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The 20 Best Bourbons For Under $30


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Finding a great bourbon is easy these days. There’s been a huge boom in the industry since Don Draper reintroduced all of us to the Old Fashioned. Bourbon was suddenly transformed from ‘that bottle of rotgut your granddad keep under the sink’ to a coveted dark spirit that works for every occasion. That renewed love of bourbon has led to a full-on revitalization of the industry. That’s great for whiskey lovers the world over.

Below are 20 of the best Kentucky bourbons on the market right now. Prices will vary depending on your local state taxes but these all should fall under the $30 per 750ml (a fifth) bottle mark. Even if some of these clock in a little over 30 bucks in your state, they’re still worth snagging and giving a shot.

Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Evan Williams is the perfect mixing bourbon. You don’t really want to be knocking back shots of this one … or sipping it. It’s got some rougher edges. But those edges are easily worn down with some ice, bitters, and a little sugar. Overall, Evan Williams will give you a standard “bourbon” feel with a slight oaky char and distinct hints of vanilla along with that alcohol burn that lets you know you’re all grown up now.

Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon

We’re not in sipping whiskey territory just yet. TJ’s Bourbon is another great bourbon to mix up a nice cocktail. This one comes from Buffalo Trace/Sazerac distilleries in Nelson County and has a clear oak char vibe with a little bit of rye spiciness lurking underneath the alcohol. It’s perfect for a manhattan.

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Jim Beam needs little introduction. This is the standard bourbon in the macro range that all other bourbons are measured by. Jim Beam is just straight good. It’s not going to blow your mind but it is going to get the job done. Whip yourself up a Jim and Ginger, maybe throw in some lime or mint (hell, or both), and enjoy the refreshing nature of a damn good highball made with your old friend, Jim Beam.

Wild Turkey 81 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Wild Turkey is a fine bourbon. Some may say this one’s a bit too astringent to shoot or sip. We tend to disagree. Whiskey needs a little water to help open it up. So, pour a little of this over an ice cube and let it shine. You’ll get nice notes of vanilla, allspice, and plenty of oak char — making this one nicely balanced and very drinkable. It’s also great with fizzy water and lime in a highball.

Evan Williams Bonded 100 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Evan Williams definitely makes the list again with their Bonded 100 proof. “Bottled-in-Bond” is a government regulation that aims to ensure the purity of the spirit. To be labeled so, a whiskey has to be once distilled during the “distilling season” — by a single distiller in a single distillery — and then aged appropriately in a “bonded” government inspected warehouse for four years. Then, bottled at 100 proof (50 percent ABV). In short, it’s a quality control tactic.

Evan Williams 100P is a great mixing bourbon for heavy duty cocktails. The oak char is the star here and there’s almost a smokey/ashy feel to it. There are hints of sweet apples and a spicy alcohol burn. Overall, this is the perfect base for an old-fashioned or a Sazerac.

Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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Old Forester used to be that bottle of “rotgut” under your grandparent’s sink. Today, it’s claimed a much-deserved spot back up in the liquor cabinet. Old Forester has a subtle whiskey vibe that highlights a little vanilla, a little spice, mineral hints, and feels more like an oak orchard than an oak barrel, making it a little brighter. This one is perfectly suited for a whiskey and soda.

Kirkland Premium Small Batch Bourbon

Costco’s booze is always a good choice if you’re looking for high quality at a low price point. This one was aged seven years and has a distinct oaky char to it that leans more bitter than sweet. There’s a sweet toffee aspect in the background but that can be overpowered a bit by the alcohol. If you’re looking to have an easy bourbon mixing base at your next backyard BBQ, then this is a great bottle to have on hand.

Old Grand Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Old Grand Dad feels like a throwback bourbon. There’s a real spiciness here that makes this a perfect sazerac or manhattan base. There’s a little toffee sweetness as well but it’s not the main event. Overall, this a really decent whiskey that works as the focus of a well-crafted cocktail or even over ice on its own with, maybe, a dash of herbal bitters.

Lexington Finest Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Lexington comes to us from Wyoming with the spirit of Kentucky solidly in place. The barley, corn, rye mash bill makes for a complex palate of rye spice and corn sweetness along with a nice oak vanilla hint on the backend. This a great whiskey for cocktails or just over ice. It also works wonders as a whiskey and soda highball.

Jim Beam Bonded 100 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Jim Beams’ Bonded is a great whiskey to have on your shelf. The higher proof makes this one less a sipping whiskey and more a mixing one. There is a nice sweetness here that feels a bit like it was spit from a cotton candy machine with hints of toffee. There’s a little spiciness in the background and a surefire alcohol burn. In the end, you can mix this one with anything and it’ll be great (but don’t sleep on it just over ice).

Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Four Roses is the perfect mixing whiskey. The apple, toffee sweetness, light-touch of allspice spiciness, and almost ashen oak char with hints of vanilla make for a great cocktail base. Try it with a little ginger beer and lime or as a julep base. It’s damn near perfect.

Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Larceny is a bit of an outlier here. The mash bill uses wheat instead of rye. So there’s a more buttery caramel note at play with little-to-no spiciness. It’s a really smooth and easy-drinking whiskey that works well over an ice cube or mixed into a nice cocktail.

Bird Dog Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

Bird Dog is probably best known for their flavored whiskeys but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give their standard bourbons a try. Their small batch leans a little floral with a nice sweet, red fruit and earthiness that feels fresh. This one is interesting as a cocktail mixer and works wonders in a whiskey and soda. It’s also worth drinking over a rock.

Cooper’s Mark Small Batch Bourbon

Cooper’s is a good whiskey all around. There’s a nutty caramel sweetness that leads to an oak char dryness that’s perfect for sipping on. This one is a great base for an old-fashioned and works just as nice as a shooting whiskey.

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey

Bulleit always satisfies. The heft of vanilla sweetness and oak dryness make for a great bourbon. There’s a nice minerality at play as well. Overall, you can do anything with this bourbon from sipping to shooting to mixing. It’s versatile and very quaffable.

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Have you had a Maker’s Mark Manhattan yet? Ho boy are they great. Maker’s is another versatile whiskey that is the best of all worlds. You can drink it straight if that’s your jam. But, damn, does this whiskey make a great cocktail. Seriously, this should be your manhattan and old-fashioned go-to every time.

Buy a bottle here for $25.99

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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Buffalo Trace is hard to beat. There’s a nice apple caramel sweetness going on that’s wonderfully balanced with a spicy oak char. It’s easy to drink this … almost too easy. But just because it’s “easy” doesn’t mean it’s not complex or good. Pour a little over an ice cube and enjoy this one all day long.

Wild Turkey 101 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Wild Turkey 101 is a great bourbon. It’s easy to take shots of this one (but that’s a dangerous road to tow given the higher ABVs). The subtle vanilla, toffee, and ashen oak char lend to a perfect cocktail punch, julep, or even a hefty whiskey and soda. It’s dealer’s choice really.

Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Elijah Craig is getting into straight up sipping whiskey territory. While you can use this one as a base for cocktails and highballs, try it first with a single ice cube or even a few drops of mineral water and let it bloom in the glass. Once you get a feel for the buttery caramel, warm orchard earthiness, and vanilla oakiness, then, experiment, mix and enjoy.

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

This is one of the best whiskeys you’ll find for under 30 bucks. It’s very much a neat whiskey with nice dimensions of vanilla, apple butterscotch, earthy tones, and a nice oakiness. While this one is best enjoyed on its own, it’ll also make a killer old fashioned. Enjoy!

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