Not into spending upwards of $80 on a bottle of bourbon? We get that. We also know it can be hard to sort through the less expensive bourbon options while being sure you’re buying quality whiskey. That’s why we asked the whiskey aficionados of DrinkWire, our community of the best spirits and cocktail bloggers, to help us sort through the overwhelming—and overpopulated—liquor store whiskey aisle to find the best tasting bourbons that cost less than $30. There were two clear-cut winners, along with a few unexpected picks. Read on to find out which bourbons DrinkWire contributors Bernie Lubbers (aka The Whiskey Professor), Bourbon & Oak and Modern Thirst dubbed the Best Bourbons Under $30. What’s on your list of the best bourbons under $30? Weigh in below!
Supposedly the first small-batch bourbon Heaven Hill Distilleries ever created, this was the only unanimous favorite of all three bloggers. Modern Thirst says, “At 94-proof, it’s just the right ABV to sip neat or with a splash of water. And a 12-year bourbon in this price range is a steal. Elijah Craig is worthy of its praise, and drinks like a bourbon with a much higher price tag.”
Though not a unanimous favorite, this spicy bourbon made two of the three lists. And Bourbon & Oak says it best: Bulleit “is readily available, a great introductory bourbon and its high rye content allows you to make some incredible classic cocktails.”
Lubbers does a lot of bourbon tasting, as the American whiskey ambassador for Heaven Hill Distilleries, rightly known as “The Whiskey Professor.” We knew he’d have some great—and unexpected—recommendations. He says he’s always telling people that they’re “always looking on the top shelves for bourbon finds, but you gotta look DOWN. There are a lot of diamonds in the rough down there on the lower shelves.” How right he is. He included both Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel and Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch on his list ($25 and $17, respectively), as well as Fighting Cock, a six-year-old bourbon that comes in at 103-proof, but is “a smooth, delightful bourbon.” Check out The Whiskey Professor’s full list of the best bourbons under $30 and his reviews on DrinkWire.
Of course a blog that’s all about bourbon has a few things to say about good, inexpensive whiskey. Aside from Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old and Bulleit, Bourbon & Oak’s top picks were Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon (“It’s 101 proof provides plenty of bang for your buck, so to speak, and the flavor profile is excellent”), Buffalo Trace (“A great entry level bourbon”) and Old Grand Dad 114 (“Wonderful flavors of oak and vanilla”). Check out what else Bourbon & Oak had to say about these bottles on DrinkWire.
Modern Thirst blogger Bill Straub hails from Louisville, Kentucky—aka Bourbon Country. Like Bourbon & Oak, he included both Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old and Bulleit on his list, but threw in a few surprises: Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon (about $30) was included for its versatility, while Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon was noted for being “straightforward, powerful and quite enjoyable.” Also on the list is the illicit Larceny Bourbon, which, he says, “drinks like a much more expensive bourbon.” Check Modern Thirst’s full tasting notes on DrinkWire.
Mixing your cocktail