Bourbon is rich, smooth, and sweet. Perfect for sipping or mixing, this American liquor can do it all. However, some of the high-end offerings of bourbon can run higher than a mortgage payment. This level of investment is far from necessary. Enjoying a great glass of bourbon can be done for under $50.
Whether you’re just getting into enjoying bourbon or looking to revisit an old classic for less, check out some basic facts about bourbon and then some great places to snag a bottle for a great price.
Budget-Friendly Bourbons Under $50
When searching for budget-friendly bourbons, know that the entries included here are the price per unit. There may be larger quantities of bourbon available for slighter over our budget that is just as good as those included on the list. When making your selection, keep in mind your flavor preferences.
Some bourbons are better for mixing than drinking neat, and some bourbons make for great cooking and finishing of dishes.
Basil Hayden is a delicious, smooth whiskey that is perfect for sipping or sweet cocktails. This whiskey features notes of charred oak, vanilla, caramel, dried fruit, brown sugar, and black pepper.
Basil Hayden features a high rye content compared to other bourbons, giving it a distinct heft that is often absent from comparable whiskies. A smaller batch of bourbon, Basil Hayden tends to shock first-time sippers and convert them into lifetime believers.
Basil Hayden is perfect for Mint Juleps or Bourbon Maries. It also features well in Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. With a gently spicy profile, Basil Hayden brings a unique profile to the repertoire for a price well below $50.
A decade in the making, Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon features rich flavors with a flamboyant personality. Notes of this mature bourbon include leather, oak, honey, herbs, orange peel, and toffee.
Full-bodied, assertive, and ready to take control, Eagle Rare is a bourbon fit for the center stage on any sideboard. Use it to make signature Old Fashioneds that will create nights to remember.
Four Roses bourbon is aged for a minimum of seven to nine years, resulting in a mature taste that can’t be beaten.
Four Roses has a unique, proprietary system featuring ten recipes that differ in mash content and yeast species. Half of the batches have a ratio of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% barley, whereas the other half have 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% barley.
Four Roses cycles through five different yeast species, each of which lends the resulting bourbon a different flavor profile. Respectively, yeasts V, K, O, Q, and F lend their liquors notes of berries, spice, stone fruits, florals, and herbs.
The combinations resulting from the mash ratios and yeast strains result in unique profiles that are then mixed to create the product that is purchased off the shelf.
A sweet bourbon with vanilla accents, Wild Turkey 101 is the perfect mixer for cocktails on a winter night. Cinnamon, oak, and baking spices all combine for this incredible whiskey. With a spicy finish that rings of orange peel, Wild Turkey lives up to its untamed name.
Proofed between 6-8 years, a proprietary yeast strain creates a unique flavor for Wild Turkey that can’t be replicated. No genetically modified grains are included in the production of their bourbons. Wild Turkey only uses Kentucky River water filtered through limestone. Alligator-level char seals the deal and makes this top-shelf whiskey worth every dollar.
With over 200 flavor notes, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon has a profile that belies its price tag. With over a century of fine spirit craft to back up the name, Woodford Reserve is crafting the pinnacle of top-shelf liquor with boldness, complexity, and charm.
For sweet flavors, Woodford Reserve features brown sugar, butterscotch, caramel, honey, chocolate, maple syrup, vanilla, and even a hint of almond marzipan.
Spice notes include earthy tobacco, anise, cinnamon, black pepper, clove, coffee, mint, nutmeg, and other herbal influences.
Floral notes of Woodford Reserve include honeysuckle, green apple, cranberry, cognac, blueberry, cherry, blackberry, apple, apricot, pear, lemon, orange, peach, and rose petal.
Finally, wooden influences include walnut, pecan, hazelnut, oak, almond, and cedar.
A relatively new bourbon that went into production in 2010, the Maker’s Mark 46 has nevertheless proven itself in a highly competitive market.
Notes of French oak make this bourbon distinct and delicious. Stored in a limestone cellar for maximum development, Maker’s Mark 46 is a mature taste that can’t be beaten. Caramel, vanilla, and baking spice make this a great sipping bourbon. Velvety and smooth, Maker’s Mark 46 is a companion of a bourbon.
Russell’s Reserve 10-Year Bourbon is a 90-proof liquor that is smooth, spicy, and feisty. Alligator charred barrels lend this brew gravitas and depth that is compounded by its decade spent maturing. This offering from Reserve thus features an intense oakiness that can’t be beaten by any younger offerings.
Even with that strong woodsy influence, Reserve’s 10-Year Bourbon continues to order some more delicate notes as well. This bourbon also features notes of orange peel, butterscotch, citrus, maple, oak, toffee caramel, and vanilla. Warm and inviting, it’s perfect for sharing on the porch on a brush autumn evening.
Pioneer of charring oak barrels, Elijah Craig’s small batches are artisanal caches of pure amber goodness. Featuring heady notes of spices, nutmeg, smoke, vanilla bean, fresh fruit, and mint, this robust offering leaves little to be desired.
Spicier than some bourbons, Elijah Craig is best enjoyed on some tongues with bitters that best express the full range of flavors.
Chattanooga Whiskey’s Tennessee High Malt Whiskey is already an incredible drink. The Tennessee High Malt features the incredible cereal flavor only a malt can elicit, produced by a specialty blend of four grains. The mash is then aged in charred and toasted barrels, producing a confectionary-like effect in the final product.
Cask 111 is the cask-forward version of the Tennessee High Malt Whiskey. Hand-selected lot by lot by the Chattanooga team, Cask 111 is a one-of-a-kind bourbon. The flavor notes of Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 are incredibly unique. The flavor profile includes hints of chocolate-covered cherries, toasted coconut, and cinnamon.
10. Buffalo Trace
Crafted from a blend of corn, rye, and barley, Buffalo Trace bourbon is an award-winning drink for good reason. With over two decades of whiskey making at their backs, Buffalo Trace is a king of the industry. As the oldest continuously operating distillery in America, the legacy of Buffalo Trace is detectable in each taste.
Buffalo Trace bourbon includes notes of candied fruit, toffee, and vanilla. With a rich finish and a smooth sip, Buffalo Trace earns its status as an award-winning spirit.
A flavorful bourbon done in the tradition of the masters, Evan Williams Black Label carries the gravitas of its namesake. Evan Williams opened the first whiskey distillery in Kentucky back in the nascent years of America’s existence, and the history rings rich in each sip of this smooth liquor.
With notes of oak, brown sugar, vanilla, caramel, and mint, Evan Williams Black Label pairs best with a splash of lemon and a hot summer day.
12. Larceny Bourbon Small Batch
Whereas most bourbons use rye as the secondary grain in the liquor, after corn, Larceny Bourbon uses wheat mash. This unique usage of wheat makes for a distinctive profile that leaves fans clamoring for more.
That standout profile only becomes more profound in the Small Batch offering from Larceny Bourbon. With notes of fresh bread, toffee, butterscotch, honey, and caramel, this small batch comes in sweet and savory.
This wheaty bourbon is great in a Kentucky Mule, a rich twist on the Moscow Mule.
At 92 proof, Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon Whiskey features mature flavors with a toasted oak profile. Vanilla and baking spices characterize this liquor. Additional unique notes include baked bread, caramel, peppercorn, buttered popcorn, nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpernickel, and dried fruit.
This 100-proof whiskey may seem like it’s prone to knock you on your heels, but Jim Beam comes in with a velvety caress that’ll have you begging for more.
Produced for over a century, Jim Beam Bonded Bourbon has a massive legacy backing up its modern production. Each batch is aged for at least 4 years in charred barrels. Vanilla and caramel collaborate to make for a stellar show. A medium-bodied bourbon with a balanced flavor, there’s everything to love about this bold bourbon.
This stronger-than-strong offering from Maker’s Mark blows away the competition. Ranging from 108 to 114 proof from barrel to barrel, Cask Strength is shockingly smooth for a powerful punch.
Vanilla, caramel, oak, and spice make Cask Strength a sweet and spicy blend that can’t be beaten.
Bourbon vs Whiskey
Those searching for a high-value, low-cost bourbon may find themselves starting to drift into other whiskies and wondering whether there’s much of a difference between the two.
Whiskey is made from a mix of fermented grains. These grains are often rye, barley, corn, or wheat. Whiskies produced internationally, therefore, often reflect the agriculture of the region that it is produced.
Bourbon is an American whiskey and is declared as such due to its inclusion as an American crop. Bourbon must be composed of at least 51% corn mash.
Bourbon can only be produced in America, as it is only an American liquor. Corn whiskies made outside the United States are classified differently.
Not only must bourbon be made primarily of corn, but it also must be stored in charred barrels to be considered bourbon in the eyes of the American government. This storage lends bourbon the attributes of rich vanilla, sweet caramel, and earthy oak.