So you don’t need or want to spend $100 on a limited release bourbon, you say? No interest in waiting in line for a chance to be in a lottery to maybe win some Pappy Van Winkle? Need something more economical for an everyday sipper?
No problem. We’ve got you covered. And you’re lucky, because with bourbon, low price does not necessarily mean low quality.
While the bourbon boom has been fantastic for the production of premium bourbons, it has sometimes caused bourbon drinkers to forget that the juices that sustained the industry for decades are still available, still affordable, and frankly, pretty tasty. Modern Thirst has covered these bourbons in our Budget Bourbon Battle Royale, which can be read here. But we’ve covered a number of other bourbons that fall well under $25 a bottle, some of which are well under $15. Here are some of our favorite extreme value sippers. This list is by no means comprehensive, just our recommendations based upon our reviews and preferences.
Rumors continue to circulate that this is being discontinued so that production of whiskey can shift towards the new, longer-aged Laceny product. But this can still be found on shelves, and it’s an excellent, affordable wheated whiskey.
OF100 is very good representative of Heaven Hill’s wheated bourbons, with a slight mint taste and a definite wheat tingle. There is a sticky sweetness on this bourbon that reminds one of both mint and wedding cake icing. It is a thoroughly enjoyable sipper neat or with water/ice. While value is in the eye of the beholder, this has to be considered among the best values in the wheated bourbon category.
Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 6 Year
If oak-forward flavors are your preferred profiles, Heaven Hill has you covered there too.
Smooth and sweet, the first taste is corn. But this bourbon deviates quickly, bringing up very powerful flavors of oak and aged wood on the middle of the tongue, along with a touch of alcohol bite on the back of the tongue.
Notice a trend? Three straight Heaven Hill products, all bottled-in-bond. Where the Heaven Hill 6 Year product is oak-forward, the Evan William White Label is more caramel and traditional bourbon flavors.
Evan Williams White Label clearly blurs the line between a budget bourbon and a premium. In fact, I’d wager that most palates would have a hard time declaring this a budget bourbon at all. It is smooth, flavorful, and worthy of a sip. At under $15, it may be among the best values in bourbon today.
Want a taste of Buffalo Trace’s Wheated Mash bill? this is your starting point. A little harder to find these days, as its been swept up in the ridiculousness of the Pappy craze, but it’s still a sweet, drinkable wheater for a relatively low price. It’s the go-to for quite a number of bourbon fanatics.
Old Weller Antique
If you like the idea of Weller, but don’t think it packs enough punch or depth, Old Weller Antique might be your best option. It’s the 107 proof big brother of the W.L.Weller Special Reserve. The format works much better for the mash bill. But know that as Weller has been caught up in the Pappy craziness, Old Weller Antique has been caught up, swept away, and landed in an unreachable magical land of yellow brick roads. It’s becoming very hard to find in some areas, and the price has risen.
The First Brown-Foreman product on the list, Old Forester Signature is 100 proof and bursting with sweet flavors. It’s also under $25 a bottle, which is ridiculous in today’s climate. It’s a great sipper.
I can’t help but think that an Old Forester Signature Manhattan might be the perfect bourbon cocktail. But either way, this deserves a place on a home bourbon bar. The value is a no-brainer at this price, and the flavors are complex and well developed.
From the Sazerac Family of spirits, like its Buffalo Trace brethren, Very Old Barton is distilled at the 1792 Distillery.
As a sub $20 bourbon, VOB has a staunch following of fans who rely on VOB as their “house” or “table” bourbon. Rightly so. VOB, especially this bottled-in-bond version at 100 proof, is imminently smooth and enjoyable. In terms of value, it’s hard to see how it can’t be one of the very top bourbon picks in its price range. Thus, I highly recommend Very Old Barton 100 Proof to those seeking the flavors of a top-shelf bourbon at a budget price.
This is the second-best selling bourbon in the world for a reason, it seems. It’s sweet, smooth, and packed with flavor- especially so for an 86 proof whiskey.
I almost hesitated to put yet another Heaven Hill product on the list, but I just couldn’t leave it out. Heaven Hill produces so many excellent bourbons at fantastic values that they deserve to have them mentioned. The single barrel version of Evan Williams is a ten year old step-up to the black label, bringing a more complex flavor, longer finish, and maintaining ridiculously good bang-for-the-buck. There are many vintages out there, most at the moment being 2003-2005. They’re all excellent.