View Full Version : Brand

09-11-2000, 08:31
A number of years ago I was given a bourbon in my cousin's home in Louisville.
I always thought the brand was "WaterMark". I don't find this anywhere, and he has now passed on. Does anyone know if there is (or was)a brand by this name made by any distiller? Thank you.

09-11-2000, 11:55
> I always thought the brand was "WaterMark".

My best guess would be Benchmark, which is still available in "regular" and single barrel expressions. Good, reasonably priced bourbon in both versions.


09-11-2000, 14:44
While I've never heard of WaterMark not only am I aware of Benchmark but I have rather old memorabilia (tavern signage) to indicate it's been around awhile. I'm hoping Chuck, John, or someone more knowledgeable than me will respond to you.

However, I added to this thread because I was about to buy Benchmark 2 weeks ago for my collection when I found it under the "worst" category in one of the discussion. Granted we all have different tastes. If you feel it is fair whiskey perhaps I should go ahead and spend the $10.


09-11-2000, 20:49

I was one of the negetive posters concerning Benchmark. But feel free to experiment like I did, purchase a 200 ml bottle for less than $ 3 and if you do not like it, it will seem more like an experiment rather than a bad investiment.

Mark A. Mason, El Dorado, Arkansas

09-12-2000, 07:16
I think the brand is question probably is Benchmark. I have never heard of Watermark bourbon. The other "mark," of course, is Maker's Mark.

The Benchmark story, as I recall it, is that it was originally a Seagram's product, or perhaps a brand of one of the distilleries Seagrams acquired that it decided to build into a national brand. It debuted in 1967 and was the last new bourbon brand introduced by a major distiller until the whole super premium "small batch" thing kicked up in the late 1980s.

More recently it has been a Sazerac product and a respectable, if not exceptional, one. On my most recent visit to Sam's I noticed a prefix on the name. I don't recall what it was, but now the name is something like "O'Brien's Benchmark." It wasn't O'Brien, but some kind of name.

Of course, that's not "WaterMark," but there it is.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

09-12-2000, 07:40
Chuck is (of course, as always, I say while bowing lowly to the master) correct. Benchmark is a Sazerac product and it carries the name McAfee's Benchmark. They have a story on the label that the McAfee brothers first surveyed the territory and they've created a bourbon that is, "McAfee's Benchmark Bourbon - An 8-year-old bourbon that sets the standard by which all other bourbons are measured." Well, I'm not sure I'd go that far but there go my marketing brethren, again.

I'm aware of their 8 yr.-old and their single barrel. While some in this forum have called this product "awful" and "swill" I've determined to get a bottle and form my own opinion.

09-16-2000, 07:11
Thank you all. I guess my recollection is slipping with age.
I'll try the other "Marks" and perhaps I'll strike gold.

09-18-2000, 06:49
Keep in mind you may not strike any gold. Many brands have passed from one firm to another over the years and the Benchmark of today is not guaranteed to be like the Benchmark of yesterday. Some think it is a very good value bourbon while others have posted that it is swill. Yet, for about $10 in KY or IND you can buy a bottle and see for yourself! And just maybe that's the same style bourbon you recall from Louisville.

08-08-2002, 16:22
I see so many threads that refer to "Benchmark" or "McAfee's Benchmark" that I don't quite know where to post my meager comments. {Linn, I am beginning to appreciate the merits of searching for a preceding, relevant thread before posting a new one.}

I picked up my bottle at the Hi-Times Wines and Spirits store in Costa Mesa, CA about a month ago for under ten bucks. This afternoon I was in the mood for what a French-Kentuckian might call "bourbon ordinaire". Based on comments in this and other threads I decided that McAfee's Benchmark might fill the bill.

The label on my bottle tells the surveyor story, but it makes no reference to the age of the bourbon; nor does any other part of the label.

My first reaction upon nosing it was to check to see that I had actually filled the glass, or that I hadn't already emptied it, leaving behind just a wisp of bourbon-like aroma. Folks, this is one light-flavored bourbon. However, those light flavors do include hints of oak, vanilla, and just a whisper of caramel -- almost like real bourbon. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

After I adjusted to that reality, I found that there was not much to like or to dislike, and not much else to talk about, either. I'm now about to finish my second glass, and I still can't think of anything else to say about it.

OK, I just thought of something. If you're ever in the hospital for an extended period, and you need to, well, sort of ease back into real life, then McAfee's Benchmark would be a good stepping stone on the way back to what I would consider a real bourbon (e.g., Russell's Reserve or WT101). It's absolutely not bad tasting stuff, it's just, in a word, lacking. You might also want to offer it to friends who prefer lighter spirits from other countries. They might just love it.

In a thread about light bourbon someone mentioned Basil Hayden's as a quality example of the genre. I think I'll get me a 50 ml. of BH and do a comparative tasting with Benchmark one of these days. That should stir up a few comments, even in the dog days of summer.

Hey, this stuff isn't bad. I think I'll have another glass. I know it has alcohol in it; my cheeks are starting to go numb; maybe there's some more flavor hidden in there, too.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

08-09-2002, 12:07
Dave, Benchmark is a very old brand name that Sazerac now owns. They put the surveyors story on the label to give it some interest. It is basically a well bourbon. I failed to pick up their single barrel before it was discontinued a couple of years ago but insiders tell me that was a good product.

The current Benchmark a better well bourbon than many. And it is at a good price.

08-09-2002, 13:04
Unless I'm thinking of something else, Benchmark was started by Seagrams in (I think) the early 1970s. Since that is when the bourbon market started its decline, Benchmark was the last "new" bourbon until the small batch stuff started to come out in the late 80s. Since you say it is a "very old brand name," do you know of its existence before that?

Of course, at my age I don't like to admit that some may consider something from the early 70s to be "very old."

08-09-2002, 13:22
Chuck, to the 20 year-olds I am usually around 1970's is ancient history http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif
That became really clear to me when I showed some TV spots from the 80s and the group referred to them with: wow, the special effects are really 'old school'

You are right -- I did not mean to imply that Benchmark was one of the century-old names. I meant to suggest that the name has been around quite awhile.

08-09-2002, 20:13
TomC's DOB 06/79 http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif (heehee!) http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

and from where I come from, something being "old School" is generally a comliment, the modern equivalent of the "Good Old Days"

Tom (the Youngin') C

01-30-2004, 18:13
Tasted in New York State recently a Benchmark that did not state McAfee's on the label. The bottle was the same as the old 1970's rounded Seagram's bottle but it seems a current release. The only indication of origin was a statement that the whiskey was from the Benchmark Bourbon Company of New Orleans, LA. Well, that has to be Sazerac and we know the McAfee's version was certainly from Buffalo Trace. But, why has McAfee been dropped as part of the label?

The bourbon was well-aged, I'd say 12-15 years old. It is quite similar to the woody 12 year old (i.e., the current issue of) Rowan Creek but rounder, more subtle. Still, too woody for me.

The Seagram's Benchmark was a fine whiskey, aged but not monochromatically woody, with a deep, soft caramel flavour.

It seems BT has returned to the bottle shape originally associated with this whiskey (and I agree with Chuck it has no lengthy heritage but was a 1970's premium whiskey invention, pre-small batch era) but the palate of what is in the bottle now is quite different from the Benchmark of yore..



01-30-2004, 19:01
It's possible they have a distributor who wanted it without the McAfee name, or maybe they're getting away from "McAfee" for some reason and are testing labels without it. Not sure why they ever added it in the first place. Sazerac own Buffalo Trace but the family that owns Sazerac, the Goldrings, also owns some distributors. This may be something for them. I can't imagine why, but considering that web of relationships, anything is possible.

01-30-2004, 21:33
Buffalo Trace still calls it "McAfee's Benchmark" on their www.greatbourbon.com (http://www.greatbourbon.com) site, but the only Benchmark I've seen around middle Tennessee doesn't have the McAfee's prefix. I don't have a bottle on hand to compare label notes -- I bought a 200ml a few months ago to try (and liked, not loved, it), but don't really remember anything else about it.

01-31-2004, 23:37
I recently restocked my Benchmark, and it still says McAfee's on it here in NYC. Have a few folks who really dig this bourbon. Just goes to show...to each his own.

02-01-2004, 08:59
I wonder if the new, non-McAfee's-labeled Benchmark in the rounded Seagram's-style bottle of the 1970's may be a different formulation from the McAfee's because I recall McAfee's Benchmark being fairly standard tasting and not offering a well-aged taste (I could be wrong).

In a U.K. publication called, "Sauceguide to Drink and Drinking" out on the stands at present there is an interesting note about "Benchmark XO". Sauceguide is a glossy consumer large-format magazine which reminds me in layout and design of the U.K. Time Out publications on London bars and restaurants although I don't think there is an ownership connection. Anyway the magazine devotes 9 closely typed pages to bourbon with capsule reviews of numerous brands, many familiar to the U.S. market but some not available in the U.S. The comments, written from a British perspective, offer a different angle on how people taste bourbon. Also there is information reflected in the notes, which I would think the U.K. distributors obtained from the producer, which we don't necessarily see on this side of the Atlantic, or not in the same form.

Here is Sauceguide's comment on Benchmark XO:

"Single barrel bourbon introduced in 1967 by Seagram and purchased in 1989 by the Sazerac Company. Taste: soft and gentle opening up with spectrum of flavours midway - lightly buttered corn, gingerbread, fudge, honey, clove, dark chocolate and a touch of cooked fruit garnished with oak".

The note concludes by stating the bourbon has 47% abv./94 proof and is made by, "AGE Interntional Inc., Frankfort, Kentucky, U.S.A.".

The North American version of the non-McAfee's Benchmark is similar in taste to how Sauceguide describes the XO version. Note I had estimated its age at 12-15 years, no age statement was indicated as I recall, nor on the XO version apparently. I do not recall either that the North American bottle stated it was a single barrel bourbon, or the proof (I had it in a bar and it did not seem particularly unusual at the time) but the proof is up there.

Clearly all these Benchmarks are made by Buffalo Trace or its predecessor, Ancient Age of Leestown (Frankfort), KY.

There are some interesting statements in Sauceguide about the Johnny Drum line, sold in Europe only, and Noah's Mill and I will mention this in a separate note. These premium bourbons are indicated as sold by "Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Ltd., Bardstown, KY". My understanding is this company is connected to Evan Kulsveen, the EK recently mentioned on these boards.


02-01-2004, 09:04
the McAfee's Benchmark I saw in the store yesterday was 8 yrs old.

02-01-2004, 11:45
the Single Barrel was very good and under-priced. The bourbon became Eagle Rare after Benchmark SB was discontinued.

02-01-2004, 13:06
Good catch, Greg. It has been in my mind that there was some connection between Benchmark and Eagle Rare, but it was from so long ago (mid-80's ??, maybe) that I dared not mention it for fear of being incorrect.


07-29-2004, 13:44
I recently picked up two unopened bottles with a (Bureau of Distilled Spitits) Bottle Stamp over the top. They are 86 proof
and do have a barcode at on the plain black and gold neck label but do NOT have the Surgeon General's warning label. They are labeled
" Benchmark Premium Bourbon" and state being "Distilled by the Old Benchmark Distilling Co., Louisville,Ky." They also have a little oval
label with a crest that states Integrity-Tradition-Craftsmanship. The back of the bottles are embossed in the glass with the same crest over

Any Idea when these bottles date from?



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