This post marks the eigth installment of the Budget Bourbon Battle Royale. (Follow this link for previous rounds.) If you’re not familiar with this series, we’re reviewing bottles that can be had for $20 or less in most areas. Thus far, Old Fitzgerald has fended off several challengers and remains our reigning king of the budget ring. In our last round, Old Fitz Bottled-in-Bond wiped the matt with Ancient Age 90. In this round, our champion faces off against another Buffalo Trace challenger. This time, it’s McAffee’s Benchmark Old no.8, or just “Benchmark 8” for short.
Round 6: Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond vs. McAffee’s Benchmark Old no. 8.
To paraphrase the great Michael Buffer:
For the thousands on twitter and the millions of readers around the world, ladies and gentlemen, LLLET’S GET READY TO RUUUUMMMBBBLLLLLLLLEEEE!
The Challenger: Benchmark 8
Benchmark 8 is yet another of Buffalo Trace’s products distilled using their proprietary low rye Mash Bill #1 (along with Eagle Rare, Old Charter, Col. E. H. Taylor, Stagg, Stagg. Jr, and standard Buffalo Trace.) That’s a big lineup of bourbons using the same recipe. Some might think that therefore makes them essentially the same bourbon, right? Wrong. As we’ve mentioned before, when, where, and how long bourbon is aged has as much influence on the flavor as the recipe of the distillate. Thus, Benchmark 8 shares some characteristics with other Buffalo Trace products, but doesn’t share the same flavor. This sample clocks in at 40% ABV (80 proof).
Originally owned by Seagram’s, Benchmark is now owned by Sazerac and distilled at Buffalo Trace. It is packaged in bottles very similar to Jack Daniel’s, and is marketed towards those who like the Tennessee Whiskey.
- Appearance: Medium Amber.
- Nose: Caramel, leather, and plum.
- Taste: More leather greets the tongue with earthy flavors of tobacco and a hint of oak. Slight sweetness on the tip of the tongue, but not pronounced.
- Finish: Dry, short in length, with some lingering oak and tannin.
- Score: 75/100.
The Reigning King of the Ring: Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond (recap from previous rounds)
Old Fitzgerald is another venerable bourbon label. It is currently produced by Heaven Hill at the new Bernheim facility in Louisville. It’s a Wheated Bourbon, and shares its mash with Larceny and Old Fitzgerald 12 year. It can be found in 90 proof, or Bottled-in-Bond at 100 Proof. This review covers the Bottled-in-Bond version.
- Appearance: Deep gold.
- Nose: Bakery goods (wedding cake) and corn sweetness.
- Taste: Wheat tingle on the tip of the tongue, more white cake, mint, wheat, and maple syrup on the back with cinnamon showing its head on the end.
- Finish: Medium finish with the sweetness and wheat tingle remaining through the end.
- Score: 83/100. Recommended.
Benchmark 8 is largely a forgettable bourbon. There isn’t anything offensive, per say, in the flavor or nose, but there’s also nothing particularly memorable. It’s a low alcohol, mild flavored bourbon. If that’s your thing, it’s certainly not the worst bourbon in this Battle Royale, but there’s no reason to choose it over any other of these $17-ish bourbons, less so compared to Evan Williams Black Label, for instance. Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond clearly took this round as well and still holds its spot atop the standings.
Budget Bourbon Battle Royale Current Standings:
- Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 83
- Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond 83
- Evan Williams (Black Label) 82
- Ancient Age 90 79
- Old Grand Dad Bottled-in-Bond 76
- Ancient Age 80 75
- McAffee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 75
- Old Crow 72
- Old Taylor 69
The ModernThirst.com scoring system is a standard 100 point system based on 4 categories, taken in order.
- Appearance: 15 points
- Nose: 25 Points
- Palate/Taste: 35 Points
- Finish: 25 points
- 95+ Epic
- 90-94 Excellent, Good representative of its style
- 85-89 Solid sipper
- 80-84 Drinkable, but potentially flawed.
- 75-79 Low quality, flawed, use as a mixer only
- <75 Rot Gut, avoid