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The Best Bottles Of Bourbon Whiskey Between $30-$40, Ranked

There are a lot of great bourbon whiskeys in the $30 to $40 range. While we’re still pretty far away from the special bottlings, wild single barrels, and unique finishings, this is where it gets pretty hard to find a bad bottle.

For this ranking, I’ve chosen ten bourbons that all cost between $30 and $40 (according to Total Wine in Louisville, Kentucky) and ranked them by taste. Naturally, some of these bottles are going to cost a little more in other regions, but that’s true of every single bottle of booze out there (bourbon or not).

As for the ranking, this is according to my personal palate [which is pretty renowned, FWIW — ed]. Moreover, there are so many bourbons at this price that I could make this list about 50 bourbons long and still not touch on all the decent ones. These are simply the ten that I like best.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months

10. Penelope Bourbon

Penelope Bourbon
Penelope Bourbon

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $34

The Whiskey:

Standard Penelope Bourbon is a great place to start with the brand’s ever-expanding line. This expression is an MGP four-grain bourbon that’s aged a minimum of two years before vatting, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This whiskey opens with a nose full of wet yellow masa next to a buttery Graham cracker crust holding a light vanilla pudding that’s countered by a note of red chili spice and a touch of cinnamon. The taste is very soft and touches on stewed raisins, more of that vanilla, sweet oak, and some orange. The softness leans back into that wet masa while the finish smooths out with vanilla before ending on that chili pepper spice.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t bold, by any stretch. It’s very much a getaway bourbon that’s meant to be enjoyed by passive bourbon drinkers. Still, it works perfectly well on the rocks or in a highball but sort of gets lost in a cocktail.

9. Basil Hayden’s

Basil Hayden's Bourbon
Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price:

The Whiskey: $33

Unlike standard Jim Beam, this mash bill leans more heavily into the rye, creating a solid base for two very closely related bourbons — this and Old Grand-Dad. Basil Hayden’s is made from barrels pulled from specific tricks, “mingled,” cut down to 80 proof, and bottled under the watchful eyes of Jim Beam’s master distillers and blenders.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of sweet yet slightly bitter tea next to rye crust and winter spice next to a flutter of fresh mint on the nose. The palate carries that spice into peppery territory with hints of oak, vanilla, tart apples, and honey alongside light but spicy tobacco lurking in the background. The spice gets a little more peppery as a final spritz of orange oils arrives to help the end slowly fade out towards a lush vanilla-honey end.

Bottom Line:

This is shockingly easy to drink with medium depth. This whiskey is built to be a crowd-pleaser and it really is. It’s hard not to dig this over some rocks.

8. David Nicholson Reserve

David Nicholson Resreve
Luxco

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $33

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from Luxco is a throwback brand that the company is pushing for a bit of a comeback. This expression is a high-rye whiskey they source an undisclosed distillery in Kentucky. The whiskey is cut down to 100 proof and bottled in the old-school bottles.

Tasting Notes:

This opens very nut-forward with a walnut bread vibe with plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg (maybe a hint of clove) next to vanilla extract, a dose of buttery toffee, and a hint of Graham cracker. The palate largely builds on those flavor notes while leaning into the nuttiness and creating a sort of walnut pie with plenty of vanilla-laced whipped cream drizzled with syrupy toffee and just touched with dry brown woody spice. Those dry and woody spices drive the finish towards a soft and thin finish.

Bottom Line:

While this sort of disappears on the finish, it’s pretty solid up front. It’s also well suited for mixing cocktails, thanks to that higher ABV.

7. James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon

James E. Pepper Bourbon
James E. Pepper

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $32

The Whiskey:

James E. Pepper whiskey has a long and tumultuous history as a brand that was on top of the whiskey world until the late 1950s when everything started falling apart for bourbon. The brand was resurrected in the 2010s and currently sources its high-rye bourbon — 60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and four percent malted barley — from MGP in Indiana and Bardstown Bourbon Company in Kentucky. That three to four-year-old juice is vatted and then proofed with water from the old James E. Pepper limestone water well.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with hints of dry cloves soaked in fresh honey with touches of vanilla bean, cinnamon-stewed pear, a hint of popcorn, and mild chocolate powder. The palate adds a nutty base to the chocolate as more warming spice kicks in and leads towards an echo of wet grain, damp wicker, and old vanilla pods. The finish sweetens again thanks to that chocolate-nut vibe as a spice kicks back up with plenty of cloves, a hint of orange marmalade, and vanilla-laced tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is really solid bourbon for this price point. This is also an excellent mixing bourbon for cocktails thanks to that higher ABV and the clarity of those flavor notes.

6. Smooth Ambler Old Scout

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon
Smooth Ambler

ABV: 49.5%

Average Price: $33

The Whiskey:

Old Scout is MGP’s classic high rye bourbon — 60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and four percent malt barley — that’s aged for five years. The juice is batched in small quantities and proofed down with West Virginia’s Appalachian water.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a soft masa vibe with a mix of Tex-Mex spices (think chili powder and a hint of cumin and garlic powder) that’s countered by cedar park and chocolate-laced tobacco leaves (the nose takes me straight back to my favorite childhood Tex-Mex joint). The taste veers more towards a classic bourbon with cherry tobacco and bales of damp straw next to a smooth vanilla foundation cinnamon-infused dark chocolate and a touch of dry oak. The finish lingers for a bit as vanilla toffees, a smidge of marshmallow, and spicy cherry tobacco round everything out.

Bottom Line:

That Tex-Mex note really drives home how uniquely different bottlers can manipulate MGP’s bourbons. This is just interesting and damn easy to drink, especially if it’s Taco Night.

5. Legent Bourbon

Beam Suntory

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $34

The Whiskey:

This bottle from Beam Suntory marries Kentucky bourbon, California wine, and Japanese whisky blending in one bottle. Legent is classic Kentucky bourbon made by bourbon legend Fred Noe at Beam that’s finished in both French oak that held red wine and Spanish sherry casks. The juice is then blended by whisky blending legend Shinji Fukuyo at Suntory.

Tasting Notes:

Plummy puddings with hints of nuts mingle with vinous berries, oaky spice, and a good dose of vanilla and toffee on the nose. The palate expands on the spice with more barky cinnamon and dusting of nutmeg while the oak becomes sweeter and the fruit becomes dried and sweet. The finish is jammy-yet-light with plenty of fruit, spice, and oak lingering on the senses.

Bottom Line:

This is a fantastic cocktail bourbon. That flavor profile really stands up to mixing. Though, this is a pretty solid on the rocks sipper too.

4. High West American Prairie

High West

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $32

The Whiskey:

American Prairie Bourbon is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after sourced whiskeys. The whiskey in the bottle is a blend of two to 13-year-old barrels rendered from high-rye, low-rye alongside undisclosed whiskeys, some of which are sourced from MGP. The release supports the American Prairie Reserve by highlighting the project and supporting it financially.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with caramel apples next to new leather, vanilla pudding, and sweet buttered corn with a touch of salt. The palate has a nougat svelteness next to creamed corn and Southern biscuits dripping with butter and honey. The mid-palate to finish starts to dry out with vanilla husks and cedar bark but then veers into apple candy.

Bottom Line:

This is a damn fine dram of whiskey for around $32 (though it may cost more where you live). This works well over the rocks but really stands up to mixing in classic cocktails. It’s versatile!

3. Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon

Balcones

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $36

The Whisky:

This is a true Texas corn-to-glass experience. The whiskey is made from Texas grains and corn in old-school stills and then matured under the warm Waco, Texas sun in Balcones’ own warehouse. The results are small-batch blended, slightly proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

You get a real sense of kettle corn covered in caramel next to hints of oak, sweet apples, and worn leather. The taste veers away from these notes slightly, with pecan pie topped with vanilla cream, more of that leather and oak, and a touch of honey. The end is chewy and lingers as almost-spicy tobacco arrives late to accentuate the oak.

Bottom Line:

This is unique and very drinkable. While I prefer to mix with this (especially Sazeracs or boulevardiers), I do drink it over a tumbler full of rocks from time to time too, especially when I’m looking for something different.

2. New Riff Bottled In Bond

New Riff Bottled In Bond Bourbon
New Riff Distilling

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $34

The Whiskey:

This four-year-old whiskey is rendered from a mash bill of 65 percent corn, 30 percent rye, and five percent malted barley. That whiskey is then blended under the bottled-in-bond laws and proofed down to 100 proof before bottling in New Riff’s flashy bottles.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a rush of cinnamon rolls with plenty of butter, brown sugar, spice, and an echo of sourdough next to oily vanilla, baked apple, and a hint of firewood on the nose. The palate leans into baked apples with more wintry spices, dry vanilla pudding packets, deep caramel, a touch of sweet cedar, and apple-laced cotton candy. The finish leans into the winter spices with sharp cinnamon next to lush vanilla, a hint more of that sweet cedar, and a note of spicy yet dry tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This really punches far above its class and price point (and will likely cost more where you are). That aside, this is a legitimately solid sipper, especially on a rock or two, while also shining in cocktails.

1. Maker’s Mark 101

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $36

The Whisky:

This is Maker’s Mark classic wheated bourbon that’s bottled at a higher proof to bring about a “richer flavor.” Well, that’s what the label says anyway. This is classic Maker’s that’s treated with a little less of that limestone water to let the barrel techniques shine a bit more while still holding onto the Maker’s vibe.

Tasting Notes:

This is a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in stewed apples that have been drizzled with extra caramel. The taste really focuses on that caramel with hints of oak next to roasted almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, dry wicker, and a drop of soft mineral water. The end lingers while it fades through salted caramel apples towards a mellow floral spiciness with a dried reed finish and a touch of vanilla tobacco chew.

Bottom Line:

This was a “Traveler’s Exclusive” up until the pandemic. Now you can find it on most shelves, making this one finally accessible to the masses. All of that aside, this is an excellent sipper or mixer, which is all you can really ask for at this price point.

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