As it’s National Bourbon Day I thought I’d celebrate by cracking open a bottle that’s been sitting in my cupboard for some time.
When I first bought this bourbon I knew nothing about it.
My original impression was that as it has a large 8 emblazoned on the label it must be a step up from the 7 on a bottle of Jack?
And on eventually getting round to a tasting – it certainly did satisfy my palate more.
A lovely golden hue complete with decent legs graced the Túath glass on a pour. Being a ‘straight‘ bourbon guarantees no added caramel in the mix.
Soft and gentle on the palate to begin with, the flavours & heat slowly grew in intensity giving a good showing of vanillas & sweet caramel mixed with darker hints of tobacco and a lovely growing spice towards the end.
For me the finish was the best bit.
The spiciness – suggestive of a decent rye percentage in the mashbill – slowly dried out leaving a gentle prickliness in the mouth – which I enjoy.
Being an entry level bourbon – Benchmark is appropriately named as it does provide an exceedingly pleasing drinking experience from which other bourbons can be compared.
Only after I purchased this bottle did I find out it’s part of the Buffalo Trace portfolio from Kentucky.
Interestingly it shares the same mashbill as Buffalo Trace itself – along with the more aged Eagle Rare & George T Stagg offerings!
The only differences are the time spent in the barrel – they are all virgin american oak remember with the same char level – and which part of the rickhouse they were stored in during maturity.
Having tasted the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old 2017 release at Whiskey Live Dublin – it would be folly to compare the 2 bourbons – but you can appreciate the solid foundations of the young Benchmark that with added maturity grew into the stunning Eagle Rare 17.
But then my local O’Briens only stocked Benchmark!
An opportunity to taste without prejudice. To judge all equally without bias to distillery of origin or mash bill. To savour & enjoy new tastes & styles in a manner echoing the ethos of the Declaration Of Independence written all those years ago.
Yet the Midlands masses were not moved and on the day there were more whiskey expressions on offer than punters to drink them.
Ah well. All the more for those that did attend.
I tried to put together a flight of whiskeys that represented as many different styles of American bourbon – to compare & contrast – within the limitations of what was readily available in Ireland.
To kick off with – a pair of entry level bourbons showed that even within the same category there were differences of taste & flavour.
To be labelled ‘bourbon’ under American rules means a minimum of 51% corn used in the mash bill. The mash bill is the ratio of grains used to make the whiskey – usually made up of the big 4; corn, wheat, rye & barley.
I twinned an Aldi own brand Clarke’s 1866 Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey with a market leading Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. Most preferred the Jack – although Clarke’s wasn’t far behind.
Considering one is twice the price of the other – it just goes to show you can get a decent pour of a fairly standard bourbon at an affordable cost if you’re prepared to shop around.
The next pour moved up a level both in terms of cost and flavour – FEW Rye Whiskey. All agreed this was a far more complex, definitely a different style and a far more satisfying whiskey. The spicy rye dominated the palate yet was balanced by the sweet corn element in the mash bill.
The rye presence continued into the Brothership Irish – American Whiskey. A collaboration between Connacht Distillery in Ballina and New Liberty Distillery in Philly. It’s a blend of 10 year old Irish Single Malt & a 10 year old American Rye. A lighter & smoother start than the previous pours – all picked out the Irish malt influence – yet joyfully morphed into a lovely drying peppery spice at the end. You can pick out the 2 different styles within the same glass and marvel at how they both compliment each other in the final mix. Fabulous.
I was very much looking forward to the next bourbon.
A representative at Hi-Spirits Ireland – a distribution company handling the Sazerac, Buffalo Trace portfolio – reached out to donate some liquid for the Blind Tasting. Much appreciated.
The bottle in question also happened to hail from the Barton 1792 Distillery which recently suffered a rickhouse collapse causing much loss of bourbon & property. Although thankfully no injuries.
1792 Small Batch Bourbon.
Again – much like the Brothership – this was a whiskey in 2 halves.
To begin with a rich, deep vanilla & burnt caramel coated the mouth leading you into a drier, cinnamon spice rye body which finished in a delightfully playful prickly heat. This ‘high rye’ bourbon pleased all present – although there was no clear overall winner on the night before the bottles were revealed. Beautiful bourbon indeed.
The final offering was more of a fun product.
Buffalo Trace White Dog Rye Mash.
This is the American equivalent of Irish Poitin. Raw un-aged whiskey.
At 62.5% this White Dog certainly packed a punch – yet was extremely palatable & very enjoyable. That familiar – slightly sour – new make nose, the oiliness on first tasting proceeding to a soft dry rye spice rounded the evening off with a bang.