Life

The Best Bourbons Under $50 (That You Can Actually Find), Power Ranked

There are a lot of great bourbons out there. And while we cover a lot of it here, a fair share of those bottles are pretty hard to find if you’re not in a specific region of the country (or able to visit distilleries themselves). Craft bourbons do make it out of their states but it’s often a real crapshoot. A famous Texas whiskey might only also be available in New York and, say, Florida. That’s why today we’re going to call out the best bourbons that you can generally find nationwide.

Before we dive in, we’re saying “generally find nationwide” because there are few bottles that are actually in all 50 states. Utah alone has so many laws and regulations that even ubiquitous bottles often don’t make it to those shelves. These are the bottles you should be able to find at your liquor store but there may well be one or two that are not heavily stocked in your local region for a million different reasons — America is freakin’ vast.

All of that aside, these are all bottles that are affordable as well. They all ring under $50, meaning you don’t have to fret over whether these are “worth” the price of entry. Sound good? Let’s dive in!

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

10. Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged

Jim Beam

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This Beam expression replaced the old Black Label 8 Year. The juice in this bottle is aged longer than your average four-year-old Beam, but there is no age statement letting us know exactly how long that is. The best way to think of it is that it’s aged for as long as it needs to be, according to the distilling team, and then vatted, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There are core notes of vanilla, caramel, popcorn, and soft oak with a hint of orchard fruit that leans cherry. Those notes are further refined on the palate as the vanilla gets creamy the caramel and popcorn blend into a fairground treat, a hint of apple peel arrives and the cherry is just touched by tobacco. The end isn’t too long but sticks with you as the soft oak and cherry tobacco take on a moment of winter spice.

Bottom Line:

This is a great place to start. You can generally find Beam products everywhere you go. And this is the elevation of the standard White Label Beam you should be looking for. This is complex yet accessible while still having a nice and easy depth. It works nicely on the rocks too.

9. Gentleman Jack

Jack Daniel

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $34

The Whiskey:

Gentleman Jack is classic Jack — 80 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and eight percent rye — that’s twice filtered through sugar maple charcoal. First, the hot spirit drips through ten feet of sugar maple charcoal and then goes into barrels for a long rest. Then, the aged whiskey goes through another filter, this time through three feet of sugar maple charcoal before vatting, proofing down with de-ionized water, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is like candy on the nose with cherry coughdrops, banana cream pie with a lard crust and plenty of soft vanilla whipped cream, white cotton candy, apple Jolly Ranchers, nutmeg and clove, and a hint of cedar. The palate layers that cedar with spicy cherry tobacco with a good dose of dark chocolate powder next to more vanilla, leather, and apple candy. The finish rolls between the leather and spiced cherry tobacco and the super soft and lush vanilla creaminess.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those bottles that shouldn’t taste as good as it does thanks to that 80 proof, but here we are. This is smooth with a nice depth of classic flavor notes. Overall, this is a great option for both cocktails and on the rocks sipping that takes standard Old No. 7 Jack to the next level.

8. Four Roses Small Batch

Kirin Brewery Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $47

The Whiskey:

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a blend of four whiskeys. The blend is split evenly between the high and mid-ryes with a focus on “slight spice” and “rich fruit” yeasts. The whiskey is then blended, cut with soft Kentucky water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Soft and sweet apple and cherry woods greet with a good dose of sour red berries dusted with brown winter spices, especially clove and nutmeg. The palate leans into soft and salted caramel with a hint of those berries underneath while the spices get woodier and a thin line of green sweetgrass sneaks in. The finish is silky and boils down to blackberry jam with a good dose of winter spice, old wood, and a hint of vanilla tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is a very easy drinking bottle of whiskey. I like to use it for simple yet delicious cocktails mostly, but it works perfectly well on the rocks too. The only reason it’s not a little higher is that there are slightly cheaper and slightly better whiskeys to come.

7. Evan Williams Small Batch

Heaven Hill

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $19

The Whiskey:

So this is a “small batch” in theory. The expression is a marrying of 200 barrels of bourbon from Heaven Hill’s warehouses. That juice is then proofed down to 45 proof and bottled as is.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla and leather lead the way with a distinct note of fresh and warm cornbread that’s just touched by an oak note. The palate holds onto that caramel apple flavor profile while the cornbread makes a very buttery and honey-forward return with a light hint of egg nog spices. The end is short-ish and dances through that honey-soaked and buttery cornbread, rich vanilla, caramel apple, and oak towards a final touch of brown spice.

Bottom Line:

This might be the best expression of Evan Williams there is. It certainly gives Evan Williams 12-Year, Bottled-in-Bond, and Single Barrel a run for their money. What I know for sure is that this is the best bottle under $20 on this list. This is just good, standard, classic bourbon with no frills but plenty of depth. You can’t beat it.

6. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

This is the whiskey that heralded a new era of bourbon in 1999. Famed Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee came out of retirement to create this bourbon to celebrate the renaming of the George T. Stagg distillery to Buffalo Trace when Sazerac bought the joint. The rest, as they say, is history, especially since this has become a touchstone bourbon for the brand.

Tasting Notes:

Classic notes of vanilla come through next to a dark syrup sweetness, a flourish of fresh mint, and a raw leather that veers towards raw steak on the nose. The palate cuts through the sweeter notes with plenty of spices — like clove and star anise — next to a hint of tart berries underneath it all. The end is long, velvety, and really delivers on the vanilla and spice.

Bottom Line:

This is probably going to be the most hit-or-miss bottle on the list in two ways. One, I’m not a huge fan of that raw leather nose but I can get past it. Two, this is going to be a little more fleeting a find in some markets. In some regions, this will be stacked in cases on the floor while in others there’ll be an empty spot on the shelf where this was.

Overall, this is worth grabbing when you see it stocked at your local shop thanks to it having a great and classic bourbon flavor profile.

5. Knob Creek 9 Bourbon

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $46 (one-liter)

The Whiskey:

This is Jim Beam’s small batch entry point into the wider world of Knob Creek. The juice is the low-rye mash that’s aged for nine years in new oak in Beam’s vast warehouses. The right barrels are then mingled and cut down to 100 proof before being bottled in new, wavy bottles.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is a balanced mix of bourbon vanilla, cinnamon spice, and fresh popcorn just touched with browned butter all next to a hint of mild cherry. The palate is a soft mix of almond shells, orange oils, and fresh cinnamon rolls cut with plenty of vanilla icing. The mid-palate has an old wicker chair vibe with a hint of must to it next to a touch of old leather that ends up on a dry cherry tobacco leaf.

Bottom Line:

This might be the most classic of the classic bourbons on the list. This is the easy-going and elevated sibling of standard Jim Beam with a serious depth and nuance to it. Pour this over a rock and you’ll be set.

4. Maker’s Mark Whisky

Beam Suntory

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $24

The Whisky:

This is Maker’s signature expression. It’s made from red winter wheat with corn and malted barley and then aged in seasoned Ozark oak for six to seven years. This expression’s juice is then built from only 150 barrels (making this a small batch, if you want to call it that). Those barrels are blended, proofed, bottled, and dipped in red wax.

Tasting Notes:

This has a super soft nose with mild notes of sour cherry next to light touches of dry grains, supple vanilla, and a hint of caramel. The palate is classic with a salted caramel vibe leading to apple pie filling cut with plenty of dark spices (think cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) next to smooth dark fruits and a whisper of wet granite. The end lessens the palate toward a thin/light finish with notes of dark cherry, soft spices, and a hint of dry sweetgrass.

Bottom Line:

Standard Maker’s Mark is a killer bottle at a great price. This might not be the mind-blowing whiskey in the world, but it gets the job done as both a great on-the-rocks pour and the perfect Manhattan base.

3. Wild Turkey Longbranch

Wild Turkey

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

A few years back, Wild Turkey brought on Matthew McConaughey to be the brand’s Creative Director and create his own whiskey. The product of that partnership was launched in 2018. The juice is a wholly unique whiskey for Wild Turkey, thanks to the Texas Mesquite charcoal filtration the hot juice goes through. The bourbon then goes into oak for eight long years before it’s proofed and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Christmas spices meet oily vanilla and subtle caramel up top. The palate adds orange oils and buttery toffee to the mix, as the spices edge upwards on the palate, next to a creamy vanilla pudding body. That velvet texture builds throughout, with toasted oak and cedar notes as a hint of sweet firepit smoke arrives on the long and satisfying finish.

Bottom Line:

This is the most unique bottle on the list. This could have easily been standard Turkey 101 for $25. In fact, go and buy that. It’s great. But this list needed a bourbon that does something different on it in the top three. There’s a variation on a theme in this whiskey that just works. It’s also the perfect campfire whiskey for all-night sipping, which is ideal for summer.

2. George Dickel Bottled-In-Bond Spring 2007

Screen-Shot-2021-08-19-at-4.35.35-PM.jpg
Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

Nicole Austin has been killing it with these bottled-in-bond releases from George Dickel. This release is a whiskey that was warehoused in spring 2007. 14 years later, this juice was bottled at 100 proof (as per the law) and sent out to the wide world where it received much adoration.

Tasting Notes:

This is fairly mild with dashes of woody maple syrup next to pecans, Hostess Apple Pies, old boot leather, and a hint of cherry protein powder. The palate has a rich and lush vanilla pudding vibe that leads to a marrying of that pecan and apple pie before dry cherry arrives with hints of dark cacao powder and black licorice Necco Wafers create a counterbalance. The finish gets creamy with a line of browned butter and baked vanilla pudding drizzled with brandied cherry sauce and dusted with that dark cacao powder before a final hint of dry yet soft and sweet cedar comes in on the very end.

Bottom Line:

Honestly, these last two could have been tied for first place. Each one offers something unique. So … it’d be up to you which one to pick. Overall, this is a very lauded and beloved bourbon from Tennessee that lives up to every bit of hype and award it receives.

1. Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Michters Distillery

ABV: 45.7%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

Michter’s really means the phrase “small batch” here. The tank they use to marry their hand-selected eight-year-old bourbons can only hold 20 barrels, so that’s how many go into each small-batch bottling. The blended juice is then proofed with Kentucky’s famously soft limestone water and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a hint of ripe peach next to maple syrup, vanilla pancakes, and a hint of cotton candy. The palate leans into the vanilla cakes as the stonefruit takes on a grilled vibe next to peppery spice, fatty cream, and a touch of singed marshmallow. The finish leans into wintry spices as the stonefruit almost becomes smoked while toffee and vanilla cake counterpoint everything. The end has a nice layer of old cedar next to maple/vanilla tobacco leaves.

Bottom Line:

This whiskey feels like it’s a quintessential Kentucky bourbon. It’s the sort of bourbon that gets a Scotch drinker hooked on the American style. In the end, it’s just really good juice that transcends by having a perfect profile on the palate. But there’s no fussiness or overzealousness.

This is easy and fun while still feeling rewarding to your palate. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it scored our #1 slot.

×