- 95 Proof
When Buffalo Trace announced their new, expanded lineup of Benchmark products, I wasn't really sure how to feel about it. I loved that they added some new products to the brand, including a bottled-in-bond, a single barrel and a full proof offering, among others. But, on the other hand, it's still Benchmark, that bottom shelf bourbon that I've stayed away from for so long.
What got me, though, was the limited availability. Rather than simply release these new products distribution-wide, they released them only in select states, and that didn't include Illinois. So now, conflicted or not, I found myself wanting it simply because it was something I couldn't have. Makes sense, right? Luckily, one of the states that it did get released in was Indiana. So, all it took was my daughter's hockey tournament in South Bend for me to find my way into an Indian liquor store, where I picked up the Single Barrel as well as a Full Proof Benchmark.
The nose was interesting, mostly in that it wasn't quite what I expected. The first note I got was a light woodiness, usually reserved for older bottlings. I also got some sweet cinnamon as well as an oatmeal cookie aroma. It certainly leaned toward the sweeter side, and I noticed a lot of cereal notes, like frosted flakes or even cinnamon toast crunch.
The flavor certainly followed the nose, as I got the distinct flavor of cinnamon cookie. It had that baked goods quality, but also that cinnamon note like ground cinnamon, as opposed to cinnamon flavored candy like I get sometimes. It stayed on the sweet end still, not only with that cookie note, but also with a sugar cone flavor as well.
That baked sweets note, particularly that sugar cone note, paired exceptionally well with the vanilla bean ice cream that seemed to follow. Perhaps one led me to noticing the other, like a trick of the mind, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I was also getting that same cinnamon toast crunch note that I got on the nose.
The finish was a bit thin and disappointing, however. It's not an exceptionally high proof whiskey, so I managed my expectations coming in. However, it came across as exceptionally watery and lacing in flavor. I got hints of cherry pie, with notes of both the cherry pie filling and the pie crust coming through. But, I had to strain just to pick those out, and even those were fleeting.
All that said, for the price, this is absolutely a great value. I got far more flavor, and really enjoyable flavor, off this bourbon than I expected going in. If you were to slap any other Buffalo Trace label on this whiskey it would be flying off the shelves. I'm glad I got the full proof to try as well, and now I'm kind of wishing I had grabbed the Top Floor release as well.