For some whiskey drinkers, an $80 bottle of single malt can feel like a steal. But the sweet spot for quality and affordability often falls in the $40 and under range.
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Bourbons and American whiskeys that cost less than your average tank of gas. From a Bourbon aged in stout barrels to an astonishingly affordable collaboration between legends of Kentucky and Japanese distilling, here are 10 of our favorite, affordable pours.
Recommended Bourbon and American Whiskey
Bernheim Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey; $30, 94 points. This seven-year-old small batch whiskey is a powerhouse. Oak and vanilla aromas skew sweet. The palate is deep and dark, silky and spicy, showing cocoa and espresso. Adding water doubles down on the espresso notes, bringing clove and black pepper forward into a big, grippy finish that sings with spice. —Kara Newman
Hotel Tango American Straight Bourbon; $35, 94 points. An easy-drinking, versatile crowd-pleaser right for a wide range of cocktails. The bright, fresh aroma balances oak and vanilla. The palate is smooth and light from first sip, with plenty of concentrated vanilla bean. Adding water coaxes a bit more spice into the finish, along with a fleeting butterscotch note. Aged two years. —K.N.
Benjamin Chapman 7-Year Whiskey; $39, 92 points. This wheated whiskey is a blend of 51% 10-year-old Canadian rye and 49% 7-year-old Canadian wheat. Look for a sweet vanilla bean aroma, echoed on the palate that ups the ante with sugar cookie and honey, finishing with an addictive cinnamon sizzle. Sip or mix. —K.N.
Larceny Bourbon; $25, 92 points. Copper in the glass, this wheated Bourbon offers allspice and cola aromas. The first sips are nutty and a touch drying, leading into hints of vanilla wafer and butterscotch, finishing with ginger and clove sparks. —K.N.
Legent Bourbon; $46, 92 points. A collaboration between Kentucky Bourbon-distiller Fred Noe and chief blender Shinji Fukoyo of Japan’s Suntory, this Bourbon is partially finished in wine and Sherry casks. The result is a caramel-rich nose and palate that reads almost like dulce de leche with a pleasantly silky texture. There’s a hint of dried fruit and spice on the exit. —K.N.
Bradshaw Bourbon; $40, 91 points. From former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw, this 2-year-old Bourbon is bottled at 51.9% “as a tribute to Terry Bradshaw’s passing completion rate of the same number.” What’s in the bottle is tinged with roasted nuts and vanilla on nose and palate, finishing with hints of black pepper and a waft of smoke. —K.N.
Giant Texas Bourbon Whiskey; $22, 91 points. A beer-lover’s whiskey, look for hops and oak on nose and palate, finishing long with a peppery tinge. The smallest splash of water snaps it into focus: suddenly it’s hoppy, chocolaty, spicy, different and quite tasty, trailing off into a spicy finish. Best Buy. —K.N.
Oppidan Small Batch 4 Grain Bourbon; $35, 89 points. The four grains in this Bourbon are corn, wheat, rye and malt. Add plenty of water to this 100-proofer, and watch it transform from oaky and fiery to nutty and sweet vanilla tones, finishing with clove zing and citrusy astringency. Best Buy. —K.N.
Penelope Bourbon; $35, 89 points. The aroma presents as spiced and sweet, reminiscent of a liqueur. The palate is light, showing allspice, chamomile and ginger, with a fleeting white floral note and hint of cedar. What’s in the bottle is a four-grain Bourbon (corn, rye, wheat, malted barley) distilled in Indiana, aged about two years, bottled in Kentucky, and named for the founder’s daughter. Best Buy. —K.N.
Beer Barrel Bourbon; $30, 88 points. Finished in Dragons Milk Stout Barrels for three months, this whiskey indeed has a very beerlike flavor profile, along with orange peel notes on nose and palate. A splash of water integrates the flavors, though hops still dominates the lively flavor profile. It finishes long with a bit of cedar and tobacco and spice. Best Buy. —K.N.