Bourbon’s having a bit of a moment. For one, September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, which means 30 days of required drinking. Bourbon also led spirit industry revenue in 2014. And the threat of a supposed “bourbon shortage” doesn’t hurt popularity. It does, however, help drive up prices.
Before bourbon-o-philia gets out of hand, with collectors hoarding bottles of every price point like cans of discount soup for doomsday, we thought we’d assemble a list of some of the best, most affordable bourbons out there for those of us with bourbon cravings but maybe not the collector-level cash flow required to, say, join the (overblown) hunt for Pappy Van Winkle.
It’s a wide range, all coming in at under $50, with slightly different styles, ages, and price points that’ll impact flavor profile. (Bourbons are listed from least to most expensive, though prices vary from market to market.)
Owned by Beam Suntory and marketed as part of its “The Olds” collection, the quality of this bourbon dazzles for the price point. Cinnamon and light caramel lead the nose, followed by baking spices and a hint of charred oak on the palate. Coming in a few bucks higher, but still remarkably well priced, the “Bonded” and “114” expressions from this brand should also be snapped up if spotted on liquor store shelves. Average price: $16.
A liter of great bottled-in-bond bourbon for just over $20? It’s possible. Owned and produced by Brown-Forman, this wonderfully concentrated bourbon holds its own in cocktails but is just as enjoyable sipped neat. While its nose is subtle, the palate introduces rich caramel, citrus, and vanilla flavors, before a pepper-spiced lingering finish. Average price: $19 per 750 milliliters (sold in 1-liter bottles with an average price of $25).
It’s hard to pick out a favorite from Old Forester’s lineup — each is thoroughly enjoyable in its own unique way. And while all offer great value for money, it’s the 86 Proof that makes it onto the list for the sheer quality it offers for $20. Lighter on the nose than many bourbons, the palate has great body, a gentle spice, and a well-balanced finish. Average price: $20.
Receiving frequent praise for being an affordable wheated bourbon (a category that includes the likes of W.L. Weller and Pappy Van Winkle), Larceny’s merits extend beyond its mash bill. Produced by Heaven Hill, this approachable bourbon has soft, fruity aromas, a lithe palate that brings sweetness and spice, and a delightful finish that evokes candy apples. Average price: $24.
An inexpensive introduction to single-barrel bourbons, this is a quality bottle that offers great bang for buck. At 43.3 percent ABV, the palate is easygoing, if not quite as bold as boozier offerings. A lightly spiced nose makes it inviting, while its well-balanced palate makes this a perfect sipping bourbon. Average price: $29.
Marketed as a “high rye” bourbon (the exact mash bill is not disclosed by the distillery), an attractive spice lingers on the nose mingling with oak and caramel. The palate is lively, with baked blueberry flavors and a crack of black pepper that lead to a charred finish. Average price: $30.
Easygoing and approachable, this bottling proves bourbon can have character without being in your face. The aromas start off floral and slightly fruity, followed by sweet candy notes. The palate is robust and offers a well-rounded mix of dried fruit, baking spices, oak, and black pepper notes. Average price: $30.
Named after a water source that allegedly ran through President Abraham Lincoln’s family farm, rich caramel leads the nose of this small-batch bourbon. Notes of cedar, cacao, and orange peel then liven things up on the palate. Average price: $35.
Whether you’re a newcomer to bourbon or an aspiring home-bartender looking for a bottle that can handle a range of whiskey cocktails, Distiller’s Select offers a wonderfully versatile option. The nose enjoys the sweetness of dried fruits and toasted nuts, while the palate has a silky smooth caramel profile. Sip it or mix it — you’ll be sure to enjoy. Average price: $35.
Four Roses blends four base recipes (comprising a mix of different yeasts and mash bills) to create its small-batch bourbon. The resulting spirit has a light, floral nose and racy palate. Medium in body, it offers generous sweetness balanced by a tingling spicy finish. Not only a bargain for the price, this is great bourbon in general. Average price: $36.
A limited-edition, 38,000-bottle release, Pinhook launched this expression in 2019. Featuring a high-rye mash bill (20.5 percent), the spirit spends four years in cask before it’s bottled at 49 percent ABV. Rather than spice, sweet tropical fruit aromas dominate, followed by a luscious mix of banana and mint on the palate. This is an outlier, but an interesting one. Average price: $39.
Owned by Beam Suntory, Legent is the product of a collaboration between Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe and Suntory chief blender Shinji Fukuyo. Its aromas are reserved, but a brief swirling coaxes out notes of toasted almonds and dried fruits. The palate is nicely rounded, with a good concentration of flavor and rich finish. Average price: $41.
Also notable for its high-rye mash bill (believed to around 30 percent), this bourbon has a subtle nose and light palate. But don’t take that as lacking in flavor; this easy-sipping bourbon serves layers of dried apricot, cedar, and black pepper notes. The finish is fresh and fruity. Average price: $42.
From Colorado’s Breckenridge Distillery, this bourbon is aged for at least three years before it’s bottled at 43 percent ABV. Despite its relatively light alcohol content, it has a complex, robust flavor profile, marrying rye spice and cinnamon with vanilla and honey. Average price: $42.
For such a high ABV content (58.4 percent), the alcohol is really well integrated on the nose of this bourbon. It smells like new oak, vanilla, black pepper, and caramel, while the palate is incredibly lively. There’s sweetness and spice, charred oak notes, and overall it’s remarkably well balanced. You need to know what you’re getting into here, but if you like overproof spirits, this is where it’s at. Average price: $49.