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A Whiskey Writer Names His Favorite Kentucky Bourbons Between $70-130

Christopher Osburn has spent the past fifteen years in search of “the best” — or at least his very favorite — sips of whisk(e)y on earth. He’s traveled to over 20 countries testing local spirits, visited more than 50 distilleries around the globe, and amassed a collection of bottles that occupies his entire basement (and infuriates his wife).
In this series, he cracks open his worn “tasting diary” and shares its contents with the masses.

Bourbon is an interesting spirit. This classic American whiskey has a home both on the bottom shelf and on the highest possible one. You can find perfectly suitable bottles of bourbon for under $30. The $50 range holds some real gems that you can easily find nationwide. Beyond that, things get a little rarer and prices tend to be dictated by the intersection where demand meets lack of availability and hype.

Point being, there are a lot of factors at play and finding the best bottle of bourbon to spend your hard-earned dollars on can get downright confusing. To help you make that ever-more-difficult choice, I’m calling out eight bottles of bourbon from Kentucky (not a requirement for bourbon) that I think are worth the money, even if they’re marked up a little bit at retail from the original MSRP. All of these bourbon whiskeys can be purchased (depending on where you live) for less than $130. I stand by them as some of the best bourbons you can drink today.

If you’re feeling inspired, click on the prices and give them a try yourself!

Booker’s

Jim beam

ABV: 63.95%

Average Price: $92 (MSRP: $70)

The Story:

Jim Beam makes some of the most well-known premium bourbons on liquor store shelves. Their Small Batch collection includes Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden’s. But the best of the best is Booker’s. This uncut, unfiltered, high-proof bourbon is exceptionally crafted.

The best part? They release new, unique batches every year. For this review, I sampled its newest release Booker’s Tagalong Batch.

Tasting Notes:

Notes of wood char, spicy cinnamon, caramelized sugar, and a nice, nutty sweetness greet you on the nose. The palate is highlighted by candied cherries, vanilla beans, subtle spices, and just a hint of gentle smoke. The finish is long, filled with warming heat, and surprisingly mellow for a high-proof whiskey.

Bottom Line:

Booker’s is for true bourbon fans. It’s still fairly reasonably priced, there are new and exciting releases every year, and no two releases taste the same. ‎

Larceny Barrel Proof

Larceny

ABV: 61.6%

Average Price: $75 (MSRP: $50)

The Story:

Similar to Booker’s, part of the appeal of Larceny Barrel Proof is the fact that each release is limited-edition. Instead of dropping just once per year, Larceny Barrel Proof drops its non-chill filtered, full barrel proof, wheated bourbon three times per year in January, May, and September.

Each release is unique and carries a different proof.

Tasting Notes:

Before sipping, breathe in the aromas of vanilla beans, earthy oak, almond cookies, and cinnamon sugar. The palate swirls with dried cherries, raisins, pecans, buttery caramel, and just a hint of spice. It all ends with a sweet, warming finish.

Bottom Line:

For the price, it’s hard to beat Larceny Barrel Proof. With the awards piling up for this whiskey, it’s easy to find something to love in every sip.

Stagg Jr.

Buffalo Trace

ABV: 60-67%

Average Price: $100 (MSRP: $60)

The Story:

Stagg Jr. is named after George T. Stagg, one of the most influential bourbon makers in history. Aged for more than nine years, Stagg Jr. is unfiltered, uncut, and unabashedly rich, smooth, and full of flavor.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is filled with scents of chocolate fudge, maple candy, butterscotch, and just a hint of peppery rye. Taking a sip reveals notes of raisins, dried cherries, candied orange peel, subtle spices, and just a kiss of brown sugar and smoke at the very end. It’s a bold, complex, high-proof, and surprisingly sippable bourbon.

Bottom Line:

This is a special bottle of bourbon. Depending on where you live, it might be more difficult to find. If you can find it for around $100, I’m fairly positive you won’t find a better sip.

Weller Antique 107

Buffalo Trace

ABV: 53.5%

Average Price: $100 (MSRP: $50)

The Story:

Weller is one of the most sought-after, often over-priced bottles on bourbon on retail shelves. Most Weller releases are extremely difficult to find at the suggested retail price. Weller Antique 107 hasn’t escaped this fate but is worth it either way.

Like all of Weller’s bourbons, this is a soft, mellow, wheated expression that’s so sippable you might forget it sits at 107 proof.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is loaded with the scents of candied cherries, charred oak, vanilla beans, and just a wisp of spicy cinnamon. The palate is full of flavors that include brown sugar, sticky toffee, vanilla cream, cinnamon sugar, and dried fruits. It all ends with a flavorful combination of caramel, pipe tobacco, and subtle spice.

Bottom Line:

While Weller Antique 107 doesn’t have the reputation of the others in its line, I believe that it’s the best of the bunch.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Heaven Hill

ABV: 60-70%

Average Price: $80 (MSRP: $65)

The Story:

Elijah Craig is noted by many to be the inventor of bourbon whiskey since he was the first person to age it in charred barrels. Their barrel-proof expression is taken straight from the barrel, is completely uncut by the addition of water, and isn’t chill-filtered.

Depending on the release, each one has a different proof with its own slightly unique character.

Tasting Notes:

Before taking your first sip, revel in the aromas of dried fruits, caramel apples, vanilla beans, and wood char. On the palate, you’ll find notes of raisins, almonds, buttery caramel, vanilla beans, and just a hint of sweet cinnamon and cracked black pepper at the very end. It’s truly a complex, lingering expression that deserves to be sipped again and again.

Bottom Line:

One of the best things about Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is the fact that there’s a good chance you can actually find it at your local liquor store or an online retailer without too much of a markup (depending on the store, of course).

After one sip you’ll want to buy it again and again.

Blanton’s Single Barrel

Blanton

ABV: 46.5%

Average Price: $110 (MSRP: $45)

The Story:

Named for whiskey pioneer Albert Bacon Blanton, this expression was first released in 1984. Since then, countless drinkers have become fans of the first-ever single barrel bourbon. While the distillery doesn’t detail the recipe or age statement, we do know it comes from the middle sections of the distillery’s barrelhouse and is renowned for its rich, oaky flavor profile.

Tasting Notes:

When you nose this whiskey, you’ll find scents of candied orange peels, caramelized apples, charred oak, and vanilla beans. The flavor is filled with hints of cinnamon sugar, butterscotch, more vanilla, cloves, and just a hint of citrus zest and subtle spice.

It’s the kind of whiskey that you’ll only want to drink neat or with a splash of water in order to fully enjoy all of the flavors.

Bottom Line:

Blanton’s Single Barrel was once reserved for VIPs visiting the distillery — now it’s available for everyone. That’s pretty good news for you (as long as you can find one for a reasonable price).

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel

Buffalo Trace

ABV: 45%
Average Price: $100 (MSRP: $40)

The Story:

If you’re thinking that my list is littered with Buffalo Trace brands, there’s a good reason for that. They consistently crank out award-winning, high-quality bourbon that people (including myself) love. One of their best is Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel. Named for the former master distiller of the same name, it’s a single barrel expression made from hand-picked barrels selected for their rich, well-rounded, and sweet flavor.

Tasting Notes:

You’ll be treated to aromas of woody oak, pipe tobacco, clove, and sweet, toasted vanilla before your first sip. The palate features hints of dried fruits, vanilla cream, clover honey, sticky toffee, and just a hint of peppery rye at the finish that bring everything together.

Bottom Line:

This expression is often overshadowed by some of the bigger names at Buffalo Trace. It deserves a spot on your home bar cart and should be enjoyed neat or on the rocks. Though don’t be afraid to throw some in your next Manhattan or old fashioned.

E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof

Buffalo Trace

ABV: 62.5-65%

Average Price: $130 (MSRP: $75)

The Story:

Another expression from Buffalo Trace, E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof is a steal at around $120. Comprised of hand-picked bourbon barrels, it’s uncut, unfiltered, and always more than 125 proof. It’s potent, robust, and as memorable as it is flavorful.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all caramelized sugar, toasted vanilla beans, charred oak, ripe cherries, and dried fruits. Sipping it envelopes you in a world of raisins, dried cherries, buttery caramel, sweet cream, and a nice lingering kick of spicy, peppery rye at the end.

Bottom Line:

If you only grab one bottle on this list, make it E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof. It falls on the higher end of our range, but it’s sweet, mellow, rich, and totally worth it.


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

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