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Exoticruler
09-03-2008, 07:45
Over 20 years ago Seagram put out a fine bourbon called "Benchmark". Haven't seen it in about 20 years and I wonder what happened to that label. I see on Buffalo Trace's website that they have a bourbon called "McAfee's Benchmark". I just wonder if it is the same recipe as the bottle is similar.

Gillman
09-03-2008, 07:51
Lots of info on this in the SB archives, the old Seagram Benchmark was a fine whiskey and the current Benchmark, made by a different distillery, is really a different kettle of fish (in my opinion).

Gary

mozilla
09-03-2008, 10:48
McCaffys(sp)Benchmark is completely different not only in distillery but in style, as well. The current is a baby of the BT Low Rye Mashbill...the same one that makes OC, BT, ER and Stagg.

As close as, the late 90's their were a couple of variations on the label...with a single barrel and 8yr/80 showing up ,most often. Now, it is only a 4 yr 80 proof.

The Seagrams version was near, if not, 6yrs old at most times. Seagrams products had a very unique style to them....if you have ever tasted one...you will know what I mean, immediately. Ultra Smooth and very well balanced.

Gillman
09-03-2008, 11:12
It is very true that Seagram's products stress balance, roundness, smoothness, its Benchmark bourbon had all that and more (a chocolately/rummy, rich taste, not complex but impactful).

I find it interesting that Seagram products have always had these qualities because almost always they are consumed with a mix or with water and ice where these qualities kind of disappear. You can tell when tasting, say, Seagram 7 Crown that it was taste panel-approved on the basis of neat sampling or with light dilution and no ice. Why would people give an imprimatur to whisky for its neat qualities that rarely will be consumed that way? Because of tradition. And they will assume perhaps that a round mild beverage will not obtrude in a mixed drink, but that is secondary in my view and in any case not necessarily what would result if a drink was assessed on a mixed basis to begin with - the "rough" character for example of Jim Beam White Label may be an intentional result, one which follows from considering that the whiskey will generally be consumed with cola, the same thing for the regular Jack Daniels.

Seagram, like Hiram Walker, like the Seagram-influenced Four Roses for its bourbon, worked out its signature palate a long time ago. So long, that at the time most whiskey was drunk neat or perhaps with a little water. There were highballs, yes, but I infer that most whisky was consumed neat and that is why it was assessed on that basis by distillers. And things done in 1890, say, are, even in these large, internationally-owned distilleries done essentially the same way today.

I've had Crown Royal dating back to the 1940's and it was very similar to today's (better, generally, but similar). Did people drink CR and Coke and CR and ginger ale then? No - or not as much as today - but they still make CR the same way. I am sure VO or whatever the Seagram flagship Canadian whisky was in 1890 was similar to today's.

I think partly because these distilleries have become commodities in the international market place, they tend to innovate less when it comes to product. That remains unchanging even as the places change hands from time to time. Or putting it a different way, the senior managers focus on growing and running the business and leave distilling matters to the chemists and others who have applied for generations the same technics of making Canadian whisky. Of course, process changes of various kinds occur over time, but in the Canadian whisky world the more things change, the more they stay the same in terms of palate, IMO.

When I tasted that Seagram 7 Crown the other day it had an old-fashioned taste to me, of cereals and old roses (a rye-like trait) and a caramel/maderized hint. It may not be exactly what was made in 1980 or 1939 but it will be very close. It may (for all I know) be mixed by some today with lychee juice or baconized soda or lord knows what, but it is still the same fine whiskey it always was.

Gary

Gillman
09-03-2008, 11:41
I have not forgotten that the Benchmark bourbon brand was devised by Seagram in the 1960's. But I believe Seagram blending expertise was applied to fashion its palate so that while it was of course a straight whiskey it reflected qualities seen then and now in Seagram's Canadian whisky products, i.e., a round, smooth palate ideally suited to neat sampling.

Gary

Exoticruler
09-03-2008, 13:01
I appreciate the information and discussion. Is it fair to say that the old Benchmark taste would be more similar to that of Crown Royal than other Bourbons made today. If not I would like to find a bourbon with a similar taste quality as that of the Benchmark I drank around 1986-88.

Thanks, Scott

Gillman
09-03-2008, 13:05
Thanks, of course the old Benchmark was a true bourbon. Its taste does not resemble that of Canadian whisky but its style does in the opinion of some here.

You have raised a good question, and in another thread I discussed the fact that rummy, sweetish full-flavored bourbons seem more an older style that is hard to find today.

However, there are some examples. Elmer T. Lee, a Buffalo Trace brand, tends to have a rich, uncomplex but impactful flavor. I recommend that as a good alternative to the old Benchmark. It is not super-costly but is a fine drink of whiskey at its best (bottles vary, as they do for almost all bourbons since bourbon results from partly natural processes). You want one which has a rich molasses-like taste and not too much earthiness.

Gary

mozilla
09-03-2008, 13:37
I appreciate the information and discussion. Is it fair to say that the old Benchmark taste would be more similar to that of Crown Royal than other Bourbons made today. If not I would like to find a bourbon with a similar taste quality as that of the Benchmark I drank around 1986-88.

Thanks, Scott

The closest in style would be Four Roses Yellow label. It uses as many styles and flavors as can be found under one distillery umbrella. It leans much more towards a traditional bourbon profile, though. The Seagrams Benchmark didn't carry such a rich grain character...I think they mellowed it out with some extra age. Really made it soft and fruity. Surprisingly it wasn't over oaked either. FR's barrels also carry a unique signature to me.

Nothing (outside of FR) really taste similar to the Seagrams Benchmark. It has a completely round and well balanced profile which cannot be found in todays market, IMO. Simply stated,...it is smooth with absolutely no edges. It is exactly the opposite of Wild Turkey rye.

Seagrams had an extensive library of yeasts(over 2K, IIRC) and distilleries(5 in Ky)(many in other places) in which to use them. Quite mindblowing in comparison to todays producers. With that they were able to produce any style of whisky desired....and they did.

mozilla
09-03-2008, 13:40
BTW, if you stop by Four Roses and sit with Al in his office....ask him to pour you some Benchmark....I left him a bottle a few months back. Said he would only pour it for special occasions.

Gillman
09-03-2008, 14:29
I agree that Four Roses Yellow Label is a good example of a soft, rich, not complex (but well "blended") whiskey, sweetish too. However it is a bit more fruity/spicy than Benchmark was and younger, but still excellent. Elmer Lee is older than the old Benchmark but older whiskeys of today sometimes seem similar to whiskeys of a younger age in the past. (This may have something to do with the fact of younger trees being used to make the barrels today).

I agree with Jeff that overall it is difficult to find that profile today. However the 2 brands mentioned are excellent bourbon...

Gary

craigthom
09-03-2008, 14:52
What about barrel rotation? When did they stop doing that?

Now they take bourbon from all over the warehouse and blend, oh, excuse me, marry or mingle them together to balance them out, but in the past they actually moved the barrels around, didn't they? I'd think that would both make the bourbon more uniform and give it, on average, more barrel character.


I agree that Four Roses Yellow Label is a good example of a soft, rich, not complex (but well "blended") whiskey, sweetish too. However it is a bit more fruity/spicy than Benchmark was and younger, but still excellent. Elmer Lee is older than the old Benchmark but older whiskeys of today sometimes seem similar to whiskeys of a younger age in the past. (This may have something to do with the fact of younger trees being used to make the barrels today).

I agree with Jeff that overall it is difficult to find that profile today. However the 2 brands mentioned are excellent bourbon...

Gary

Gillman
09-03-2008, 15:29
Maker's still does barrel rotation but their bourbon seems younger in character than ever to me. I don't rule out rotation as one factor in increasing barrel character but it must be more than that, IMO.

Gary

Exoticruler
09-03-2008, 16:43
RE: Seagram's Benchmark

Thanks for giving me the names of those two brands. My town doesn't have a liquor store per se but instead about three aisles in the CVS. This means they only carry the most popular bourbons nationwide. Next time I'm in a larger town nearby I'll find a store and look for Four Roses or Elmer T. Lee. Am I right in that Four Roses is sold only in Kentucky?

I did buy a bottle of Old Forester recently which I find to be a good brand for the money.

kickert
09-03-2008, 17:56
As close as, the late 90's their were a couple of variations on the label...with a single barrel and 8yr/80 showing up ,most often. Now, it is only a 4 yr 80 proof.


I could have sworn the last time I had McAfee Benchmark (a few weeks ago) it was an 8 year old. Am I completely loosing my mind?

mozilla
09-03-2008, 18:22
What color was the neck ring?

kickert
09-03-2008, 20:22
What color was the neck ring?

It was only a 200ml but it had a black screw on cap.

mozilla
09-03-2008, 20:36
I remember the neck ring on the 8yr being some shade of green. With a big 8 on the front.

cowdery
09-05-2008, 14:55
I don't think anybody really stated it, but I wanted to make clear to the original poster that it is, technically, the same brand, in that Sazerac (Buffalo Trace) acquired it from Seagrams about 20 years ago.

I also agree that probably the nearest product on the market to the way Benchmark tasted originally would be standard Four Roses.

Benchmark had the distinction of being the last new bourbon brand introduced in the U.S. until Jim Beam launched Booker's in the late 1980s, a gap of about 20 years.

Exoticruler
09-05-2008, 17:17
Thanks,

The next time I'm in a state where it's available (Four Roses) I'll pick up a couple of bottles. I understand that it is slowly becoming available in states other than Kentucky.

BourbonJoe
09-05-2008, 17:36
Thanks,

The next time I'm in a state where it's available (Four Roses) I'll pick up a couple of bottles. I understand that it is slowly becoming available in states other than Kentucky.
I hope you don't live in PA. You will never get it here.
Joe :usflag:

craigthom
09-05-2008, 18:27
Benchmark had the distinction of being the last new bourbon brand introduced in the U.S. until Jim Beam launched Booker's in the late 1980s, a gap of about 20 years.

I guess finding a list of when brands were introduced would be asking too much, wouldn't it?

Wouldn't Blanton's count? I remember the first time I saw Blanton's, in the mid-'80s, and I thought $28 was a crazy price for bourbon! That was $15 more than just about everything else, and even $5 more than Laphroaig.

How old is Fighting Cock?

cowdery
09-05-2008, 22:04
There's not a list, and it would be more like an essay, because in few cases would the answer be simple and straightforward.

Blanton's may well have preceded Booker's. It was one of those two. I think Fighting Cock goes back to the sixties, but I don't recall its provenance. There were a couple created in the late sixties, like Ezra Brooks, but Benchmark is generally considered to have been the last of them.

It's also not definitive that Blanton's and Booker's were the first ones since Benchmark. Heaven Hill came out with the current 12-year-old Elijah Craig in the late 70s or early 80s, but I think that was a relaunch of an existing brand.

mozilla
09-05-2008, 22:19
Fighting Cock was an 8 year product when it was distilled by JTS Brown and Sons(now Wild Turkey Distillery). HH kept the age at 8 yrs for some time until it was reduced to 6yrs.

BourbonJoe
09-06-2008, 05:44
There were a couple created in the late sixties, like Ezra Brooks

Who made Ezra Brooks in Louisville back in the day?
Joe :usflag:

mozilla
09-06-2008, 07:09
Who made Ezra Brooks in Louisville back in the day?
Joe :usflag:

I thought that EB switched from Owensboro to Lawrenceburg? Was it not, a Medley product by origin?

Gillman
09-06-2008, 07:39
This is my understanding.

Gary

cowdery
09-06-2008, 13:53
Ezra Brooks was named after and created by Ezra Ripy at the Hoffman Distillery outside of Lawrenceburg. That's the distillery Julian Van Winkle later used for aging and bottling.

The last distillery operated by the descendents of J.T.S. Brown to make J.T.S. Brown Bourbon is the distillery now known as Four Roses. Seagram's bought the brand when they bought the distillery during World War II and later sold it to Heaven Hill. Presumably, Fighting Cock followed J.T.S. Brown in all of those transactions. I believe Creel Brown remained with the distillery until about 1953. He's still living.

Fighting Cock, like Eagle Rare, was a Wild Turkey knock-off. Ezra Brooks, like Evan Williams, was a Jack Daniel's knock-off.

ratcheer
09-06-2008, 18:21
Fighting Cock, like Eagle Rare, was a Wild Turkey knock-off. Ezra Brooks, like Evan Williams, was a Jack Daniel's knock-off.

When I was just starting college (late 60's), my friends frequently bought Ezra Brooks and Evan Williams. It was always my distinct impression that they were trying to present themselves as being like Jack Daniels.

Tim

craigthom
09-07-2008, 00:03
Sure. Square bottle, white on black label, big old "7" on the front. They both wanted a piece of that Lynchburg pie.

I figured that Eagle Rare and Fighting Cock were both Turkey competitors, given the proof and the birds. Fighting Cock is even two proof points better, while Eagle Rare was two years older.

What I haven't read, but assume given the facts, is that Wild Turkey, sold when most bourbons were 100 proof, was Nigel Tufnel marketing: "It's like at 100, and then you turn it up to 101!"

So where is this closed distillery in Lawrenceburg? I want to drive by it.

barturtle
09-07-2008, 06:40
It may be possible that Wild Turkey didn't want to give away its source(s) by doing a bonded bourbon. When the brand was started they were nothing more than a bottler, they didn't own a distillery. KBD does similar things today, look at the proofs of their brands, 101, 100.1, gets you right there, keeps your source hidden.

ratcheer
09-07-2008, 08:02
It may be possible that Wild Turkey didn't want to give away its source(s) by doing a bonded bourbon. When the brand was started they were nothing more than a bottler, they didn't own a distillery. KBD does similar things today, look at the proofs of their brands, 101, 100.1, gets you right there, keeps your source hidden.

That implies that if a bourbon is 100 proof, it must be bonded. Is that true? I wouldn't have thought so.

Here is an example: There has been BIB Old Forester, but there has also been 100-proof Old Forester that is not BIB. Am I missing something?

Tim

barturtle
09-07-2008, 08:15
No it is not required. However at that time it was quite common, and still is for the most part. Old Forester is the only brand I can think of that has broken with that tradition.

craigthom
09-07-2008, 08:50
Four Roses Single Barrel. It fits the rules for BIB, but that's not on the label.

barturtle
09-07-2008, 09:10
Four Roses Single Barrel. It fits the rules for BIB, but that's not on the label.

Ah, and Knob Creek, too.

I knew someone would come up with something i had forgotten about.

Anyway, at the time Bond was still a well regarded designation. They didn't own a distillery and were unlikely to be willing to reveal that. That's my guess.

cowdery
09-07-2008, 15:16
In the beginning, the maker's of Wild Turkey didn't own a distillery. They bought bulk whiskey from many different distilleries. Therefore, their product could not be a bond. To compete with bonds on a superior, rather than inferior, footing they went them one better at 101 proof. In that sense, yes, it's the Spinal Tap approach.

fishnbowljoe
09-11-2008, 20:23
Here's a couple of pics of the Benchmark I bought Tuesday. Joe

cowdery
09-11-2008, 20:56
With the New Orleans name on it, that could be Heaven Hill's juice.

fishnbowljoe
09-11-2008, 23:28
Same as MJL and the OF bottle he found. 91 on the bottom. Joe

mozilla
09-12-2008, 07:41
Here's a couple of pics of the Benchmark I bought Tuesday. Joe

That is the first time I have seen that label Joe. What year did you say it was from? Do you have any current Benchmark? It would be interesting to compare the two.

OscarV
09-12-2008, 13:58
Here's a couple of pics of the Benchmark I bought Tuesday. Joe



As they say here in Hockey Town,...He shoots, He scores!!
Nice score Joe.

fishnbowljoe
09-12-2008, 15:12
Bottle has 91 on the bottom. I don't have any current Benchmark. Joe

mozilla
09-13-2008, 01:30
Do you have any prefire HH? A side by side of this bottle and another, should be done. I know that Benchmark doesn't float alot of boats on this site, but the history of how Saz got it's start is interesting to me. I would like to know more about how distilleries sell and share their products with customers and other distilleries.

I am having a hardtime recollecting any other BT/Sazeracs in that type of bottle. Are the lower sides of the bottle tapered or strait? Did you ever find a julian date?

I am guessing, ...but with the fact that Sazerac didn't own a distillery, and they were already purchasing bourbon for Eagle Rare....that Sazerac might have either...1. used some ER(from HH) to fill(at Saz in NO) those, 2. purchased younger bourbon from HH to fill the contract, and bottled at HH, or 3. purchased the bourbon from another distillery entirely and bottled it at God knows where.

Any thoughts?

cowdery
09-13-2008, 20:42
All of Sazerac's bourbon came from Heaven Hill until they acquired Buffalo Trace.

mozilla
09-13-2008, 20:49
How can you be sure of that, Chuck?

Did HH do all of their bottling as well?

cowdery
09-13-2008, 20:57
No, because bottles that say New Orleans on them probably were bottled in New Orleans.

Sazerac may have received some bulk bourbon from BT immediately before it acquired the place, but there was a shift in the relationship. HH and Sazerac had a partnership, almost a joint venture, in which Sazerac was acquiring brands and developing a marketing infrastructure using HH's whiskey and expertise. They even shared an ad agency. When Sazerac broke that bond and went off on its own there was a lot of bad blood--serious, serious bad blood--so there was no overlap between the two relationships, i.e., no period when Sazerac was happily buying bulk whiskey from both sources or anything like that. It's a sharp break.

I know this because I was involved at the time and I remember it. As we know, my memory isn't always perfect, but that's how I remember it.

mozilla
09-13-2008, 21:14
Very nice information. Thanks for making it known.

Was Sazerac not getting everything they needed from their relationship with HH? Maybe, they wanted to get bigger and HH was not eager to have a major competator?

cowdery
09-13-2008, 21:16
I wasn't close enough to be able to answer that, but I can tell you that Max Shapira and Mark Brown still hate each other.

mozilla
09-13-2008, 21:37
That is too bad. No need to hate one another over business decisions. This is such a friendly, family styled business with a history of cooperation....hard to believe that two major players are not friendly with each other.

cowdery
09-13-2008, 23:30
Yeah, it's a friendly, family styled business with a history of cooperation alright, except when they're stabbing each other in the back. It's actually some of both, but they love that image of everybody helping everybody out.

barturtle
09-13-2008, 23:31
Yeah, it's a friendly, family styled business with a history of cooperation alright, except when they're stabbing each other in the back.

Welcome to Kentucky.:lol:

fishnbowljoe
12-18-2008, 19:30
The postman delivered a present to me today. One bottle of Seagram's Benchmark. My first oldie. Got lucky on eBay. Bid on it just for the heck of it, won it, and only paid $9.99 for it. Every once in a while. Below are pics. No date on tax stamp. 4/5 of a quart. Bottom of bottle has: D-126, 55 7 4, 5
There's also a circle with the number 1 in it. I assume this is from the early 70's. Any opinions? Joe

ggilbertva
12-19-2008, 13:29
The postman delivered a present to me today. One bottle of Seagram's Benchmark. My first oldie. Got lucky on eBay. Bid on it just for the heck of it, won it, and only paid $9.99 for it. Every once in a while. Below are pics. No date on tax stamp. 4/5 of a quart. Bottom of bottle has: D-126, 55 7 4, 5
There's also a circle with the number 1 in it. I assume this is from the early 70's. Any opinions? Joe

Joe,

I have the same bottle so I would venture 1974 based on the numbers you provided and looking at my bottle (which has the same numbers). Well done on getting that bottle for $9.99....what a great price. I also have some pint bottles from 1978 and I must say the whiskey is very good. Not complex but still very flavorful. One day I'll get adventuresome and do a side by side of my '74, '78, '85 and current.