Bourbon is an exquisite and very versatile spirit. When you think of bourbon, you are not thinking of a single drink but of an entire sea of possibilities. Bourbons differ in taste, strength, flavor, and aroma.
Some are served neat or on the rock, and others are more used in cocktails. However, they all have their rich color in common and the warm burn they leave after them.
Bourbons differ in prices and availability too. There are cheaper and widely available bourbons, and more exclusive bourbons are harder to get. However, the price and availability are not the only factors determining the drink’s quality.
There are available and affordable bourbons of excellent quality, which are unfairly labeled low-quality. So what are the best bourbons for the money?
When selecting a bourbon that is in your price range, up to your standards, and within your reach, meaning you can easily find it, you need to consider your knowledge of bourbons, why you need the bottle, and how refined your taste is.
The best bourbon won’t do an excellent job if you don’t have the knowledge to appreciate it, and the worst bourbon can do an excellent job if you know how to mix it.
So, when it comes to bourbon, the subjective “good/bad” characterization is not always correct.
23 Best Bourbons for the Money
To help you select the best bourbon your money can buy, in this article, I will give you a list of bourbons in which you will most certainly find the one that is the most appropriate for you, all factors considered.
1. Wild Turkey 101
If you have a knack for sweet-tasting drinks, this 101-proof bourbon is definitely for you. It has expressive notes of caramel, toffee, and honey, with a seductive barrel spiciness.
Aged between 6 and 8 years, made of rye, corn, and barley, this bourbon falls under the complex-flavored spirits category and is a genuinely versatile drink. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend it for mixing, though the right mixologist would manage to turn it into a success. However, if you are not experienced in mixing bourbon, don’t experiment with this one.
I’d recommend you slow sip this spirit and play with the variety of flavors involved in it.
This is a very affordable bourbon, costing $25 per 740 ml bottle.
Also Read: 20 Best Bourbon for Mixing Cocktails
2. Hirsch Selected Whiskeys Horizon
Aged for a minimum of four years, this 92-proof bourbon is very elegant and refined, starting with whiffs of vanilla, rye spice, and toasted oak. As it slides smoothly, it starts tasting like toasted rye, honey, and biscuits, only to leave a velvety sensation on your throat and an aftertaste you will most certainly want to feel again.
To make things even better, you can drink this bourbon both neat as well as mixed in a nice, preferably tropical cocktail. It costs about $39 per 750 ml bottle.
3. 1792 Small Batch
This delicious, 8-year-aged, and 112.64-proof bourbon has a very soft and fruity flavor, which is a rarity for this category of drinks. It starts with caramel and vanilla flavors, continuing with cinnamon, banana, and toffee notes, transferring all those notes onto the throat as you swallow.
The burn is intense but flavorful, so you will feel all the delicacies of this bourbon even after you finish your sip.
I don’t recommend you mix this drink, though if you know what you are doing, you will get an excellent cocktail. Still, with everything this bourbon has to offer, it is a shame to try and dim down all the flavor notes involved. It is priced at $39 per 750 ml bottle.
4. Smoke Wagon
This 4 to 5 years old, 100-proof bourbon is provocative and seductive for the nose and the palate. It allures you with the aroma of rye, grain, citrus, and caramel nuts, which is only a preview of what’s about to follow.
It is a full spirit, but in no case heavy, with a well-rounded flavor palette and exquisitely balanced harshness and mildness. If you like countering tastes and challenging yourself to detect the flavors, this bourbon might be just the puzzle you have been looking for.
It is excellent for slow sipping but also for mixing, especially with sweet-tasting ingredients and cocktail bitters. It goes for $33 per 750 ml bottle.
5. Eagle Rare
Aged for 10 to 17 years, if you like earthy, natural, and herbal flavors, don’t hesitate to get this 90-proof bourbon. With its hints of herbs, orange peels, toffee, leather, and oak, this is a refreshing and satisfying drink that awakens your senses.
It has almond, cocoa, and nougat notes, intertwined with mushroom and grass flavors and aromas.
The aftertaste resembles an herbal tea mixed with alcohol and warms you up in the gentlest, most subtle way.
I definitely recommend you have this rum neat or on the rocks. However, if you decide to mix it, go with an equally earthy ingredient or, possibly, a citrus-flavored one. It is priced at $35 per 750 ml bottle.
6. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Even though it is a little bit sweeter than the classic bourbon flavor, this drink falls within the classic bourbon category. It is aged in oak barrels for eight years before bottling.
It has subtle notes of vanilla, mint, and butterscotch, which combined together create a genuine flavor explosion and a perfect combination between strong and sharp and sweet and refreshing.
It starts sharply, but it tones the edge down with pumpkin flavor, brown sugar, and caramel notes, ending with a spicy and smooth finish.
This 90-proof drink goes excellent whether you have it neat, on the rocks, or mixed in a cocktail. Therefore, you can enjoy it sipping slowly or mixing it up. It goes for $34 per 750 ml bottle.
7. Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon
This 80-proof drink is among the more versatile ones on this list. It starts with expressive corn, cinnamon, and white pepper notes, followed by a lemony-fresh sensation. It ages in oak barrels for eight years.
It has a smooth finish, although dry, with a velvety dimension leaving a white pepper taste, mixed with subtle vanilla notes intertwined with an oak flavor.
This isn’t one of those bourbons that you may call unforgettable, but it is a regular drink for the regular Joe. It is ideal as a refreshment on a hot day or a nightcap after a long day. It is priced at $34 per 750 ml bottle.
8. Broken Barrel Whiskey Co California Oak Bourbon
A little bit strong, aged in oak barrels for eight years, this bourbon will delight you with the taste that makes up for its aggressiveness. It has a very noticeable wine flavor, mixed with a smoky fruit and vanilla flavor. This 88-proof drink tends to be more on the dry side, which is ironic since you drink it. However, this is one of those things you need to try to see what I am talking about.
It creates a brief dry mouth sensation, but it compensates nicely for it with the apple note right before it finishes with a strong burning dimension.
If you like the more aggressive side of bourbon, you can give this drink a shot and have it neat, but if you like your bourbon more on the mellow side, I’d recommend a club soda for mixing. Its price is about $33 per 750 ml bottle.
Also Check: What Do You Mix With Bourbon?
9. Elijah Craig Small Batch
Highly aromatic, with fruity and vanilla smells, this 94-proof bourbon continues with full and rich flavors of caramel, wood cherry, and marzipan on the palate. Aged for eight to 12 years, it creates a chili sensation, which is the signature marzipan effect, and it continues smoothly with a long finish.
It has warm oak and sweet notes that round up the flavor combination, making this bourbon an excellent choice for slow sipping. Everything is polished off with an expressive, smoky dimension that summarizes all the tastes involved.
I would definitely recommend having this bourbon neat, or on the rocks, as all of the flavor notes deserve to be individually enjoyed. It goes for about $32 per 750 ml bottle.
10. Russell’s Reserve 10 Years Old
This 90-proof and ten years aged bourbon starts slowly and gently with a sweet caramel flavor and goes on to creamy vanilla, finishing with cocoa and pine notes. It finishes with oak and allspice notes, mashing perfectly with the aftertaste and burn.
Still, I must mention that this bourbon is not all that smooth and has a very expressive bitterness mid-palate, so if you don’t like edgy flavors, don’t waste your time with this drink. However, if you like the sweet and smooth tone broken with bitterness, you should definitely give this bourbon a whirl.
It has a great price too, $40 per 750 ml bottle.
11. Pinhook Bourbon Heist
What makes this 199.9-proof bourbon special is the butteriness of the drink, which is not a frequent occurrence when it comes to these spirits. It is smooth all the way through and it charms the palate with orange, peach, toasted nutmeg, vanilla, and coffee.
This bourbon ages for three years and four months and is definitely versatile and different; if you like experimenting and trying new things, you should definitely give this drink a chance. It works better when neat, but if you decide that you don’t like it, mix it to make the most of it.
It goes for $35 per 750 ml bottle.
12. Evan Williams Single Barrel
Aged for seven to eight years in oak barrels, starting with aromas of licorice, toasted oak, and brown sugar, this 86.6-proof bourbon subtly transits toward nuts, cinnamon, and orange peels, interspersed with spiced tobacco.
Aged for seven to eight years, it finishes long and smooth; this bourbon’s aftertaste stays with you for quite a while after you swallow the sip. These unique combinations of flavors and aromas make this bourbon one of the most enjoyable ones on the market in its price range.
It goes for $38 per 750 ml bottle.
13. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
If there is one word that describes this 90.4 bourbon, that word would be full. Aged for six to seven years, it starts rich and strong with sweet caramel, brown sugar, baking spice, and toasted almonds. Further on, it continues with dark chocolate notes, citrus, and rye whiffs, only to finish velvety and smooth with all those flavors imprinted on the burn.
Not intended for mixing, this delicacy of a spirit works best when sipped slowly and gently, giving all notes a chance to shine.
It is priced at $37 per 750 ml bottle.
14. Maker’s Mark Chattanooga Whiskey
Aged for at least two years in oak barrels, this is another buttery bourbon, alluring you with notes of vanilla, oak, caramel, and almonds and that irresistible and recognizable smoky aroma.
This 91-proof bourbon’s signature mark is its expressive oak dimension from the beginning to the end of your sip. Although it is more on the sweet side, it does fall under the classic bourbon category.
This is an excellent starting point in your bourbon journey if you don’t know what you like. If you like expressive oak flavors, this bourbon is definitely worth your time. It has a great price, costing $30 per 750 ml bottle.
15. Redemption High Rye Bourbon
Another natural-tasting 105-proof bourbon with tea and apricot notes. It starts with earthy flavors and continues with oak and caramel, creating an excellent balance of the natural and herbal notes and the typical bourbon caramel flavor. It ages in for at least a year in charred oak.
It finishes on the same not on which it begins, with an added smoky dimension it acquires through its maturing process.
This bourbon is unique, and a seasoned bourbon enthusiast could easily spot the particularities of this spirit. However, that doesn’t exclude the beginners in the bourbon department, as this is an excellent starting point.
I highly recommend you have this bourbon on the rocks neat, as mixing it would insult the spirit. It goes for $40 per 750 ml bottle.
16. Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
If there is a perfect description of this 86-proof bourbon, that description would be pop-bourbon. This drink is to everyone’s flavor, as it is the most bourbony bourbon on this list. If you like bourbon in general, you will definitely like this one.
It ages for a little under ten years in charred oak barrels.
All about this spirit screams bourbon. It starts with the classic vanilla notes and continues with the signature bourbon caramel flavor. It ends with a bang from its strong but smooth burn.
Mixing it and having it neat are equally good ideas, as both variants are equally delicious. It has a delicious price too, $28 per 750 ml bottle.
17. Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
At first glance, the flavors included in this 100-proof bourbon seem unmixable, but all of them, mashed together, create an excellent flavor union. This spirit ages for about nine years in oak barrels.
The sweetness of the maple syrup, combined with the intensity of the cinnamon, and all of this intensified with the mild saltiness of the spirit, results in an excellently rounded and perfectly balanced creation you will definitely enjoy.
It then continues to carry you through its story with notes of dark chocolate. It costs $27 per 750 ml bottle.
18. Four Roses
The best description for this 80-proof bourbon is probably its name. It reminds me of the rose’s gentility, subtleness, and refinement. Aged for five years in oak barrels, starting with gentle vanilla notes, continuing toward the more bourbon part marked with the caramel notes, and ending with a fruity and floral sensation, this bourbon is definitely the “fair lady” in the bourbon department.
Smooth and non-imposing, this bourbon is made for slow sipping and enjoyment in a calm and elegant atmosphere. Intended only for true bourbon lovers, this drink is not meant to be mixed but enjoyed thoroughly as it is. It goes for $38 per 750 ml bottle.
19. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The caramel notes mixed with the sweetness of the brown sugar in this 90-proof bourbon are the signature tastes of the spirit. Being very available and affordable, this drink has been sadly overlooked and considered of lesser quality. However, this bourbon is very popular among mixologists as it mixes perfectly well in a number of cocktails.
It ages eight years, during which it acquires a lovely toasty and smoky note. It goes for $35 per 750 ml bottle.
You can enjoy it neat or on the rocks if you prefer the typical bourbon sharpness, or mix it in a cocktail if you need to tone down the aggressiveness. In each case, you will definitely enjoy this spirit if you know how to use it.
20. Hirsch Selected Whiskeys the Horizon
Since this 92-proof bourbon is a combination of two drinks, it is very complex and full-flavored. The rye note dominates this drink’s beginning, middle, and smooth finish, and if you are just dipping your toes in the bourbon science, I don’t recommend starting with this spirit.
It ages around four years, during which it becomes pretty intense.
Considering that it takes experience and a developed a taste for bourbons, you may find this bourbon repelling, which would be unfair to the drink.
It works well mixed with cocktail bitters, as well as neat or on the rocks, but you do need to have experience. It goes for $38 per 750 ml bottle.
21. New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Fall 2017)
Starting with the bottle and the overall appearance of this 50-proof bourbon, everything about this drink says strong and sharp. This is a high-rye bourbon and definitely not for the inexperienced and new in the bourbon department.
It characterizes with cherry wood, toasted oak, and a whiff of vanilla, none of which is strong enough to tone done the strong rye note in this spirit. It ages four years in charred oak barrels and has an expressive smokiness.
This is an excellent bourbon for mixing but also for slow sipping. Still, like the previous one, this drink requires some knowledge and experience. It is priced at $42 per 750 ml bottle.
22. Watershed Distillery Blended Straight Bourbon
Aged for four years, this 90-proof bourbon is recognizable by its fruity notes as it combines cherry and apple flavors with oak and smoky flavors and aromas.
It has a long and smooth finish. It finishes with a toasty note, setting the tone for the warm burn following afterward. This bourbon is not for mixing, as it has much to offer. Therefore, I recommend you have it neat or on the rocks. It goes for $42 per 750 ml bottle.
23. Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon
Aged for five years, this 88-proof spirit has a fruity and sweet caramel note at the beginning. It charms you with berry notes and a nice floral whiff in the middle. It finishes smoothly, leaving a spicy and vanilla aftertaste.
This is a straightforward spirit and a regular type of bourbon, but definitely worth your while. It is excellent for slow sipping as an after-work reward, but it does well when mixed too. It is priced at $42 per 750 ml bottle.
What Is the #1 Bourbon?
It is impossible to say which is the best bourbon as each bourbon brand has its audience, appealing to different people with different tastes. Pappy Van Winkle’s 23-Year Family Reserve, Michter’s 10-Year-Old, William Larue Weller, Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon, and 1792 Single Barrel Reserve are the five highest-ranking bourbons.
What Is the #1 Selling Bourbon?
The best-selling bourbon is Jack Daniels, with over 12 million bottles sold a year worldwide.
What Is a Good Bourbon?
A good bourbon is a mildly aggressive bourbon with recognizable caramel and vanilla notes, starting mildly, strong in the middle, and finishing smoothly, with a warm burn.