Smooth, sometimes with a hint of sweet or spice, there’s nothing better than a glass of bourbon to end a day with. Of course, how good that final drink of the day is depends on which classic American whiskey is filling your glass. Some of us drink to alleviate us from the worries of the day, but nothing can kill that more than a shot of overpriced or imitation bourbon that doesn’t do the 20th century American drink any justice. Just because a whiskey is pricey doesn’t mean it’s going to go down smooth and have a nice flavor. In fact, sticking to this mindset is a good way to end a day on a disappointing note.
Then again, purchasing a cheap bottle of whiskey can have the same saddening effect. Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to have that neatness you’re looking for – so we’re here to help you out and take the guesswork out of choosing the best bourbon without emptying your wallet. These 20 American whiskeys are amongst the best out there that won’t cost you more than $100.
John E. Fitzgerald Larceny
Average Price: $25
Though John E. Fitzgerald Larceny may be on the lower end of the price spectrum, don’t expect a glass of flavorless alcohol or to be hit with any unpleasant aftertastes. Distilled in Heaven Hills, KY, this flavorful bourbon was named for John E. Fitzgerald’s love for stealing the best barrels of bourbons for his own enjoyment.
W.L. Weller Special Reserve
Average Price: $29
While you may be more familiar with wheat-based bourbon, W.L. Weller Special Reserve substitutes the common ingredient for another oft used grain – rye. The product is a smooth glass of bourbon accentuated by aromatic touches of honey, butterscotch, and oak. Another cheaper offering, this special reserve offers all of the notes expected from a higher-end bourbon.
Four Roses Single Barrel
Average Price: $34
If it’s a sweeter bourbon you’re looking for, Four Roses Single Barrel should be your choice – and at that incredible price, we recommend not passing it up. Just as sweet as the name leads on, Four Roses has a hint of honey and maple syrup and if your palate is keen enough, you may even catch the peppered spices used to amp up the flavor.
Willet Pot Still Reserve
Average Price: $35
This stout bottle of craft bourbon takes the earthier flavors to a whole new level by integrating floral and citrus notes. Expect a touch of sweetness with each sip as the honey and caramel tend to come in as a pleasant aftertaste.
Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $40
Hudson Baby is unique for two reasons:
It’s the first bourbon to be distilled in New York
It’s made from a 100% corn mash
Beyond being the ideal choice for bourbon drinkers with an allergy to grain, the complete corn mixture is much higher on the sweeter side. If you have a sweet tooth and love a clean, smooth sip, Hudson Baby is your bourbon.
Average Price: $40
A classic in the bourbon industry, this Loretto, KY distilled drink comes with an eclectic mix of tasty notes. Each sip is a flavorful mix of malmsey, fruit, a hint of toasted oak, mixed peels, and a sweet touch of spiced honey. Aged over 6 years and reasonably priced – where could you possibly go wrong?
Eagle Rare 10 Year
Average Price: $41
Aged for 10 years, this Eagle Rare bourbon may not offer any surprises when it comes to flavor, but who needs unexpected notes when the traditional ones work so well. Distilled in the great state of Kentucky, Eagle Rare 10 Year has the staple flavorings of toasted oak, maple, and a touch of citrus. Savor each sip and you may even catch a hint of darker fruits, nuts, and honey sitting on the back of your tongue.
Knob Creek 9
Average Price: $46
Aged for nine years, Knob Creek hails from Clermont, KY and delivers on a rather unique bourbon flavor profile. While honey and maple typically make up the sweeter notes of bourbon, Knob Creek 8 introduces dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and butter to this sweet and spicy beverage. Underneath all of that sweetness you can expect a hint of toasted oak and caramel to round out the flavor profile.
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon
Average Price: $47
If you like to stick with the first of something, you’ll love that Blanton’s holds the title as the first official single barrel bourbon. Aged in a very specific manner, Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon comes across with notes of vanilla and molasses and goes down just as smooth as any good bourbon should.
Average Price: $50
The 15-year aging process that Noah’s Mill goes through accounts for the incredible smoothness of Kentucky small-batch bourbon. Sure, the caramel and brown sugar flavors are a delight on any palate, but the process of being hand-bottled makes it difficult to resist what’s said to be the oldeset small batch bourbon on the market.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Average Price: $51
Put through a second round of aging in a barrel that’s been toasted and charred lends to the smoothness of this straight Kentucky bourbon. As if the hint of toasted oak wasn’t enough, Woodford Reserve instills its velvety bourbon with notes of fruit and vanilla to freshen the palate and compliment the woodiness.
Bulleit Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $52
Distilled in Lawrenceburg, KY, Bulleit ages its signature rye whiskey for four years to ensure it’s completely infused with a collection of flavor notes that simply belong together. Each sip is an impressive mix of undertones like cherry, tobacco, cinnamon, leather, and vanilla. Trust us, it’s a mix of flavors that works.
EH Taylor Single Barrel
Average Price: $60
Named for a bourbon connoisseur that owned a series of distilleries during the 19th century, EH Taylor Single Barrel is made from rye and corn, giving it a hint of sweet and spice that hits the palate just right. Too cool the flavor profile down, vanilla notes follow shortly after.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
Average Price: $60
So what if it’s not your birthday? You don’t need to get a year older to enjoy a bourbon that survived prohibition. Dedicated to founder George Garvin Brown and released in September of ever year to honor his birthday, this old-school bourbon has a tendency to change flavor profiles annually to ensure a new, flavorful experience each year.
Dark Horse Reserve Bourbon
Average Price: $65
Award winning. Smokey. Sweet. These are the only words you need to worry about when buying Dark Horse Reserve. Made from an 80/20 mix of corn and rye, Dark Horse offers an aromatic mix of maple and nuts before being finished off by caramel, honey, and smoke.
Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon
Average Price: $72
Bottled straight from the barrel, this is about as pure as you get in the world of bourbon. Not for first-time bourbon drinkers, the flavors of Booker’s are pretty raw, so expect immediate and strong hints coffee as the smoky bourbon washes over your palate.
Belle Meade Bourbon Sherry Cask Finish
Average Price: $72
Belle Meade pulls no punches when it comes to sweetening up the flavor with a smooth mix of caramel and vanilla, accented by plums, brown sugar, molasses, and a much-needed hint of spice. Once you pop open a bottle of this velvety mix, the dark fruit notes rise out of the neck to entice.
Average Price: $73
You’re often so fixated on seeing if it’s a rye, wheat, or corn bourbon that there’s one ingredient you probably never thought to consider – water. Widow Jane, named for the limestone quarry it pulls its mineral-rich H20 from, uses water to its advantage to balance out the typical notes of bourbon, offering a tame and enjoyable drink.
Average Price: $90
We’re not sure what to love most about Parker’s Heritage – the 13-year aging process or that it’s 136 proof and is still an incredibly smooth bourbon. Or maybe it’s even the aromatic spiced caramel and vanilla. Regardless what it is, it takes a lot to forget you’re dropping $90 on a bottle of bourbon and Parker’s Heritage makes it easy to not even notice.
Jefferson’s Ocean: Aged at Sea
Average Price: $90
We’re used to our bourbon being distilled on solid ground, typically in the great state of Kentucky, but Jefferson’s threw that concept out the window with this aged bourbon. Each barrel of Aged at Sea was precisely as the name suggests – aged during a lengthy journey at sea, with stops at more than 30 ports and four passes over the equator. The thought was that the more the liquid moved around in the barrel, the more it interacted with the sides of the casks and picked up a deeper flavor. Judging by the finished product, there’s a chance such a crazy idea worked!