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The Best Bottles Of Bourbon Whiskey Between $10-$20, Ranked

There are a lot of great bourbons out there, with more hitting shelves every season. By the very law of averages, we also have to admit that there are a fair few subpar and even shitty bourbons too. The natural response to this variance is to assume “the more it costs, the better it must taste” — but that’s patently untrue. Bourbon, mostly, is local and made from a grain that the U.S. government pays farmers to grow. That means that even at the height of this bourbon boom, you can still get very high-quality juice for an affordable price.

It should come as no surprise to any afficanado that there are delicious bourbons to be had for between $10 and $20 right now. Costs are held down by big companies knowing what they’re doing thanks to generations of development and refinement. Will it have spent tons of time in the barrel? Probably not. But it can certainly share a mashbill with more nuanced, longer-aged expressions.

The ten bottles of cheap bourbon whiskey below are expressions we find to be exceptional at this price point for 2022. Some of these work on the rocks or even as everyday sippers, some of them are better as cocktail bases — all of them taste good and all of them clock in at under $20.*


*Price will vary depending on your state’s taxes — these prices are from Total Wine’s online shop in Louisville, Kentucky.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

10. Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey

Luxco

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $12

The Whiskey:

Luxco’s Ezra Brooks is a throwback to the Mad Men days of bourbon. The juice is a standard rye-infused bourbon without an age statement. It’s made as a workhorse whiskey that’s easy to find and cheap when you do find it.

Tasting Notes:

Classic yet mild notes of caramel corn, vanilla, and oaky spice lead the way. There’s a continued sense of those notes on the palate, with a hint of dark chocolate and spice when a little water is introduced. The end is short, caramel sweet, and has hints of kettle corn with a watery vibe that mutes the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a good place to start any cheap bourbon journey. This feels classic without any obtrusive notes. It’s a little watery on the backend for me, but that does make it a great candidate for shots with a beer back if you’re looking to let loose a little.

9. Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $19

The Whiskey:

The bourbon in this bottle is a standard “small batch” though there’s not a whole lot of information on what that entails, exactly. What we do know is that the juice comes from Buffalo Trace’s Mash Bill #1, which is the same base as Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, Stagg, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a truly basic bourbon vibe on the nose and throughout the palate. Vanilla extract, slightly wet oak, and that raw Buffalo Trace leather dominate the nose, it’s almost exactly like the one on Buffalo Trace Bourbon. The taste pretty much stays in that arena with caramel apples and floral honey popping up next to a slight metallic note and soft mineral water mouthfeel. The end is short and sweet and leads you back to that leather, oak, and vanilla primarily.

Bottom Line:

Since Buffalo Trace Bourbon is becoming more and more allocated across the country, this is a great fill-in for that bottle. It’s not as refined but it’s very close. Plus, it’s about $10 cheaper per bottle, which isn’t too bad. That said, this (like BT Bourbon) is a great mixer and only a sipper if you have a glass full of rocks and your shelf is empty.

8. Jim Beam

Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $15

The Whiskey:

This bourbon is Beam’s signature low-rye mash bill. It’s aged for four years before the barrels are blended and it’s cut down to 80 proof. This is a lot of folks’ entry point into the wider world of bourbon because it’s a quaffable whiskey that’s very affordable and on pretty much every liquor store shelf right at eye level.

Tasting Notes:

You can sense the corn next to classic bourbon notes of caramel, vanilla, and orchard fruit with a hint of cherry wood. The sip centers the vanilla and caramel as a distant echo of oak arrives on the tongue that leads back to that cherry vibe but now it’s almost cherry candy. The sip warms with a bit of spice next to a sweetened caramel corn edge alongside more cherry candy on a short and sweet finish.

Bottom Line:

There’s no getting around Jim Beam being one the most solid budget bourbons in the world. It’s reliable, easy-drinking, and actually has some depth to it. What’s wild is there isn’t a watery note even though this is cut down to 80 proof. It’s light, sure, but still stands up as a full-bodied whiskey.

7. Old Grand-Dad

Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $16

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is made from Beam’s other mash bill, which is high rye and also the base of Basil Hayden’s. From there, the whiskey rests for a few years in Beam’s expansive rickhouses before it’s vatted, proofed down with that soft Kentucky limestone water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This is very even-keeled between the nose and palate. You’re drawn in with notes of cream soda and maybe even Vanilla Coke next to a touch of Beam cherry and oak. That cherry leans into spicy cherry tobacco territory with a light chewiness next to notes of cinnamon, clove, and maybe a touch of black pepper. The end is short, hot, and leaves you with a cherry-vanilla-pepper sensation.

Bottom Line:

This is another bottle that somehow hides all that water needed to proof it down beneath some very bold whiskey. While this is the perfect shot and beer pick, it also works pretty damn well in a highball since the bigger flavor notes will hold their own against the water (or ginger ale) and ice.

6. Very Old Barton 100

Very Old Barton
Sazerac Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $13

The Whiskey:

This was an old-school “bottled in bond” from the Barton Distillery in Bardstown but they dropped the b-i-b designation. The juice in the bottle used to be at least six years old but today it’s at least four. All of that sounds like deterrents from this bottle but it’s still 100 proof and there are still barrels up to six years old in the mix, meaning this still works well at this price point.

Tasting Notes:

This comes in big on the nose with a deep buttery caramel sauce next to blueberry pie, wet oak, and peppery peppermint tobacco. The taste carries over the pie and adds a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, a dusting of almost sweet cinnamon, and more of that oak as a soft leather note dips in and out with a hint of vanilla tobacco. The end is pretty abrupt but marries the cinnamon to the mint to create a spicy menthol tobacco finish that’s fairly dry (though short).

Bottom Line:

This bourbon has no business being this complex for this price. Part of that is due to the higher ABV — which is similar with the rest of the list from here on out. Pour this over a rock or two and it’s a good drink. It makes a mean cocktail, too.

5. J.T.S. Brown Kentucky Bourbon

Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $13

The Whiskey:

This is a quality whiskey from Heaven Hill’s expansive bourbon mash bill (78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and ten percent rye). That means this is the same base juice as Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, several Parker’s Heritages, and Henry McKenna. It’s a bottled-in-bond, meaning it’s from similar stocks to their iconic Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond and another one further down on this list.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear caramel, cream soda, and floral honey sweetness that draws you in on the nose next to a touch of dry leather. Dark spice lingers in the background with a bit more of that vanilla-forward cream soda sweetness on the palate with a mild sense of Graham Crackers and honey tobacco. The end has a touch more of that spice, followed by a moment of oak buried under the creamy vanilla, honey, and leather.

Bottom Line:

This is another whiskey that really shines once you pour it over ice. The water helps this open up a bit and release a bolder flavor profile. That higher ABV also means you can make a killer cocktail with this without breaking the bank, which is great if you’re just starting to refine those skills.

4. J.W. Dant Bottled In Bond

J.W. Dant
Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $13

The Whiskey:

Guess what? This is the same mash bill from Heaven Hill as the bottle above. The difference is that the barrels chosen for this brand follow a different flavor profile than the ones for the bottles above and below this entry.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this one is pure banana bread brimming with buttery cake, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg, and a touch of honey. The palate leans into the wood with a No. 2 pencil vibe that leads towards dry vanilla husks and a touch of salted caramel-covered peanuts. The back end of the sip stays sweet and nutty as wintry spices cut with orange oils drive a slowish finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a pretty distinct whiskey and shows how vastly different barrels can be, even when they sit right next to each other in a warehouse. All of that aside, The nuttiness, salty sweetness, and spice really help this stand out that little bit more, especially in a Manhattan or old fashioned.

3. Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond

Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $16

The Whiskey:

Look, Heaven Hill makes great whiskey, especially inexpensive bottled in bonds. This b-i-b is tailored for the Evan Williams flavor profile with a softer touch than Dant or Brown above, even though we’re talking about the same mash bill, same warehouses, and same parent company.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a dry cornmeal base next to salted caramel, rich vanilla, and a touch of sweet fruit orchard wood. The palate adds in whiffs of black pepper next to musty cellar wood and a hint of spicy chewy tobacco that has a hint of cherry buried in there somewhere. The end is short-ish while highlighting the sweet cornmeal, spicy/fruity tobacco, and rich vanilla that creates a soft mouthfeel on the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a quintessential “everyday bourbon” that should be on every bar cart, specifically if you’re looking for something to mix solid cocktails with. I also really like this on the rocks. It’s easy, affordable, and tastes damn fine for a $16 bottle of whiskey.

2. Old Tub

Jim Beam

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

The juice is a tribute to what Jim Beam was — both in the label and in the bottle — before Prohibition. Yes, Jim Beam used to be known as Old Tub Bourbon worldwide. The bourbon is standard Beam that hits an old-school flavor profile. The whiskey is bottled-in-bond at 100 proof and goes through no filtration before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a subtle roughness to this whiskey that draws you in — rough-milled dry corn, raw honey, freshly sawed wood, soft cherry, and vanilla pods. The caramel popcorn sweetness is there but not overdone as the vanilla, woody oak, and very distant spice and cherry come together to create an all-around easy-sipper by the end. As that end lingers, you get a final note of orange citrus that’s counterpointed by a lingering sense of limestone.

Bottom Line:

This is a great bottle at a great price. It’s slightly familiar if you’re into Jim Beam, but that little bit more nuanced. It’s also the perfect mixing bourbon if you’re looking to make some whiskey-forward cocktails.

1. Wild Turkey 101

Screen-Shot-2021-09-07-at-9.34.36-PM.jpg
Campari Group

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

A lot of Wild Turkey’s character comes from the hard and deep char they use on their oak barrels. 101 starts with a high-rye mash bill that leans into the wood and aging, having spent six years in the cask. A little of that soft Kentucky limestone water is added to cool it down a bit before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sweetness that feels like buttery toffee and creamy vanilla with a note of citrus next to charred oak. The taste delivers on those notes and adds more vanilla pudding, peppery rye spice, butterscotch, and a hint of fresh and sweet tobacco leaves. The end is bold and long with the spice, oak, and sweetness lingering on the senses while giving you a warming “Kentucky hug.”

Bottom Line:

There’s just something about this bottle that rings true. It’s not the most mind-blowing bourbon ever (and it’s not meant to be) but it can stand up to bourbons twice and even three times the price. In fact, this is better than some of those bourbons. That’s truly exceptional.

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