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The Best Bottles Of Bourbon Under $20 To Help Get You Ready For Spring

The longer a bourbon has to sit in a rickhouse while it ages, the higher the costs go. So you should expect to pay for something that’s been significantly aged. On the flip side, most bourbon barreling programs are fairly standard across the board. The vast majority of bourbon ages for between two and four years and that’s plenty.

Translation: bourbon doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, some would argue, bourbon almost always ought to be affordable.

Why’s that? Even a cheap bottle of bourbon can be a quality bottle of booze. Legal requirements (for tax and export purposes mostly) keep things fairly standard across the style. Sure, some bourbon distillers will cut corners on sourcing grains — and that does hurt quality. But at the end of the day, you can still find perfectly fine bourbon on the lower shelves where you won’t have to break the bank.

The ten bottles of bourbon below are all under $20 and are all perfectly fine to have on hand, especially if you’re having a Sprung On Spring party or heading off for spraaaaaaaang breaaaaaaaaaaak. There’s still a lot of flavor and nuance to be found in this range of whiskeys and the price is definitely right.

Ancient Age

ABV: 40%
Distillery Location: Frankfort, KY
Average Price: $11.49

The Whiskey:

This high-rye bourbon from Buffalo Trace is the perfect starter whiskey. The recipe and tactics in distilling this bottle haven’t really changed since 1946, making it a bit of a throwback. But for this price, who really cares?

Tasting Notes:

Classic notes of corn, caramel, and vanilla are bolstered by a note of toffee. Those notes carry through the sip as that rye spice kicks in. Finally, a whisper of citrus peeks in at the end with the warmth of mild alcohol spiciness.

Ezra Brooks

ABV: 45%
Distillery Location: Louisville, KY
Average Price: $12.99

The Whiskey:

This is another label from the mid-20th century that’s lasted. The mash is an old-school blend of corn, rye, and barley mixed with that soft limestone Kentucky water. Overall, this is a great bottle to have around for shots, cocktails, or highballs.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla and caramel mingle with hints of sandalwood, peanut, and honey. There’s a citrus note in the background alongside caramel and vanilla with a note of bitter chocolate and rye spice. A bit of oak char arrives on the warm final note as the spice, buttery caramel, and vanilla linger.

Hayes Parker Reserve

ABV: 45%
Distillery Location: South Carolina
Average Price: $12.99

The Whiskey:

This South Carolinian bourbon uses an aging technique called TerrePURE Technology to age their whiskey in a few months instead of a few years. This hastened aging time allows prices to stay low and tastes and textures to be dialed-in. It’s worth seeking this bottle out just to get a sense of how technology is changing up the aging game in whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

Cinnamon and sweetness combine on the opening that leads towards an essence of Red Hot candies on the palate. A note of apple kicks in as caramel and vanilla are pushed to the back end. The cinnamon and apple carry through with a slight grassy edge on the warm and citrusy finish.

J.T.S. Brown Bottled-In-Bond

ABV: 50%
Distillery Location: Louisville, KY
Average Price: $13.49

The Whiskey:

J.T.S. Brown is a great standard bourbon from the good people at Heaven Hill. There’s no technology involved in speeding up aging with this expression. It’s a classic bourbon that’s bottled at 100 proof from a single distillery’s single distillation season, as per the bottled-in-bond regulations. This is no-frills but quality.

Tasting Notes:

Caramel, oak, cherry, and cinnamon mingle on the nose. Vanilla kicks in and carries that cherry towards notes of spice with a nice earthy base. There’s a distant echo of corn lurking in the background as the cinnamon, cherry, and oak bring about a warm finish.

Black Eagle Bourbon Whiskey

ABV: 40%
Distillery Location: Minnesota
Average Price: $13.99

The Whiskey:

Black Eagle from Minnesota isn’t a huge stand out on this list. But it does get the job done. The whiskey has no bells or whistles. It’s a straightforward bourbon that’s affordable. Sometimes that’s enough, especially if you’re mixing it anyway.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of classic bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak at play. A slight vegetal nature takes over with a sense of mint and bitter. It has a dry end that lingers with warmth.

Henry McKenna

ABV: 40%
Distillery Location: Bardstown, KY
Average Price: $14.49

The Whiskey:

This old-school whiskey from the late-1800s has little to prove. This version of Henry McKenna has the distinction of being a “Kentucky Table Whiskey,” meaning you could leave it on the table to sip on all day from breakfast through bedtime.

Translation: It’s easy drinking whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

Wood, spice, and wildflowers dance on the opening. Browned butter caramel, roasted almonds, and rich vanilla come forth. A musty oaky nature kicks in and brings about a spicy and warm finish that lingers for just the right amount of time.

Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond

ABV: 50%
Distillery Location: Louisville, KY
Average Price: $14.99

The Whiskey:

You can never go wrong with a bottle of Evan Williams, especially if you’re talking their Bottled-In-Bond. This whiskey is from the oldest Kentucky bourbon commercial distillery along the Ohio River. It’s classic, well-made, and bottled at a higher ABV, giving you more bang for your buck.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla, oak, and caramel-forward barley are present upfront. Creamy vanilla pudding cut with baking spices lead towards hints of chocolate covered almonds and a wisp of banana. The caramel kicks back up as a note of sweet corn rushes in with a nice amount of warming spice on the end.

Old Grand-Dad

ABV: 43%
Distillery Location: Clermont, KY
Average Price: $16.99

The Whiskey:

This high-rye bourbon from Jim Beam’s stills is another standard-bearer of the style. This is the ultimate no-frills whiskey that’s almost too easy to drink. Plus, if you’re lucky, you can find this bottle on sale for $10-$12 during long weekends and the holiday season. You cannot beat that price for this decent of whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

Oak and fruit orchards lead the way. The spice comes in hard and fast with the apples, pears, cherries, and peaches as the darkly toasted grains bring about a rich caramel that marries the vanilla. There’s a slight whisper of smoke in the back of the sip. The end brings back the fruit and spice as the oak adds body.

Jim Beam Repeal Batch

ABV: 43%
Distillery Location: Clermont, KY
Average Price: $16.99

The Whiskey:

This 2018 release dropped to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. The label is a throwback to the 1930s along with the mash bill for the bourbon in the bottle.

Tasting Notes:

Oak char mixes with bananas stepped in brown butter with clear notes of vanilla. That vanilla carries through and leans into hints of masa, spice, and more banana. The oak char comes back into play as a fire-roasted marshmallow sweetness brings a clean end to the sip.

Wild Turkey

ABV: 40.5%
Distillery Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
Average Price: $18.99

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a stone-cold classic for under $20. It has a notoriously high-rye mash bill and is aged in heavily charred new oak. The end result is something that shines at this price point.

Tasting Notes:

Roasted corn, spicy rye, fresh vanilla pods, and stone fruit greet you. The oak char adds a depth to the sip with clear Christmas spices coming through with the sweet caramel. The sweet corn kicks back in with a clear sense of rye spices and an apple orchard brings about a warm and lush end.

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