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The Best Value-Per-Dollar Bourbon Whiskeys, Ranked

Finding the best bang-for-your-buck bourbon in an overcrowded booze aisle is no easy task. There are ten-year-old bourbons on the shelf that cost $50 next to bourbons of the same age that cost $200. Is there a difference? Quite often, yes. Is it a difference that’s worth $150? Well… that’s debatable.

Some single barrel bourbons will reach into the hundreds of dollars while others sit on shelves for around $30. It’s a minefield with little rhyme or reason — on the surface, anyway.

To help you make the best choices and get the most value for your dollar when buying bourbon, we thought we’d call out ten bottles that outkick their coverage. These are expressions that we think are either worth more than their low, low price or offer something unique and special at a very affordable price point. Are they cheap? Not really. Are they worth every penny and then some? Bingo.

Now let’s dive in! Click on the prices if you want to give any of these a shot for yourself.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021 (So Far)

10. Old Tub

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

Last year, Jim Beam released their “distillery-only” Old Tub expression on the national market. The juice is an unfiltered and higher ABV version of classic Beam, giving you more of the brand’s depth in each sip of whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of cornmeal next to sawdust, oily vanilla, and a hint of fresh honey sweetness that entices the senses. The sip takes on a caramel corn sweetness vibe as the vanilla carries you towards sweeter woods and cherry fruits. The end is short and sweet (like most Beam) with a distant wisp of orange oils next to a slight minerality.

Value For Dollar:

When it comes to Jim Beam, you can’t really go wrong with any pick if you’re looking for value. The difference between this and, say, standard Beam is that it’s both better tasting and more refined. This is a real-deal sipper for around 20 bucks in a world where $20 bourbons are rarely good for more than mixing (yes, even Old Grand-Dad).

9. Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea Cask Strength

Castle Brands

ABV: 59.8%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

Jefferson’s Ocean is an experiment in finishing that’s pretty unique. The blenders pull in six to eight-year-old whiskeys sourced from four Kentucky distilleries. They marry those barrels and then re-barrel the whiskey, load them onto a ship, and sail those barrels around the world for almost a year. The best of those barrels are married again and bottled at cask strength with no additional fussing.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear crème brûlée vibe on the nose with touches of orange zest, cinnamon toast, and slightly singed marshmallow. The taste dives into salted caramel notes with hints of Almond Joys covered in dark chocolate next to a savory fruit edge. That fruit turns figgy as the end fades slowly, hitting on spicy tobacco warmth and a final touch of fresh mint.

Value For Dollar:

When it comes to bourbons that have a “gimmick,” you can be forgiven for rolling your eyes or skipping to the next bottle. But this smashes all pre-conceptions about gimmicky aging by delivering a great sipping whiskey for under $100. This punches way above its weight class while maintaining a beautiful and unique drinking experience.

8. George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond

Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

Head Distiller Nicole Austin has been killing it with these bottled-in-bond releases from George Dickel. This year’s release is a whiskey that was warehoused in the fall of 2008. Eleven years later, this whiskey was bottled at 100 proof (as per the law) and sent out to the wide world where it received much adoration.

Tasting Notes:

This bottle exudes a flaky-crusted pecan pie jacked up on maple syrup, sprinkled with dried apple, and flush with rich vanilla. The taste delivers on those promises with a subtle maple syrup sweetness balanced with roasted nuts, more vanilla, and another dose of that earthy/spicy dried fruit. The end is slow and pointed with spicy apple pies, brown butter richness, and another shot of that vanilla leading towards a hint of charred oak.

Value For Dollar:

Just to be clear, all Tennessee whiskey is bourbon from the jump (though not all bourbon is Tennessee whiskey). This release grows on me every year with the most recent release hitting it out of the park. Yes, there are bottled-in-bond whiskeys out there that are a little cheaper, but this is another whiskey that could be $80 (or more) on every shelf and no one would bat an eye — yet here it is for under $50.

7. Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey

Green Brier Distilling

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

Nelson’s Green Brier is a heritage brand that has a great comeback story. The family’s shingle was killed by Prohibition until descendants of the former owners stumbled upon the old distillery. Now, they’re making one of the finest, wheated Tennessee whiskeys at one of the most accessible price points of any whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

Cinnamon stewed apples mix with oily vanilla and a sweet edge of caramel. The spice carries through the taste with buttery cinnamon toast feel next to more tart apples, plenty of that caramel, wet brown sugar, and a small dusting of dark cacao and cherries. The end takes its time as it dances back through the cinnamon, cherry, chocolate, spice, and brown sugar towards a final note of wood.

Value For Dollar:

Sticking with Tennessee and all the great things happening there in whiskey, Nelson’s Green Brier continues to shine as a great craft whiskey and just all-around solid workhorse whiskey. The fact that you can get a craft bottling of this caliber at about $30 (the same price as huge corporate whiskeys with a lot less going on in the bottle) is a bit of a miracle.

6. Eagle Rare 10

Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

Eagle Rare 10 is a marriage of at minimum ten-year-old Buffalo Trace whiskeys. Each barrel is hand-selected to bring in classic bourbon flavors that also feel deeply rooted and unique to the brand.

Tasting Notes:

This one opens boldly with orange rind and maple syrup next to touches of honey, worn leather, and toffee. Then the oak char and vanilla kick in, giving it a classic old-leather-chair-in-a-smoky-library vibe, as hints of mint lead back towards the toffee. When you add a little water, there’s a dark chocolate bar with almonds that arrives. The finish is short but sweet in all the right ways.

Value For Dollar:

I really struggled with putting anything from Sazerac on this list, especially from Buffalo Trace. But this whiskey is just too good to deny. The fact that you can still score this bottle for less than $50 is a miracle in and of itself when you look at the bonkers markups Buffalo Trace allocations get at retail.

This whiskey delivers way more than they charge for it, so here it is.

5. Michter’s US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Chatham Imports, Inc.

ABV: 45.7%

Average Price: $48

The Whiskey:

Michter’s is a revival brand that has relied on sourced juice but now is operating its own distillery and laying down its own barrels. The whiskey in this bottle is a blend of 24 or fewer barrels of up to eight-year-old bourbons. It’s an entry-point bourbon that’s a sour mash, small-batched, award-winning master class in bourbon whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

This smells, tastes, and feels classic — with an opening of rich bourbon vanilla beans next to almost creamy caramel with a nice dose of cellared oak. The taste veers into sweet stone fruits with a touch more creaminess leading into the vanilla as mild spice peeks in. The end is slow, oaky, creamy, fruity, and features a touch of smoked popcorn when you add a little water.

Value For Dollar:

Having just sipped on this again recently, it’s always a bit of a wonder how well-built this bourbon is. It feels and tastes like it was made in a way that honors all the bourbons that came before while still feeling fresh and kind of fun.

4. Woodinville Straight Bourbon

Woodinville Distilling

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $37

The Whiskey:

This craft whiskey is a grain/corn-to-glass Washington experience. The grains are all grown near the distillery. The oak is toasted and aged outside for 18 months before the hot juice goes in for maturation. After around five years, the whiskey is blended, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Dark fruits meld with Christmas spices and plenty of brown sugar, vanilla, and nuts leading towards an almost dark rum nose. The palate delivers but dials into butter-fried bananas, creamy vanilla pudding, rich toffee, and a hint of toasted wood. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and brings about a mild spicy chewiness and more of that toasty oak with a nice return of the toffee.

Value For Dollar:

A craft bourbon for under $40 that’s beloved, award-winning, and delicious is harder to find than you’d think. This bourbon is mature and built in a way that both reminds of how great bourbon can be while pushing it somewhere new. There’s none of that young craft bourbon greenness you find with other crafty distillers around the country. This is fully-formed and on track to become a classic of the style.

3. Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon

Balcones Distilling

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

This is a true Texas grain/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, slight 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.

Value For Dollar:

This craft bourbon is so goddamn unique when it comes to bourbon that it should cost twice as much. Yet, here we are with a $30 bottle of truly distinct and boundary-pushing bourbon that you can find almost nationwide. Those points almost pushed this to number one on this list but alas, unique doesn’t always mean best (though this is pretty close).

2. Evan Williams Single Barrel

Heaven Hill

ABV: 43.3%

Average Price: $32

The Whiskey:

There’s a lot of love around this single barrel expression from Heaven Hill. The craftspeople at the company search through their warehouses for the exact right single barrels that meet their high standards. Those barrels are then proofed with that soft Kentucky limestone water and bottled with the year of distillation on the bottle alongside the barrel number.

Tasting Notes:

The nose features almost bitter caramel next to salty popped corn, oak spice, and flutter of vanilla. The sip is like velvet with caramel apples next to chocolate oranges and a bit of spicy tobacco. There’s a buzz and chewiness to the end that leans very easy-drinking, while the flavors slowly roll back through the spice and wood.

Value For Dollar:

This was another tough pick. Is Evan Williams Single Barrel a better value pick than, say, Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond, Small Batch, or even Black Label? Yes. This is a single barrel expression of bourbon for about $30. That’s crazy cheap for a bottle of perfectly sippable single barrel bourbon.

To be clear, this is not going to be a bourbon that changes the way you think about whiskey. It is going to be a perfectly solid sipper and mixer that could easily cost twice as much on a good day.

1. Knob Creek 12

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This is classic Beam whiskey with a low-ish rye mash bill of 77 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and ten percent malted barley. The juice is then left alone in the Beam warehouses for 12 long years. The barrels are chosen according to a specific taste and married to create this higher-proof expression.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with that classic Beam cherry that has dark chocolate and brandy candy depth alongside clear Christmas spices next to a hint of menthol tobacco. The spirit carries on those paths as it layers in buttery and sugary streusel over tart berries with plenty of that spice next to a nice dose of salted caramels covered in a bit of bitter dark chocolate. The finish is spicy and sweet and fades gradually.

Value For Dollar:

This is the whiskey that got me thinking about this list. I broke it out the other night and poured it over some rocks. It’s delightful and better than plenty of other bourbons ten years or older that cost sometimes hundreds of dollars more. There are bourbons that are two years younger that cost three times as much as this … and they don’t taste as good.

That makes this the best value bourbon on the market, in our estimation.

Hidden Track: Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Wild Turkey

ABV: 58.4%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This is the mountaintop of what Wild Turkey can achieve. This is a blend of the best barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. This is a classic bourbon with nowhere to hide.

Tasting Notes:

Crème brûlée greets you with a nice dose of Christmas spices, mild pipe tobacco, orange zest, and a distant hint of fresh mint sprigs. There’s a pine resin nature to the woody flavors on the palate that accents the orange oils, spices, vanilla, and sweetness. The sip takes on a Christmas cake-feel late, with a velvet end that is just the right amount of everything you want from a bourbon.

Value For Dollar:

No list of best value bourbons would be complete with Wild Turkey Rare Breed. Yes, people tend to already be in on this secret but that doesn’t for a second take away from the greatness of this bottle of whiskey. This is the epitome of “why is this still so cheap?!” It’s also easily available pretty much nationwide for the same price, which adds serious value as well.

In the end, this is a great sipping whiskey which also makes a killer Manhattan that could easily cost twice or three times as much and no one would really bat an eye.


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

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