During the 1960s, Seagram moved away from straight whiskey in the United States market. They concentrated on selling their blended whiskeys and Canadian whiskies in this market. Four Roses, Seven Crown and Crown Royal were their flagship brands. Four Roses Bourbon was for sale only in the overseas markets of Europe and Asia. However, when whiskey sales declined in the United States, Seagram saw that two brands of Bourbon were doing better than their brands – Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark. Seagram created a couple of Bourbon brands to compete in the United States market with these brands. Thus was born the Eagle Rare 101 and Benchmark Bourbon brands.
Benchmark was created in imitation of Maker’s Mark. It was not made with wheat, but it was given a very similar sounding name, aged 6 years like Maker’s Mark and bottled at 86 proof, a little lower than Maker’s Mark, but close in proof. The brand met with moderate success, but eventually Seagram decided to sell the brand to Buffalo Trace, who makes the Bourbon today. It is a shame though. The Bourbon Seagram put into the bottle was very good Bourbon. Buffalo Trace still puts good Bourbon in the brand, but it is not the same flavor profile as the Seagram Bourbon.
Seagram’s Benchmark Bourbon
Date: ca. 1975
Age: 6 Years Old
Nose: Caramel apples, fine leather, oak and a hint of spice.
Taste: Caramel, ripe apple, nutmeg, cinnamon, oak and tobacco. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the spice notes are delayed till the finish and the apple fruit is joined by a little lemon zest. When tasted with a pecan, a note of butterscotch comes forward and the ripe apple and spice are lessened, but still there, reminding me of a Dutch apple pie.
Finish: Long and dry with oak and cinnamon spice. The dried cranberry makes the finish more oak forward with only a hint of the baking spices. The pecan makes the finish shorter with some oak and leather, but very few spice notes.
I would pair this Bourbon with a mild, lighter cigar – probably one with a natural wrapper. Maybe a Nub Connecticut wrapper which still has some nice tobacco flavor with hints of vanilla and spice which would complement but not overwhelm the flavors of the Seagram’s Benchmark Bourbon.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller