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The Best Bottles Of Bourbon Whiskey For Under $20, Ranked

It’s not hard to find a cheap bottle of bourbon in America. It is a little harder to find a good cheap bottle of bourbon, though. Not impossible, mind you — but there’s a lot of rough stuff on those lower shelves. That’s why we’re calling out ten bottles of cheap bourbon to help you make the right decisions when picking out mixing whiskeys for your bar cart.

While there are bourbons that cost less than $10, they’re not really worth our time right now. Our cut-off for cheap bourbon is the lower-shelf whiskeys that are still “straight bourbon” whiskeys. That denotes at least two years of aging in new oak, proofing standards, and bourbon-only juices. Cheap labels with just “bourbon” on them or “blended bourbon whiskey” will be bourbon cut with neutral grain spirits, making them dirt cheap.

We’re only calling out straight bourbons below. Each one should cost less than $20 for a standard bottle. Some of the prices below may inch higher or lower depending on your state’s taxes but those prices won’t shift dramatically. And if you want to give any of these cheap bourbons a shot, click on the prices!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

10. Henry McKenna Bourbon Whiskey

Heaven Hill

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $14

The Whiskey:

Heaven Hill’s Henry McKenna is a classic bourbon dating back to the 19th century that was billed as a “table bourbon.” While this doesn’t reach the heights of the single barrel version under the same brand name, it’s an everyday whiskey that works in any application.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of old sawdust next to hints of corncakes, Caro corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and a touch of caramel. The palate really holds onto those notes with a touch of ground cinnamon next to more of that vanilla, corn syrup, and sawdust. The end is short, hot, and sweet.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t mind-blowing but it’s got enough of its own charm to make this list. It’s also cheap enough to be a solid whiskey to use when practicing your cocktail mixing skills. That said, we wouldn’t really recommend pouring this one into a Glencairn and spending too much time looking for something deeper.

9. Early Times 354

Brown-Forman

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $15

The Whiskey:

Early Times has had a very tumultuous 160+ year history. This release was an early 2010s attempt to bring the brand back to prominence but fizzled out by the middle of the decade. You can still find bottles floating around and… they’re not bad.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of cornmeal, light vanilla, wet oak, and an orange/apple vibe on the nose. The palate isn’t too drastically different, with plenty of that orchard and citrus pushing towards a light dusting of dark spices and more vanilla. The end is short and sweet.

Bottom Line:

If you do find a bottle or two of this, it might be worth storing it away, in case this expression never comes back. Or just drink it and see if you can figure out why it failed at the time. If this were still widely available, it’d probably rank a bit higher but here we are.

8. Benchmark Small Batch Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $17

The Whiskey:

The McAfree brothers were the trio who followed the Great Buffalo Trail from Virginia into Kentucky in the 1770s and founded what would become part of today’s Buffalo Trace. The bourbon in this very cheap bottle is a standard “small batch” though there’s not a whole lot of information on what that entails exactly. Otherwise, this is a standard bourbon that’s made for mixing.

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. 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 leaves you with that leather, oak, and vanilla primarily.

Bottom Line:

This is Buffalo Trace’s other cheap bourbon (along with Ancient Age). This is inching towards “on the rocks” territory but still feels very much like a good, cheap mixer more than anything else.

7. Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey

Luxco

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $13

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.

Bottom Line:

This is complex but will still have that cheaper vibe going on, making it the perfect mixer. A classic highball will bring out more of those mild dark chocolate notes with a hint of orange.

6. Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon

Heaven Hill

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $13

The Whiskey:

This is Heaven Hill’s other gateway bourbon. There are no frills involved. This is standard bourbon that’s aged for three years before blending, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is light, with a sense of cornmeal next to classic bourbon vanilla and butterscotch. That butterscotch sweetness tends to be the defining point as the corn and vanilla fade. The end has a bit of warm spice that works well with the corn syrup sweetness and vanilla.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those bottles that I dismissed for the longest time. Then I tried it in a blind tasting and it popped. Look, it’s not a life-changing bourbon. It’s a really solid mixing bourbon with real nuance for highballs, and that’s enough at this price point.

5. Old Grand-Dad

Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $19

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is made from Beam’s other mash bill. That’d be their high-rye bourbon mash. From there, the whiskey rests for a few years in Beam’s expansive rickhouses before it’s vatted, proofed down with that 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 pepper. The end is short, hot, and leaves you with a cherry vanilla vibe.

Bottom Line:

You really can’t go wrong with good ol’ Old Grand-Dad for mixing. It’s solid as a shooter with a beer back, as well. Beyond that, we’re not really talking about a sipper so stick to cocktails (and highballs).

4. J.T.S. Brown Kentucky Bourbon

Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $14

The Whiskey:

This is a quality whiskey (from Heaven Hill) at a very accessible price point. It’s a bottled-in-bond, meaning it’s from one distilling season, aged for at least four years, and bottled at 100 proof.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear caramel and cream soda sweetness that definitely does draw you in. A touch of dark spice lingers in the background with a bit more of that vanilla-forward cream soda sweetness on the palate, making the sip very easy. The end has a touch more of that spice, followed by a moment of oak buried under the creamy vanilla.

Bottom Line:

This is another bottle that’s grown on me the more I poured it over ice and mixed it with soda water. It’s easy, a little warm, and perfect for highballs thanks to that bottled-in-bond ABV.

3. Jim Beam

Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $13

The Whiskey:

This bourbon has a 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. The sip centers the vanilla and caramel as a distant echo of oak arrives on the tongue. The sip warms, with a bit of spice next to a sweetened caramel corn edge on the fast finish.

Bottom Line:

This is the perfect party bourbon for mixing, shooting, or drinking however you want. It’s super cheap, available literally everywhere booze is sold, and delivers a solid bourbon flavor profile.

2. Wild Turkey Bourbon Whiskey

Campari Group

ABV: 40.5%

Average Price: $16

The Whiskey:

This was devised as a more approachable and mixable version of Wild Turkey 101 (Campari Group). The juice is rye-forward and aged from six to eight years in heavily charred “alligator” barrels. Finally, it’s brought down to proof with that famously soft Kentucky limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

This is truly classic bourbon through and through. The nose has hints of that oak with sweet pears covered in caramel with a slight spice and plenty of vanilla. Hints of buttery kettle corn mix with more pear and maybe a touch of peach too. The spiciness edges towards a Christmas spice boldness as the oak, vanilla, and caramel slowly fade out.

Bottom Line:

No list of cheap bourbon is complete without a little Turkey. This pared-down version of 101 is designed specifically for mixing behind the bar. It’s bold-yet-easy, making it the perfect cocktail base but it also works as an on the rocks sipper in a pinch.

1. Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch

Heaven Hill

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $19

The Whiskey:

So this is a “small batch” in theory and name more than practice. 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:

The whiskey pulls you in with a touch of cornbread dripping with butter next to bourbon vanilla and hints of oak. The taste adds a drop of honey to that buttery cornbread as fruitiness takes on a tart caramel apple edge. The end is short, sweet, full of corn, and a little oaky.

Bottom Line:

This is squarely in the workhorse genre. It’s perfectly suitable as an “on the rocks” sipper, highball base, or cocktail bourbon. You really can’t go wrong with this one and that’s why it’s taking the top spot today.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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