Benchmark Old No. 8 Bourbon

Benchmark Old No. 8 Bourbon Review

In Bourbon Whiskey Reviews by Thomas Fondano22 Comments

Welcome to a new tasting series on lower shelf bourbons. Bourbon & Banter contributor, Thomas Fondano, will be trying out and commenting on bourbons priced under $20. Knowing that not all sub-$20 bourbons will be great, Thomas will be adding a new category to our standard tasting notes – Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan  – to see whether a classic cocktail improves on a straight tasting. We hope you enjoy this new series of reviews and hope you’ll help us shape future reviews by letting us know in the comments what sub-$20 bourbon you’d like us to review next.

Buffalo Trace makes a lot of different bourbons but they only have a few mash bills. Age and placement in the warehouses determine the rest. Their #1 mash bill is a low-rye bill (less than 10%) and makes some big names: Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg and Stagg Jr., Colonel E.H. Taylor, the eponymous Buffalo Trace, Old Charter and McAfee’s Benchmark. We’ll be looking at that last one for today’s review.

Benchmark Old No. 8 bourbon was created by Seagram’s in the late 1960s as a luxury brand and was originally named Benchmark Bourbon. It was produced at the Four Roses distillery when Seagram’s owned it. The brand name was purchased by Sazerac in 1992 and McAfee’s was added to the name in honor of the McAfee brothers who surveyed a site just north of Frankfort in the late 1700s.

Sazerac/Buffalo Trace markets it as a cheaper alternative to Jack Daniel’s and it shows in the Old No. 8 on the black label. To me, that’s not selling point, but let’s give it a taste.

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Photo of a bottle of Benchmark Old No. 8 BourbonBourbon Name:  Benchmark Old No. 8

Proof: 80

Age: At least 3 years

Year:  2014

How I Drank It:  Neat, in Glencairn whiskey glass.

My Nose Noticed:*  Vanilla | Honey | Orange Peel

First Sip:  Oak | Cherry | Was That Rye?

The Burn:**  Sustained moderate burn. Not overwhelming, looooong.

Neat, Splash or Rocks:  I don’t really believe in adding water or ice to an 80 proof bourbon. If you’re going to drink this, drink it neat.

Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan: While the cocktails work reasonably well, I like this one straight. As with most 80 proof bourbons, you’ll need less sugar if you’re making an Old Fashioned and less vermouth in your Manhattan.

Share With: Friends. I shared it with some friends after they helped me move a 300 lb. log in my backyard and they liked it.

Worth The Price:  I paid $12.95, which is quite reasonable.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Bottle, because value. While I like this, I think it may be my least favorite of Buffalo Trace’s low rye mash bill. But value!


*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?









Sr. Contributor | | Website

Thomas Fondano has been drinking bourbon and trying every bottling he can get his hands on since last century. While he enjoys all types of whiskeys, bourbon remains his go-to whenever he says, “I need a drink.” He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he makes cocktails every day at 5pm. Read Thomas' full profile.

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Thomas Fondano

Thomas Fondano

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Thomas Fondano has been drinking bourbon and trying every bottling he can get his hands on since last century. While he enjoys all types of whiskeys, bourbon remains his go-to whenever he says, “I need a drink.” He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he makes cocktails every day at 5pm. Read Thomas' full profile.

  • Avatar Luther Thompson says:

    I started my Bourbon career 45 years ago and I still love it. I started with Jack and when it became popular (read expensive) i swiched to George (read a little Dickel do ya). When it became popular I switched to Jim.(Beam me up Scottie). When this brand became popular I switched to Benchmark where I happily reside today.. Keep up the good work

  • Avatar Keith Fontenot says:

    My father-in-law, “Cliff Delafosse” from Eunice Louisiana has only purchased Benchmark old no. 8 for at least 25 years. We get together as a family every Wednesday night at his house to drink and talk about life. We normally have about 10 to 14 people at each gathering. We periodically bring other brands of whiskey to have him try , but he has never purchased a different brand. He is 72 years old and a verteran. I would like do something special for her him , and I know he really enjoys your Whiskey. I would like to send him something for him.
    Please contact me with ideas ???

    • Hey Keith, has he tried the other bourbons Buffalo Trace makes with the same mash bill? This would include Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Colonel E.H. Taylor (small batch, single barrel, or barrel proof), or the high octane Stagg, Jr.? If budget isn’t an issue (and you can find them) George T. Stagg and Eagle Rare 17 year old would be considered the top of this line.

  • Avatar keith fontenot says:

    Thanks for the suggestions…

  • Avatar Enrique Cortes says:

    I’ve repped thousands of wine, spirits and beer labels. Tasted, tasted and tasted. Ran educational tastings for the industry and public. Brew and am a certified somm. I always have a bottle of Benchmark at home.

  • Avatar Rodney Hamann says:

    First bottle I’ve tried. Drank it on the rocks. To me, did not have that Bourbon burn I’ve experienced with others. Honestly, I really like it. Smooth over ice and very drinkable. Finished half the bottle in 1 sitting. Will definitely continue. Granted, I’m just a blue collar redneck, but still.

  • Avatar Karen Parks says:

    I’m not really a whiskey drinker. But, when I bought the eggnog spiked with Benchmark whiskey, I loved it. Too bad it’s a seasonal product.

  • Avatar Tom R. says:

    This stuff is maybe OK. I recently tried a bottle. Doesn’t even taste like Bourbon. Heaven Hills is a much better Bourbon at about the same price. Only my opinion.!!

  • Avatar Chris says:

    I was looking for something cheap at the liquor store and guessed on this brand. Very happy I did. It’s got the same basic whiskey taste I like and only 9.50 here in Arkansas.

  • Avatar Ernest H Ladd says:

    An employee friend at a liquor store turned me on to benchmark and it’s definitely my favorite “inexpensive”. I will have to try the Stagg Jr. and the Buffalo Trace.

  • Avatar Jack Vining says:

    I have been a loyal Jim Beam drinker for over 50 years. Tried others, but always returned. A friend offered me a glass of Benchmark Old #8. At this point I’m not sure if I should thank you, or damn you. Either way, I believe you have converted this old sour mash lover to your bourbon.

  • Avatar J. Hayes says:

    Recently was told from a reliable source that an unnamed, but well known, master distiller, told him Benchmark was 4 year old
    Buffalo Trace. Good everyday bourbons do not have to be expensive to be enjoyable.

    • I certainly agree that “Good everyday bourbons do not have to be expensive to be enjoyable.”
      It’s definitely the same distillate going into the barrel and I’d believe it’s 4 years old. The differences between Benchmark and Buffalo Trace are age, proof, and which barrels from which warehouses and where in those warehouses.

  • Avatar Neptic Bat says:

    How can you complain about #8? Yes, I am a bit of a Buffolo Trace fan, BUT, At this price your likely gonna get a “blend” with a bunch of neutral grain (vodka) spirits. Its straight whiskey and very far from being bad. Has all the textbook classic Bourbon characteristics, nothing stands out, just pretty darn good. This is my everyday go to over EW Black since I discovered it last year.

  • Avatar Joe says:

    Have been drinking Benchmark for about 45 years here in the Northeast. My wife worked for a liquor distributor and I would buy it by the case. Then we could not find it for like 5 or 10 years. So my “back up” became Jim Beam. Still can’t get it out at a bar or restaurant.
    Pure Liquid Heroin!!!
    3 parts Benchmark
    1 part CinZano sweet Vermouth
    1 large ice cube
    Cherry optional

  • Avatar Middle of the road says:

    Although 80 proof. I like this with ice. I actually like it better on ice than Buffalo trace. Straight my picks are switched.

  • Avatar Buck_Fiden says:

    A tasty dram, and cheap! Less than twenty bucks with tax where I shop. For a 1.75!