Cheap bourbon ain’t what it used to be. The quality of entry-level and middle-shelf bottles continues to improve, especially as distillers introduce new innovations, and with supplies of aged stock also seemingly on the rise. The very nature of what we might consider “cheap” has also shifted in the category, with $100-plus offerings now becoming commonplace and certain labels demanding many hundreds, if not thousands, on the secondary market.

So what exactly constitutes “cheap” these days? At VinePair, we consider it to be below $50, for multiple reasons: The demand for bourbon has never been higher in living memory, which naturally pushes prices northward.

Additionally, it’s worth considering bourbon versus other styles of alcohol, such as wine. A cheap (sub-$20) bottle of wine is good for four or five glasses and has a shelf life of a few days once opened. But with its high alcohol content, bourbon remains stable for years after opening. And we typically pour or mix in 2-ounce drams — the equivalent of 12 servings per bottle — so one bottle can get you much further.

The following bourbons are widely available and all clock in below $50. These are bar cart and liquor shelf staples, and bottles you can depend upon for all occasions.

Here are 17 of the best cheap bourbons to drink in 2023.

1792 Small Batch Bourbon

1792 Small Batch Bourbon is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

While it might be the “entry-level” bottling from 1792, this small-batch release arrives in a stylish decanter and suffers no shortage of character. Its profile leans into decadent notes of caramel and toasted oak, making it apt for sipping as well as mixing into spirit-forward whiskey cocktails. Start with a classic Old Fashioned.

Average price: $31
Rating: 90

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

The eponymous release from one of America’s most celebrated distilleries, this bourbon boasts a lot of character despite its lack of age statement and relatively low (45 percent) alcohol content. With a versatile, rounded profile delivering fruit, spice, and oak notes, this whiskey is a solid option for cocktail hour.

Average price: $37
Rating: 91

Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Clyde May's Straight Bourbon Whiskey is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Aged for four years and bottled at 46 percent ABV without chill filtration, Clyde May’s opens with rich caramel aromas and follows with hints of sweet cereal. The palate is well rounded and has great concentration of flavor, making this a great option for cocktails or budget sipping.

Average price: $40
Rating: 90

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Elijah Craig Small Batch is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Made using a blend of 8- to 12-year-old whiskeys, Heaven Hill uses rye as the flavoring grain for this release. While its elder and higher-proof siblings enjoy a large share of the attention from bourbon fans, this remains a complex, impeccably balanced whiskey. Turn to this release to elevate drinks like the Old Fashioned or Whiskey Sour. You can also easily sip it solo.

Average price: $31
Rating: 93

Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond

Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

The very definition of approachable, Evan Williams is affordably priced and available pretty much everywhere. At 50 percent ABV, it holds its own in classic cocktails and punches well above its price point on the sipping front. Cracked black pepper on the nose leads to an enjoyably sweet and fruity palate. This is a steal.

Average price: $22
Rating: 89

Four Roses Small Batch

Four Roses Small Batch is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Made using four base recipes, each containing a different mix of yeast strains and mash bills, this release lands on the lighter, more delicate end of the bourbon scale. That’s not a polite way of saying it lacks character but instead refers to its floral, pepper-spiced nose and energetic palate. Price-wise, we’re talking an extra 15 bucks compared to Four Roses’ entry-level bottling. But the whiskey’s character and complexity more than make up for that.

Average price: $37
Rating: 93

George Dickel Bourbon Whisky Aged 8 Years

George Dickel Bourbon Whisky Aged 8 Years is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Introduced in summer 2021, this release employs the same mash bill, yeast, and filtration process as Dickel’s Tennessee whiskey. General manager and master distiller Nicole Austin instead labels this as “bourbon,” after selecting barrels she thought better represented that style than Tennessee offerings. At 8 years old and 90 proof, this is an absolute bargain. Expect red petals and dried berries on the nose, and a robust maple-spiced palate. No need to pick up the cocktail shaker here.

Average price: $33
Rating: 92

High West Bourbon

High West Bourbon is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Composed of multiple-sourced, high-rye bourbons, this whiskey serves heady portions of sweetness and spice on the palate. The sweet notes lean closer to ripe berries and stone fruits than rich caramel, while vanilla and baking spices sing on the finish.

Average price: $38
Rating: 90

Jim Beam Black Extra Aged

Jim Beam Black Extra Aged is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Jim Beam touts this as the “extra aged” version of its iconic white label bourbon, though it’s unclear exactly how many additional years this release spends in barrel. What is clear (after tasting) is that this is a toasty, robust bourbon and among the most reliable options at the $20-ish price point. Boilermaker, anyone?

Average price: $23
Rating: 88

Larceny Small Batch

Larceny Small Batch Bourbon is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Another wheated release from Heaven Hill, Larceny instantly invites you to sip with its alluring sweet aromas. The caramel-rich palate is balanced by spice notes, ensuring the whiskey doesn’t land too sweet. Its luscious, rounded profile makes it a perfect match for lemon juice in a classic Whiskey Sour. Once you’ve enjoyed a few of those, level up to the Gold Rush.

Average price: $27
Rating: 90

Maker’s Mark 46

Maker's Mark 46 is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Released as the legacy of Bill Samuels Jr., this whiskey undergoes a proprietary stave-finishing process to create what he has described as “Maker’s on steroids.” For a slightly more technical description of what that means: Expect amped-up caramel, vanilla, and baking spice notes followed by a long, complex finish. This is a stunning bourbon that offers incredible value.

Average price: $42
Rating: 93

Nelson Brothers Classic Bourbon

Nelson Brothers Classic Bourbon is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

This blend of high-rye straight bourbons opens with delightful aromas of cinnamon, baking spice, dark sugar, and toasted oak. Each sip lands with weighty, velvety texture, while the flavor profile offers the quintessential bourbon notes of vanilla and caramel and a subtle, enjoyable spice on the finish.

Average price: $37
Rating: 91

Old Tub Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Old Tub Kentucky Straight Bourbon is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

A bottled-in-bond release from the James B. Beam Distilling Company, this label pays homage to one of the Beam family’s oldest brands. The whiskey smells great, while the palate is spicy, lively, slightly rugged, but well balanced enough for the price. Shoot or shake this one.

Average price: $24
Rating: 89

Pinhook Bourbon Heist

Pinhook Bourbon Heist is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

This sourced, 3-year-old release was produced at the Castle & Key distillery in Kentucky. Pay no notice to its relatively young age and instead rest assured that it delivers bold character and performs valiantly during sipping occasions. This is yet another wonderful Pinhook release.

Average price: $41
Rating: 92

Russell’s Reserve 10 Years Old

Russell's Reserve 10 Years Old is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

I challenge you to find another 10-year-old bourbon for less than $50. But even if it exists, there’s almost no chance it will live up to this release from Wild Turkey’s father-son master distiller duo Jimmy and Eddie Russell. It’s a fruity, characterful bourbon with rich vanilla notes. At 90 proof, it’s one to be sipped neat rather than on the rocks. Or, if you’re looking to sample a decade-old bourbon in a cocktail, this is your best bet.

Average price: $41
Rating: 93

Town Branch True Cask Bourbon Batch #004

Town Branch True Cask Bourbon Batch #004 is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

This cask-strength release arrives at 56.7 percent ABV. It’s made using a blend of two mash bills: a high-malt recipe and a more traditional high-corn blend. Inviting cherry notes lead the nose, setting up a rounded palate, with a sweet, fruity core and intense finish.

Average price: $41
Rating: 93

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon is one of the best cheap Bourbons for 2023.

Woodford touts its bourbon as having 200 detectable flavor notes. To identify them all, you might need the experience and palate of the brand’s master distiller, Chris Morris. In fairness, it is an incredibly aromatic and flavorful bourbon, which arrives at a precise 90.4 percent ABV. Consider it a solid, dependable all-rounder.

Average price: $37
Rating: 92


What makes whiskey a bourbon?

All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons. In order to be labeled as bourbon in the United States, a whiskey must be distilled with a mash bill of at least 51 percent corn, produced within the borders of the U.S., and spend time aging in new, charred oak barrels. As their mash bill, or recipe, contains a significant amount of corn, bourbons tend to take on a sweeter flavor profile than other types of whiskey, complemented with slight notes of vanilla and oak from the barrel-aging process.

Is Jim Beam a cheap bourbon?

Many bottles of Jim Beam are listed at lower price points than other notable whiskey brands, but their quality remains strong. On average, a 750-milliliter bottle of Jim Beam will run you between $10 and $15 dollars for their flagship White Label, while its Black Extra Aged Bourbon Whiskey is a great value between $18 and $23, making it a best bourbon under $50.

What is the smoothest bourbon to sip?

Some of the smoothest bourbons to sip — either on the rocks or neat — are Four Roses Small Batch, I.W. Harper Straight Bourbon, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight, and Eagle Rare.

VinePair’s Tasting Methodology: How We Rate

Throughout the year, VinePair conducts numerous tastings for our popular Buy This Booze column and wine and spirits reviews. Our mission is to offer a clear, reliable source of information for drinkers, providing an overview applicable to day-to-day buying and drinking.

In alignment with our reviews mission, we believe in purposefully tasting all products as our readers typically would, with full knowledge of the producer, the region, and — importantly — the price. Tastings are therefore not typically conducted blind.

For Buy This Booze roundups, we usually include a maximum of one expression per brand, though we do allow multiple products from the same production facility (i.e., released under different labels).

For this cheap bourbon whiskey roundup, we considered a number of different factors before finalizing the list. Our overall aim was to provide a great range of options, each costing less then $50.