5 Budget-Friendly Bourbons You Should Try

You don't have to break the bank to drink better bourbon.

<p>Food & Wine / Maker

Food & Wine / Maker's Mark Distillery / Four Roses Distillery LLC / Wild Turkey Distilling Co. / James B. Beam Distilling Co. / Louisville Distilling Co. LLC

Stop by your local liquor store and ask to buy three bottles of Blanton’s or W.L. Weller Special Reserve, and you’re likely to be met with laughter. Although these bourbons were both available and affordable ten years ago, that’s no longer the case. And they’re not alone: Navigating the world of bourbon has become an increasingly challenging endeavor.

But that doesn’t mean that excellent, affordable, available bourbons don’t exist — you just need to know what to look for. The five below represent the range of bourbons that can easily be found for under $100. It’s far from an exhaustive list; rather, it’s a guide to understanding the breadth, quality, and styles of bourbon you can easily find without having to remortgage your house.

A High-Rye Standard That Punches Well Above Its Weight: Old Grand-Dad

<p>Food & Wine / James B. Beam Distilling Co.</p>

Food & Wine / James B. Beam Distilling Co.

The Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond bourbon can easily be found for under $25. What makes this bottle special is how reliably delicious it is: The high-rye mash bill lends just the right amount of spice to bourbon’s inherent sweetness, making for a fantastic Manhattan that you won’t worry about serving in quantity.

A Classic Port-Finished Bourbon: Angel’s Envy

<p>Food & Wine / Louisville Distilling Co. LLC </p>

Food & Wine / Louisville Distilling Co. LLC

Since Angel’s Envy exploded onto the market in 2011, the world of Port-finished bourbons has grown considerably. The distillery was among the first to make the style widely popular, and the three to six months that the whiskey spends in ex-Port barrels lends it a sense of fruity sweetness, a wisp of chocolate, and a deep sense of generosity.

A Barrel-Proof Standout: Wild Turkey Rare Breed

<p>Food & Wine / Wild Turkey Distilling Co.</p>

Food & Wine / Wild Turkey Distilling Co.

This bourbon is blended from six, eight, and twelve-year-old whiskeys and rings in at 116.8 proof. Despite that power,  it’s balanced and unfurls in delicious layers, which is why that alcohol content isn’t actually what defines it. Rather, this bottle is all about cooked honey, grilled apricots, pralines, and warm caramel, with just a hint of peppercorn spice. It’s great as the base for an Old Fashioned or Sazerac, and is also terrific on a large rock.

A Bourbon That Tastes Like It Costs A Whole Lot More: Four Roses Small Batch:

<p>Food & Wine / Four Roses Distillery LLC</p>

Food & Wine / Four Roses Distillery LLC

You can find this affordable bourbon everywhere from your local shop to big-box chains for less than $40. That price is even more remarkable when you consider that it’s composed of whiskeys that have been aged for six to seven years. Four Roses famously has ten recipes at their disposal (they work with two mash bills and five yeast strains), and the four that go into the Small Batch lead to a whiskey that’s generous with fruit but subtly savory with tobacco and leather.

The Standard Among Wheated Bourbons: Maker’s Mark

<p>Food & Wine / Maker's Mark Distillery</p>

Food & Wine / Maker's Mark Distillery

The iconic red wax-topped bottle has the distinction of being both the first “good” bourbon that many people taste, as well as a reliable go-to even among passionate whiskey fans. Its high-wheat mash bill leads to a softer and sweeter pour; it’s excellent neat, on the rocks, or in a Highball, Boulevardier, or a wide range of other bourbon cocktails.

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