, I think that this has some decent complexity of flavor. There's some fruitiness, some traditional caramel, brown sugar notes, and then there's those baking spices that for me take it up a notch. So I gave it a 7.5/10on the balance.
Bob: Yeah, I'm just going to give it a 6.5/10. I think it's pretty good, but it's nothing special, and that's kind of what we're expecting from this whole line. Neither of us are expecting to find a 10/10 whiskey here. What we might be expecting to find is a 10/10 value. And that’s a lot of our evaluation of a whiskey. So I'm not expecting a lot here, but even at that point, I'm still just going to give it a 6.5.
Brad: Yeah. So that brings us to our final category, value. In the beautiful state of Ohio, you can purchase this whiskey for $20 on the dot. $19.99.
Bob: Listen, at $20, this is a pretty good whiskey. You can't get a lot of bottled-in-bond bourbons for less than $20 anyway. Old Grand-Dad is right in that price range, Evan Williams is right in this range too. This is in line with those brands, and I think for 20 bucks you could do a lot worse when it comes to picking a whiskey. I'm going to give it an 8/10 on value.
Brad: Yeah, I'm in the exact same spot, 8/10. This is a solid value in the world of budget whiskey.
Brad: So that is bringing my total to a 38/50, Bob.
Bob: You're a little bit higher than me. I'm at a 34.5/50, which takes us to a 72.5/100, or a 36.25/50 on average. Now, generally, we have found it to be true that once we hit that 35 out of 50 mark on average, that's where we start recommending a whiskey. It might not be a wholehearted recommendation, but it's an overall worthwhile thing that you can get. I think, Brad, that if you want to try this one, I would recommend just going ahead and buying the whole bottle. It's not worth getting a $6 pour of this when you could get the whole bottle for $20. I still think that the Top Floor from week one was my favorite one in this lineup so far.
Brad: Yes, which is not something that I would've expected. I think the Small Batch is my favorite. You don't necessarily expect the 90-proofer to be your favorite in a lineup, but here we are.