I write about a lot of bourbons for UPROXX. One aspect that always sort of bugs me in the back of my head is that while there’s a metric shit-ton of bourbon these days, much of it is not widely available. Like at all. In some cases, some of the best bourbons are not available outside of very small markets/circumstances. That can be frustrating. I get it. So, I’m lifting the veil and calling out great bourbon that you should actually be able to find at your local store (grocer or liquor store, depending).
There is some method to my madness here. I’m going to call out bourbons that are all under $50 but I’m avoiding some of the basic stuff like Wild Turkey 101 or Jim Beam Black Label. They’re budget bourbons that are fine but not great. I’m also avoiding releases like Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Evan Williams Single Barrel. Both are great for sure but Buffalo Trace Bourbon is very hit-and-miss due to strict allocation and Evan Williams Single Barrel is a Kentucky-only release now.
This is about great bourbon that you, dear reader, can actually find at Costco or Ralph’s or Total Wine or whatever… That said, some of these might not be on every single shelf nationwide (looking at you, Utah). But they will be on most shelves.
I’ve also ranked these great bourbons. Look, some just slap a bit harder than others with the top-ranking half of this list truly hits high marks. Let’s dive in!
12. George Dickel Bourbon Whisky Aged 8 Years
Average Price: $34
The whisky in the bottle is the same Dickel Tennessee whiskey but pulled from barrels that leaned more into classic bourbon flavor notes instead of Dickel’s iconic Tennessee whisky notes. The barrels are a minimum of eight years old before they’re batched. The whiskey is then cut down to a manageable 90-proof and bottled.
Nose: This nose is classic, with rich vanilla next to dry spicy tobacco leaves next to apple hand pies with sugar icing made with plenty of dark spices and butter.
Palate: The palate has a bran vibe that hints at a white Necco Wafer with a ripe white peach fresh off the tree with a hint of ginger bite to it.
Finish: The end circles back around to a vanilla wafer with nutmeg, orange zest, and a twinge of dark chocolate sauce leading to a dry and slightly molded wicker chair sitting in the sun.
This is a really solid workhorse bourbon. It’s a great, easy backyard sipper, cocktail base, or on-the-rocks pour — basically, this is a quintessential table whiskey.
11. Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $16
Look, Heaven Hill makes great whiskey, especially inexpensive bottled in bonds. This “b-i-b” is tailored for the Evan Williams flavor profile. Still, this is Heaven Hill, so we’re talking about the same mash bill, same warehouses, and same blending team as beloved bourbons like Elijah Craig and Heaven Hill releases. This is simply built to match a higher-end Evan Williams vibe.
Nose: There’s a lovely nose at play with soft taco mix spice next to creamy vanilla, caramel-dipped cherries, a hint of pear skins, and plenty of nutmeg.
Palate: The palate has a minor note of cornbread muffins next to cherry-vanilla tobacco with a dash of leather and toffee.
Finish: The end leans into some fresh gingerbread with a vanilla frosting next to hints of pear candy cut with cinnamon and nutmeg.
This is classic, cheap bourbon. You’re not going to have your socks blown off by this one, but it will be very satisfying. This is a bourbon lover’s bourbon at an amazing price point.
10. Bulleit Bourbon 10 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $45
This is classic (sourced) Bulleit Bourbon that’s aged up to 10 years before it’s blended and bottled. The barrels are hand-selected to really amplify those classic “Bulleit” flavors that make this brand so damn accessible (and beloved) in the first place.
Nose: There’s a lot going on with butter and spicy stewed apples, maple syrup, Christmas cakes full of nuts and dried fruit, and a hint of savory herbs all pinging through your nose.
Palate: The palate brings about smooth and creamy vanilla with plenty of butter toffee, sourdough crust, more X-mas spice, cedar bark, and a hint of dried roses.
Finish: The finish is long, warming, and really embraces the toffee and spice.
This is just good. I like it as an easy, everyday sipper over some rocks or a go-to Manhattan base.
9. Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $39
A few years back, Wild Turkey brought on Matthew McConaughey to be the brand’s Creative Director and create his own whiskey (though they’ve since parted ways). The product of that partnership was launched in 2018. The whiskey is a wholly unique whiskey for Wild Turkey, thanks to the Texas Mesquite charcoal filtration the hot juice goes through. The whiskey then goes into oak for eight long years before it’s proofed and bottled.
Nose: Christmas spices meet oily vanilla, subtle caramel, and a whisper of singed cedar bark up top.
Palate: The palate adds orange oils and buttery toffee to the mix, as the edge of the spices upwards on the palate, next to a creamy vanilla pudding body.
Finish: 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.
This is a bold whiskey that hits just right. It’s great in a cocktail but can easily be used as an everyday sipper over some rocks.
8. Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $24
Each of these Jim Beam bottlings is pulled from single barrels that hit just the right spot of taste, texture, and drinkability, according to the master distillers at Beam. That means this whiskey is pulled from less than 1% of all barrels in Beam’s warehouses, making this a very special bottle at a bafflingly affordable price.
Nose: Vanilla pound cake and salted caramel are countered by spicy cherry tobacco, mulled wine vibes, and dark chocolate cut with orange zest and a hint of corn husk.
Palate: The palate brings in some floral honey sweetness and more orange oils with a sticky toffee pudding feel next to more spicy cherry tobacco and a hint of coconut cream pie.
Finish: The end amps up the cherry with a little more sweetness than spice before salted dark chocolate tobacco folds into dry sweetgrass and cedar bark before a hint of fountain Cherry Coke pops on the very back end with a sense of sitting in an old wicker rocking chair.
This was just good. It’s clearly built whiskey with a profile that goes deep. It was also one of the easiest sipping whiskeys on the shelf. You can easily sip this neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite cocktail.
7. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $49
This expression takes standard Woodford Bourbon and gives it a finishing touch. The bourbon is blended and moved into new barrels that have been double-toasted but only lightly charred. The whiskey spends a final nine months resting in those barrels before proofing and bottling.
Nose: There’s a welcoming aroma of marzipan, blackberry, toffee, and fresh honey next to a real sense of pitchy, dry firewood.
Palate: The taste drills down on those notes as the sweet marzipan becomes more choco-hazelnut, the berries become increasingly dried and apple-y, the toffee becomes almost burnt, and the wood softens to a cedar bark.
Finish: A rich spicy and chewy tobacco arrives late as the vanilla gets super creamy and the fruit and honey combine on the slow fade.
This is another bourbon that’s just good. Pour it over some rocks or mix it into your favorite cocktail. Either way, you’ll be all set.
6. Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 9 Years
Buy Here: $45 (one-liter)
This is Jim Beam’s small batch entry point into the wider world of Knob Creek. The juice is the low-rye mash 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.
Nose: The nose on this feels classic with a bold sense of rich vanilla pods, cinnamon sharpness, buttered and salted popcorn, and a good dose of cherry syrup with a hint of cotton candy.
Palate: The palate mixes almond, orange, and vanilla into cinnamon sticky buns with a hint of sour cherry soda that leads to a nice Kentucky hug on the mid-palate.
Finish: That warm hug fades toward black cherry root beer, old leather boots, porch wicker, and a sense of dried cherry/cinnamon tobacco packed into an old pine box.
5. Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $27
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.
Nose: 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.
Palate: 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.
Finish: 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.
This leans into unique flavor notes that go beyond basic Kentucky bourbon cherry and spice. There are botanicals, herbs, orchard fruits, and florals. It’s complex but didn’t lose any of its basic characteristics to be unique. Get this if you’re looking for something a little different on the palate amidst your regular bourbon routine.
4. Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Partially Finished in Wine & Sherry Casks
Average Price: $37
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 whiskey is then blended by whisky-blending legend Shinji Fukuyo at Suntory.
Nose: Plummy puddings with hints of nuts mingle with vinous berries, oaky spice, and a good dose of vanilla and toffee on the nose.
Palate: 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.
Finish: The finish is jammy yet light with plenty of fruit, spice, and oak lingering on the senses.
This sherry-finished bourbon is spot on. The whiskey has a great texture and depth, making it a great sipper or cocktail base. If you want to make a great Manhattan or just have an everyday easy sipper around, get this bottle.
3. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
Average Price: $42
This special release from Maker’s Mark is their classic wheated bourbon turned up a few notches. The batch is made from no more than 19 barrels of whiskey. Once batched, that whiskey goes into the barrel at cask strength with no filtering, just pure whiskey-from-the-barrel vibes.
Nose: Burnt caramel candies and lush vanilla lead the way on the nose with hints of dry straw, sour cherry pie, and spiced apple cider with a touch of eggnog lushness.
Palate: The palate has a sense of spicy caramel with a vanilla base that leads to apricot jam, southern biscuits, and a flake of salt with a soft mocha creaminess.
Finish: The end is all about the buzzy tobacco spiciness with a soft vanilla underbelly and a hint of cherry syrup.
This is delicious whiskey. It’s so clearly a good and lush bourbon, even the newcomer can taste the excellence (and the flavors are dialed, which makes analyzing it a little more clear-cut). Get some!
2. Jack Daniel’s Bonded Tennessee Whiskey
Average Price: $31
This whiskey is made from Jack’s classic mash of 80% corn, 12% barley, and 8% rye before it’s twice distilled and run through Jack’s long Lincoln County sugar maple charcoal filtration process. The spirit then goes into the barrel for at least four years — per bonded law — before it’s batched, cut down with a little water, and bottled.
Nose: The nose draws you in with Cherry Jolly Ranchers next to sweet cedar bark braided with old strands of leather and orange-laced tobacco leaves while a hint of vanilla wafer and general “health food store” vibes underneath it all.
Palate: The palate feels like warm apple pie on a sunny day with the best vanilla ice cream on top as layers of eggnog nutmeg and creaminess move toward a Cream of Wheat vibe.
Finish: Some apple wood chips for a smoker and a hint of almond shells pop on the finish.
This has no business tasting this good at this price point. The lesson here is that higher proof Jack is better Jack, especially if you’re looking for a killer cocktail base or easy sipper.
1. Michter’s US *1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $46
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.
Nose: The nose on this is very fruity with a mix of bruised peach, red berries (almost like in a cream soda), and apple wood next to a plate of waffles with brown butter and a good pour of maple syrup that leads to a hint of cotton candy.
Palate: The sweetness ebbs on the palate as vanilla frosting leads to grilled peaches with a crack of black pepper next to singed marshmallows.
Finish: The end is plummy and full of rich toffee next to a dash of cedar bark and vanilla tobacco.
This is an essential bourbon whiskey. It’s also the best mixing bourbon on the list for simple, whiskey-forward cocktails. That said, it works just as well over some ice in a rocks glass. You really can’t beat the depth of this beautiful whiskey from top to bottom.