Bourbon is the quintessential American spirit. The Kentucky whiskey can conjure up images of distillery tours, afternoon cocktails on the porch, or even just some eventful ragers — the last of which usually calls for more affordable bottles. It’s definitely possible to find bourbon that’s smooth, complex, and good enough to serve neat on a budget, and plenty of bourbon-makers are distilling spirits that check all those boxes and more.

But as the market becomes increasingly saturated and more packed with options from small batches to celebrity-backed brands, it can be tough to nail down your new wallet-friendly favorite for cocktails and beyond. Who better to consult than a bartender? That’s why we asked 12 bartenders to share their picks for the best bourbon that won’t break the bank. (For this list, bartenders referenced these bourbons’ MSRPs or typical markups in their areas, but in other major cities, higher markups may be inevitable.) Here’s what they said.

The Best Bourbons Under $50, According to Bartenders:

  • Elijah Craig Small Batch
  • Woodinville Bourbon
  • Fort Hamilton Double Barrel
  • Great Jones Bourbon
  • Taconic Bourbon
  • Eagle Rare 10yr
  • Russell’s Reserve 10yr
  • Redwood Empire’s Pipe Dream
  • Three Chord Bourbon
  • Cyrus Noble

Elijah Craig Small Batch is one of the best bourbons under $50, according to bartenders.

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“There are many options out there, but I believe Elijah Craig Small Batch gives you everything you’re looking to find in a bourbon and at the same time, you don’t have to break the bank. It’s smooth from beginning to end, and has the perfect amount of sweetness and spices with a beautiful nose of caramel. [I] prefer it neat or with a few water drops.” —Dimitrios Karagiannis, beverage director, Nerai, NYC

Woodinville Bourbon is one of the best bourbons under $50, according to bartenders.

“My immediate gut reaction for this is Buffalo Trace, as it’s a well-deserved favorite. However, I recommend exploring beyond the usual suspects, and would put Woodinville Bourbon from Washington State at the top of my list. Made from locally sourced grains and aged in charred new American oak barrels, this bourbon offers a balanced blend of caramel, vanilla, and oak with a hint of spice. The unique climate of Washington State adds a distinctive touch, resulting in a bourbon that’s both complex and approachable.” —Edward de Decker, food & beverage manager, The OG and Call Me Pearl at the Rally Hotel, Denver

Fort Hamilton Double Barrel is one of the best bourbons under $50, according to bartenders.

“One of the best examples of a well-balanced and well-priced bourbon is the Fort Hamilton Double Barrel. The Brooklyn-based distillery was started by a couple of New York bartenders looking to bring a bartender-friendly and cost-effective spirit to the market. It works well in a Boulevardier or a Whiskey Smash, and offers a smooth complexity without overwhelming the palate. We serve Fort Hamilton bourbon at The Bar Downstairs and use it in the Battle of Brooklyn cocktail, which also features refreshing watermelon — it’s a great drink for the summer season, with a nod to the historic battle that began in a watermelon patch. Other favorites include Great Jones Bourbon produced at Manhattan’s first whiskey distillery and Taconic Bourbon from the Hudson Valley.” —Mike Lam, head bartender, The Bar Downstairs and Kitchen, NYC

“Eagle Rare 10 Year is always a go-to for me. It’s complex and balanced enough to enjoy neat or on the rocks, but has enough swagger to show its character in cocktails. In a crowded market, Eagle Rare’s personality endures.” —Thom Neil, beverage manager and whiskey enthusiast, Denver

Russell's Reserve 10 Year is one of the best bourbons under $50, according to bartenders.

“It’s rare that one can find a high-quality 10-year bourbon for under $50. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year is a step above most other bourbons of its age, and can usually be found for around $30 on the shelf. This bang for your buck is the best deal on the market, hands down.” —Sawyer Gummo, food & beverage manager, The Read House, Chattanooga, Tenn.

“My favorite bourbon under $50, if you can find it, is Eagle Rare. Like its name implies, it is released in limited batches and can be a tough get. Aged a minimum of 10 years, this bourbon out of the Buffalo Trace family has rich notes of toffee, leather, oak, and a slight hint of citrus. Despite its popularity and scarcity, its price has remained reasonable.” —Jeff Caudill, general manager, BLU Beach Bar & Grill, Folly Beach, S.C.

Redwood Empire's Pipe Dream is one of the best bourbons under $50, according to bartenders.

“Redwood Empire’s Pipe Dream is distilled in Mendocino in Northern California. It is rich with a smooth finish and notes of maple, pecan and vanilla. It’s great for sipping and mixing!” —Natalia Faustino, beverage manager, Little Saint, Healdsburg, Calif.

Three Chord Bourbon is one of the best bourbons under $50, according to bartenders.

“Three Chord Bourbon is my top pick under $50. It’s a small-batch [offering] crafted from a blend of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana spirits. It offers a smooth and complex profile that’s still highly approachable, making it perfect for sipping on the rocks or crafting incredible cocktails.” —Samantha Diaz, food and beverage manager, The Westin Denver, Denver

Cyrus Noble is one of the best bourbons under $50, according to bartenders.

“One of the best bang-for-your-buck bourbons is Cyrus Noble. This bourbon can stand toe-to-toe with others that are double the price. Coming in at 90 proof, it’s a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed neat, over ice, or in a cocktail. With a rich history dating back to the California Gold Rush and ties to San Francisco [along] with smooth and complex flavors, what’s not to love?” —Dale Kaiser, mixologist and bar manager, Valette, Healdsburg, Calif.

“Eagle Rare 10 Year stands out for its superior quality and craftsmanship, offering a smooth and balanced profile that is difficult to match in its price range. Aged for a decade, it develops a rich complexity with layered notes of toffee, orange peel, herbs, honey, leather, and oak. This aging process enhances its depth and character, resulting in a refined, mature bourbon that delivers a robust yet approachable flavor. At 90 proof, it strikes a perfect balance [between] providing a satisfying warmth without overpowering the palate, making it a versatile choice for sipping neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails.” —James (Jimmy) Pavlik, general manager of dining outlets, Ashore Resort and Beach Club, Ocean City, Md.

“For my money, Elijah Craig Small Batch is the one. Its 94 proof allows it to hold up well in any cocktail but it doesn’t overwhelm, and it’s super tasty when drinking it neat or on the rocks.” —Sam Clifton, bartender, Split Eights, NYC

“Woodinville Whiskey is by far one of my favorite bourbons. It was founded by two friends and was crafted with local ingredients from Omlin Family Farm, with guidance from former Maker’s Mark master distiller David Pickerell. This 90-proof bourbon offers a smooth drinking experience with dark flavors of caramel, vanilla, chocolate, and baking spice. Enjoyable neat or with ice, I personally love this for a nightcap.” —Deon Togami, beverage manager, Prince Waikiki Hotel, Honolulu

*Image retrieved from Africa Studio via stock.adobe.com