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We Think These Bourbons Are Worth Way More Than Their Price Tags

“Value bourbon” and “affordable bourbon” are two different conversations. Well-made, cheap bourbons are actually pretty easy to come by. Bourbon is, by nature, a relatively inexpensive product to make (in the grand scheme of whiskey production). It’s also local and skips those pesky import tariffs that add costs for us consumers.

But we’re looking beyond affordable bourbon today. We’re here to talk about expressions that carry the magic combination of low(ish) price and great value. And that’s where things get a little more difficult. This is about identifying bottles that are actually worth more than they currently retail for. Drams that outkick their coverage.

The ten bourbons below are all readily available nationwide… for now. But underrated bourbons like these have a way of disappearing from shops and showing up later for triple the price on the resale market. Find them now, while they still line your local liquor store shelves, and see if you agree that they taste better than their price tags.

Ancient Age

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $12

The Whiskey:

Ancient Age is Buffalo Trace’s gateway bottle. There’s nothing fancy at all about this bottle — besides the fact that it has been on the shelves since 1946 and has a high rye mash bill. Still, it’s a hell of a bargain for a bottle from the Buffalo Trace stills.

Tasting Notes:

This is entry-point bourbon with notes of caramel, vanilla, corn, and maybe a hint of toffee up top. That corn bleeds through in what tasters call a “green” or “young” feel to the sip, as the rye spices kick in and lead towards more toffee sweetness and a wisp of citrus.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

I like this stuff. It’s simple, easy, and very cheap. It’s also a perfectly fine cocktail base if you’re mixing with something bold or sugary.

Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond

ABV: 50%
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery, Bardstown, KY
Average Price: $15

The Whiskey:

Ancient Age probably doesn’t quite get its due because so many bartenders use Evan Williams as their rail bottle. And that’s fine. This is a high corn mash with a small dose of rye and barley as an accompaniment, which gives this the expression a softer touch on the palate. It’s bonded, so you know it has aged four years under the watchful eye of the Feds. Plus, that means a higher ABV — adding value in our estimation.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of vanilla supported by brown sugar caramel and a hint of fruitiness. Mild ginger spice hovers nearby as the vanilla and caramel carry through. The end has a nice balance of that mild spice, vanilla, and caramel as a hint of lemon zest drops in.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

Most aficionados would pay $20 for this without blinking an eye. It’s easily one of the best shooters and mixers on this list and it’s only $15.

Old Forester 86

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ABV: 83%
Distillery: Old Forester Distilling Co., Louisville, KY (Brown-Forman)
Average Price: $20

The Whiskey:

Old Forester is a classic bourbon brand and their 86 Proof is a classic bourbon expression. The juice in the bottle has a little rye and barley to accentuate the corn and is bottled at a slightly higher proof to give the drinker an idea of the great things Forester does with its other expressions.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a decent amount going on here, even for the bourbon snob. Notes of vanilla are supported by hints of fresh mint sprigs and a whiff of pipe tobacco leaves. The sweetness is pinned to corn and vanilla with twinges of oak, rye spice, orange zest, and cedar bark supporting the sip. The sweetness of the corn and mildness of the spice lingers longest as the sip fades.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

This a complex dram for a very low price that verges on straight sip-ability.

Old-Grandad Bonded

ABV: 50%
Distillery: Jim Beam, Clermont, KY (Beam Suntory)
Average Price: $20

The Whiskey:

This release from Jim Beam is another crowd-pleaser with a higher ABV. The mash bill leans into rye while the four years of aging adds a nice mellowness to the juice. The label also has a picture of ‘ol Basil Hayden on it. So if you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to Beam’s Basil Hayden’s, this is the logical play.

Tasting Notes:

Corn and vanilla mingle with orange zest and oaky spice. The dram has a touch of black pepper with a clear orchard fruit edge. In the end, it’s the vanilla, oak, and spice that last longest on the senses, creating a classic bourbon experience.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

At $20 and 50% ABV, you can’t go wrong. This one also makes for a great Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Boulvadier base.

Buffalo Trace

ABV: 45%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $28

The Whiskey:

Buffalo Trace is a refined bourbon that could easily be in the $50 range if its distillers got greedy. Luckily for us, Buffalo Trace already makes a long list of whiskeys in the mid to high ranges price-wise, making this expression their gateway bottle — revealing their masterful bourbon-making prowess.

There’s also a slightly higher ABV here, making this a good mixer.

Tasting Notes:

Molasses and vanilla are counterpointed by a flourish of freshly plucked mint. Brown sugar toffee creates a sweet foundation on which notes of anise, oak, and vanilla are built up like solid bricks in a wall. A dark berry note arrives as the vanilla, spice, toffee, and oak ease across your senses.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

Probably the best overall bottle to have on hand for mixing or on the rocks.

Elijah Craig Small Batch

ABV: 47%
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery, Louisville, KY
Average Price: $35

The Whiskey:

Now we’re getting into bottles that could (and may later be) more expensive given the quality of the juice in the bottle. Elijah Craig 12 was a bourbon-lovers favorite. That love led Heaven Hill to replace the bottle with this small-batch expression to ease the demand and give the distillers a chance to catch up.

The result was another multi-award-winning juice that’s almost universally beloved.

Tasting Notes:

Orange marmalade, cedar bark, fresh honey, and dark spices greet you. There’s a sense of apples covered in rich caramel and cinnamon next to a spicy sugar cookie texture. The sip leans into the apple, caramel, and spice as a wave of oak joins the dram on the subtle end.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

This bottle could easily cost double and people would still love it. Try it as a sipper or in a highball.

1792 Bottle-in-Bond

ABV: 50%
Distillery: Barton 1792 Distillery, Bardstown, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $35

The Whiskey:

1792 continues to win awards year after year. So, you know you’re getting quality here just from the name. It’s really well-made whiskey. The addition, the bonded ABV makes this particular expression from the brand the best value in our estimation — especially if you’re looking for a little refinement in your higher ABV drams.

Tasting Notes:

Spice leads the way through oaky notes and a dose of fresh mint on the nose. The sip then veers into a fairground caramel apple territory with black pepper pecking at the sweetness while an echo of espresso bean bitterness lurks in the background. The sip’s velvet texture helps carry these notes to a long, satisfying end.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

This expression easily matches bottles twice its price. Add in the high ABVs, and you have a solid choice for sipping or mixing.

Basil Hayden’s

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Jim Beam, Clermont, KY (Beam Suntory)
Average Price: $35

The Whiskey:

This is a solid entry-point bottle for Beam’s extensive Basil Hayden’s line. The high-rye mash gives it depth but also a very classic feel. The refined distilling and aging create a high-quality that you taste in each sip.

Tasting Notes:

A refined sense of sharp spices meets bitter black tea spiked with fresh peppermint. Classic notes of vanilla, rye spice, oak, and caramel flutter throughout the sip’s length. The end is just long enough to entice you back for more with a very slight wisp of smoke.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

If you’re looking to get into higher-end and higher-priced bourbon, this is where you start. It makes for a solid sipper and great mixer.

Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 7 Year

ABV: 50%
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery, Louisville, KY
Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

Back on the bottled-in-bond train, this expression takes it up another notch without skyrocketing the price. The bonded whiskey is aged an additional three years, giving the sip a deeper quality that amps up the drinking experience.

Tasting Notes:

This is just a plain old classic with vanilla, caramel, and honey combining on the nose. Those notes carry on with mild rye spiciness and a slightly bitter note from the charred oak barrels. As the sip slowly fades away, you’re left with a warming feeling (Kentucky hug) with bursts of vanilla, caramel, and spice.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

While this is getting into the higher price range, it’s still solid and has a high ABV, making it a great value, especially for subtle bourbon-centric cocktails.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

ABV: 54.1%
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distilling, Lawrenceburg, KY (Campari)
Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This small-batch expression is a marrying of six, eight, and 12-year-old bourbons that blend together perfectly. This is the bottle that Wild Turkey master blender Jimmy Russell keeps in his house to sip on regularly. That should give you an indication of how easy drinking this dram is.

Tasting Notes:

The spice and vanilla are pulled back here, leaving room for orange, tobacco leaves, and fresh mint. The corn-forward caramel is very subtle — so is the vanilla. It’s really the tobacco, oak, and spice that shine with a hint of orchard fruit and a final, minute billow of smoke.

Zach’s Bottom Line:

Again, this expression could easily cost twice this price and folks would still adore it. Sip it or mix into a highball to really open up those flavors.

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