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Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2015, Round 1: Fighting Cock vs. Benchmark

Posted on by Eric Burke

Round 1a of the 2015 Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets features Number 1 seed Fighting Cock versus Number 4 seed Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand. 

Fighting Cock is one of those bourbons that I passed over based solely on it’s frat boy name. I’ve read that it was supposed to be a competitor for Wild Turkey (the kickin’ chicken) with its a high proof and 6 year age. I have no doubt that’s the case, but I still can’t say the name without snickering. Which says more about me than the name, I guess. In any case this was a bourbon that was recommended to me numerous times last year when I called for entries, but it was always just outside the price range. Increased competition in this market has made it available in the contest’s price range, so here it is as a number one sed based on both stated age and proof.

Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. If I told you this was a Sazerac product, would it surprise you that it used to be Benchmark 8 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey? Well, it is. And it was. I’m sure some people out there haven’t noticed the 5 year drop in age. People like the store I bought it from that still calls it “Benchmark 8YR” on the sales receipt. This looks to be one of the first bottles to receive Sazerac’s now infamous “Number Treatment.” It seems to have lost it’s age statement and gained it’s 8 in 2004. Strangely, it did gain an age statement of sorts in 2013-2014 by becoming young enough to drop below the 4 year old minimum for being truly NAS. In any case It was recommended last year and met the criteria so here it is as the number 4 seed based on that new age statement.

Fighting Cock

Purchase Info: Total Wine & More, Burnsville, MN $14.99 for a 750 mL

Stated Age: 6 years

ABV: 51.5%

Produced by: Heaven Hill

Nose: Green Apple, cinnamon, caramel, anise, bubble gum and vanilla.

Mouth: Hot and fruity with apple, cinnamon candy and a good hit of oak.

Finish: Hot and long. Mint, oak and cinnamon candy.

Thoughts: This is a much more complex bourbon than I was expecting. It deserves it’s name. This thing wants to fight. It’s hot and spicy, but that is balanced by a nice fruitiness. Adding water destroys it though as it becomes all about the dried corn.

Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand

Purchase Info: MGM Wine & Spirits, Burnsville, MN $13.49 for a 1L

Stated Age: At least 36 months

ABV: 40%

Produced by: Buffalo Trace

Nose: Toffee, dried fruit, a vitamin tablet, corn and faint cinnamon. 

Mouth: Velvety. Hot. Mint, corn, oak and brown sugar.

Finish: Residual heat and mint. Nothing to write home about.

Thoughts: This was a surprise. Nice heat. A good complexity. It may only be three years old, but there is nothing to keep this from being a nice card playing bourbon. Adding water amps up the sweetness and turns it into a butterscotch bomb.

Winner: Fighting Cock. But this was a match-up primed for an upset. Benchmark was a real surprise. We were tasting blind and it was the first one we tasted. Based on its heat and a decent complexity, I honestly thought it had to be the Fighting Cock. It wasn’t, obviously. After tasting both whiskeys we agreed that, out of a Glencairn, the Fighting Cock was much better. But for the way my wife drinks whiskey (with a cube or two of ice) she actually thinks that the Benchmark is more her style. It's the better of the two after dilution. Personally I’ll stick with the Fighting Cock, but don’t be too surprised to see either of these in the stash in the future.


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