Benchmark Full Proof Bourbon is the highest proof offering in the Benchmark bourbon lineup. According to Buffalo Trace, the brand is “named after the McAfee brothers who surveyed a site just north of Frankfort in the late 1700s. The rye recipe bourbon is yet another label that honors the storied history of the Distillery and the land it sits on.” Coming in at 125 proof, the bourbon is denoted as full proof due to the fact that it is bottled at the same proof that the distillate originally entered the barrel.
Classic bourbon scents kick off the sip with sweet caramel, vanilla, and charred oak wafting out of the glass. A swirl of the whiskey reveals scents of nutmeg and a bold brown sugar note that rides on a pillow of heat thanks to its 125 proof. It’s not an overly complex nose, however, it nicely showcases the classic scents that it’s composed of, and starts the sip off on the right foot.
Embracing the classic bourbon notes revealed in the nose, the palate turns things up and really leans into its proof. Brown sugar, dry oak, and cigar box notes mingle with light baking chocolate and bold rye and baking spices. There’s no missing the fact that this bourbon is 125 proof, as a bold spicy heat is quite evident. It’s a nice midpoint to the sip and will scratch the itch that high proof bourbon lovers are looking for.
A burst of billowing spicy heat rushes forward. As it subsides, dashes of cinnamon, baking spices, and dry oak appear, however, they quickly fade just as fast as they arrive. The finish ends on a prominent lingering heat-filled spice note that leans into the bourbon’s proof just a little too much. It’s a fine way to end the sip, but it’s lacking balanced depth compared to the rest of the sip.
Benchmark Full Proof Bourbon isn’t the first full proof bourbon by Buffalo Trace. The brand also produces Weller Full Proof, which while bottled at 114 proof, is also bottled at the same proof that it enters the barrel at. Sazerac, who owns Buffalo Trace, also owns Barton 1792 Distillery, which produces 1792 Full Proof that follows the same premise. While full proof aren’t quite barrel proof bourbons, they certainly compete in the same category as other high proof and barrel proof bourbons available in the market. This includes Knob Creek Single Barrel, Booker’s, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and numerous other brands that fit this definition.
Ultimately, Benchmark delivers a sip that, while above average, has a hard time differentiating itself from other high proof bourbons out there. It’s well-composed and displays classic bourbon notes, but lacks the necessary components to make it stand out and take it to the next level. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, more of a realization that this bottle does have an upper limit, and it’s already bumping against it.
There’s no denying that Benchmark Full Proof Bourbon can’t compete with the likes of Weller Full Proof when it comes to the overall sip delivered. Amazingly, this value-based bourbon does a remarkably good job of delivering an overall above average pour for less than $25. Add in the fact that this is 125 proof, and it’s arguably, dollar for dollar, one of the best high proof bourbons for under $30. This is helped by the fact that it’s one of the only 120+ proof bourbons by a major Kentucky distillery in its price range.
Buffalo Trace really should be commended for this bourbon’s price. In a sea of ever rising prices, Benchmark Full Proof is still affordable to all bourbon drinkers. While the Benchmark line has gained in popularity, it’s nowhere near as popular as other Buffalo Trace staples such as the Blanton’s line, Weller line, Eagle Rare, and the like. As such, this is a more obtainable bourbon in the markets that you can find it in. Would I pay double the price for this? Probably not, however, if you are like me and like high proof bourbon, you’re not going to find a better value for a 120+ proof bourbon in the $20-$30 range, period.
High proof, low price, and a sip that will please most, Benchmark Full Proof Bourbon is a low cost bourbon that should be on everyone's radar.
Benchmark Full Proof bourbon is a rarity in today’s bourbon market. It’s a classic well-rounded bourbon that carries an incredibly value-focused price tag. Like Benchmark Bottled in Bond, Full Proof uses the extra proof afforded to it, to its advantage. The finish may be muddled by this proof, but overall this is a well-rounded sip. Add in a sub $25 price tag, and there’s no denying that this may be the most consumer-friendly high proof bourbon currently available on the market. If you’re a fan of high proof bourbons, value bourbons, or are just looking to try a bourbon from the Benchmark line, Benchmark Full Proof should be on your list of bourbons to buy.