Looking for the best value bourbon? If you’re making purchases for your growing collection, home bar, or even an upcoming celebration, we’ve got your back. We’ve invited the Bourbon Traveler, Justin Nierengarten, back to give us the scoop. Follow him now @bourbontraveler!
Keep reading for the best value bourbon under $25, under $50, and slightly over $50. We think you’ll dig all the information, mini-reviews, and tips here.
The current expansion of bourbon choices is becoming quite the challenge--albeit an exciting one--for even the most seasoned bourbon drinker. Craft distilleries are opening regularly, and to combat this movement, large distilleries are constantly bringing new products to the market. This fact alone can make visiting a liquor store very intimidating.
There are so many brands and choices; it’s
easy to find yourself wandering aisle after confusing aisle in search of
something tasty yet inexpensive. By the way, I use the word “inexpensive” as
opposed to cheap, because our natural instinct is to associate cheap with poor
quality. This couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to the bourbon
Many of the best bourbons available sit on a dark shelf around ankle-or-knee-level, collecting dust, waiting to join someone’s collection. Today, I’ll give you the bottles to look for. Best of all, they’re delicious. Bonus? You can take them home without breaking the bank.
I’m breaking down what I consider the best value bourbon based on the cost of a 750ml bottle. The three primary categories are: under $25, under $50, and slightly over $50. And for the sake of avoiding the endless rabbit hole of the ultra-rare bourbons, I am only including those that are readily available in most parts of the country.
Bourbons under $25 typically line the bottom two shelves at your local liquor store. These bottles have a very unassuming look: a standard round shape bottle and no fancy artwork on the label. The following are my top three bourbons in this price range, along with a quick summary of the bourbon itself.
This wheated bourbon has become slightly more difficult to find in recent years but is still readily available in most areas. Bottled at 90-proof and typically aged over 7 years, this product is easily enjoyed neat or mixed in cocktails.
This bourbon is from a rye mash bill - at 90-proof. Being aged between 8 and 10 years makes Buffalo Trace one of the best-value buys available.
Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon by Heaven Hill.
This product is one of the best, most consistently complex-palated single barrel products around. It is usually an 8-year bourbon - at 86.6-proof - and will give slight variations from barrel to barrel. Note: Personally, I tasted a lot of cinnamon flavor from my pour, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Next up are bourbons ranging from $25 to $50. By far, most bourbons are within this price range, so I’ll include my top five choices. Good enough, you can easily see these gems on any shelf - from top to bottom. A step up in price also includes more unique bottle designs and artistic labels.
This 10-year offering is bottled at 90-proof. This bourbon shows the rye spice on the tongue as well as the oak, leather, and tobacco notes from its 10 years spent in the barrel.
Henry McKenna Bourbon by Heaven Hill.
This is a 10-year bourbon bottled in bond at 100-proof, and it comes standard as a single barrel. This is as close to perfection as bourbon can be. It is very affordable and complex with an explosion of flavors. Every bourbon lover (whether new to the spirit or having a full bar at home) should have a bottle of this to enjoy and share with friends.
Elijah Craig Small Batch, by Heaven Hill
This product is a blend of barrels aged 8 to 12 years and is bottled at 94-proof. This is such a nice versatile bourbon. It’s soft enough to blend into an Old Fashioned without being overwhelming. It’s also able to stand alone, neat or on an oversized ice cube.
Woodford Reserve - distiller's select bourbon whiskey.
This product does not come with a clear age; but folks believe that it's around 7 years old. At 90.4-proof, this bourbon is a pleasure to sip neat from a glass. Note: If you are looking for a starting point, then look no further. Pick up this bottle, head to the register, and thank me later.
Eagle Rare bourbon whiskey from Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Here’s a 10-year, 90-proof bourbon that is distilled from the exact same mash bill as Buffalo Trace bourbon. In contrast, Eagle Rare is aged longer and located in a different area of the rick house. Eagle Rare is somewhat sweeter on the nose and palate but still maintains a long, desirable finish.
The final category holds my recommendations that cost just slightly over $50. This group will have even more intricate bottle designs and labeling, and you can expect these bourbons to be bottled at higher proofs. This is not an exhaustive list, but I’ve included my top three picks.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style by Brown-Forman
This bourbon was one of three released by Brown-Forman Distillery as part of their Whiskey Row Series. This particular offering is bottled at 115-proof with no age statement. The best way to describe this bourbon is bold. From the nose, through the palate, to the finish, this is a bourbon that will leave a lasting impression.
Blanton’s Single Barrel by Buffalo Trace
This is one of the most recognizable bottles on the market. With the hexagonal design topped by the thoroughbred mid-stride, this bottle will immediately catch the eye. That being said, the bourbon itself is also fabulous. Bottled at only 93-proof and assumed to be aged between 6 and 8 years, this can easily be enjoyed at a bar with friends or at a formal gathering.
This product is actually available in ten different recipes as noted by the bottleneck tag. Typical age ranges from 8 years up to 11, with a few exceptions, and the proof is usually over 110. This is an interesting bourbon because each recipe offers a slightly different flavor. Note: My favorite recipe offering is the OBSK.
Let's talk briefly about the introduction of the single barrel store pick. Most bourbons mentioned in each category are sometimes available as a “store pick.” When liquor stores are offered the option to purchase an entire barrel of a particular product, it becomes a store pick. The store is able to taste samples from multiple barrels and choose which they think most suits the tastes of their clientele. These bottles are often around the same price as their regular offerings and usually extend a slightly superior taste.
Well, there you have it--in my opinion, the
best value bourbon for your buck. Though it is by no means an all-inclusive
list, it’s a nice place to begin.
This entire list of bourbon can be purchased in most places for less than $400. I consider that acceptable for eleven bottles of bourbon with these ages and more-than-acceptable quality. Good luck to everybody in their quest for bourbon knowledge, and never feel bad asking questions to those of us in the business. We are the best and most accessible kind of resource available. Cheers!
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In the mood for cocktails? Check out our article 5 Bourbon Drink Recipes You Will Love & Crave. And as a final reminder, follow Justin @bourbontraveler as he road-trips, flies, tastes, reviews, and celebrates all things bourbon (and beyond). We thank him for his input here and in the Instagram world.
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Until next time, party on, bourbon lovers. Do
it in style and great flavor. And with a little money left to spend.