There is a lot of really expensive bourbon out there if you’re looking to drop some serious cash. And sure, some of this whiskey is quite good, but there are many bottles that seem to be priced based more on hype than quality.
The good news is there are even more bottles out there that meet the criteria of being reasonably affordable and still excellent. We’re talking bottles that are a step or two above the best everyday bourbons, the kind of bottle you want something a little nicer and more complex than usual but not something that quite qualifies as a special occasion bourbon.
We’ve put together a list of ten of the best bourbons under $100 — costs may vary depending on market, but generally speaking these are obtainable in almost every state at a reasonable price. Try a couple, or all ten, and see what you think for yourself.
Knob Creek regained its nine-year-old age statement a few years ago, and then proceeded to add a few even older age statements to the lineup. While the 15- and 18-year-old versions of this bourbon, which is part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, are very good, the 12–year-old sits in that sweet spot of bourbon maturation. For less than 100 bucks, you can expect an oaky, vanilla, caramel sipper that also works extremely well in an Old Fashioned (if you’re more of a cocktail kind of person).
There’s a lot of barrel-proof bourbon out there to choose from these days, but that wasn’t always the case. Booker’s, part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection created by legendary master distiller Booker Noe, was one of the first American whiskeys to be bottled without being diluted with water to bring down the ABV and filtered only to remove any barrel char. The result is an excellent and flavorful barrel-proof whiskey that you can find, at times, for under $100…and admittedly sometimes much more. It’s released in four batches per year (sometimes three), aged between six and seven years, and the proof usually hovers around the 125 mark. Sip this whiskey neat, make a cocktail or bring down the intensity with some water or ice (if you prefer).
Who says a list of the best bourbons under $100 can’t include a few that are well under $50 as well? This cask-strength version of Maker’s 46 just got a bottle redesign, but the whiskey within remains the same. This whiskey started out as a distillery-only release, but now comes out in limited numbers each year. Maker’s 46 is finished with ten seared French oak staves to infuse the bourbon with some extra flavor–try it side-by-side with regular Maker’s and you can definitely tell the difference. The proof ranges between 107 and 114, which is not as assertive as Booker’s but just as complex and rich.
Louisville’s Barrell Craft Spirits is not a distillery, but a company that sources barrels and blends them into its own whiskeys, sometimes giving them interesting cask finishes. The bourbon is released in batches (the current release is number 34), each a unique blend of whiskey sourced from the usual suspects of Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky. All of the whiskey is bottled at cask strength, and the age range varies based on what is in each particular blend. What is consistent, however, is the high quality of the bourbon, so this is one brand you should absolutely try.
The Story Behind Barrell, The Year's Best, Most Untraditional BourbonHow a blended whiskey won the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Larceny is produced at Heaven Hill, and what separates it from other bourbons is the fact that it’s made with wheat as the secondary grain instead of the usual rye. That might be a familiar concept if you’ve ever had the luck to try Pappy Van Winkle, which is also a wheated bourbon. But Larceny is much cheaper and arguably just as good—and the barrel-proof version is even better. The whiskey is aged from six to eight years, and the ABV varies based on the batch. The most recent release clocks in at 124.4 proof, which is strong but still allows notes of sweet cherry, candied orange, and vanilla pudding to shine through.
The news arrived recently that Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door whiskey brand was building a new distillery in Kentucky. But in addition to producing its own whiskey, it will continue to source barrels to blend into high-quality releases like the first bottle in the Decade Series release, a 10-year-old bourbon forced from Tennessee. It’s a premium bourbon priced relatively affordably given the age and quality of the whiskey, and makes a pretty mean Old Fashioned…or a fine sip on its own.
This Colorado craft distillery is making some seriously good bourbon using a four-grain mashbill of corn, wheat, barley and rye. The bottled-in-bond version has progressively gotten older than the minimum four years required by law for that designation, with the most release hitting the eight-year mark. This is a really interesting bourbon that veers a little bit away from some of the classic flavors you might expect but satisfies all the same. Look for notes of licorice, raisin and fig on the palate, along with a hint of black pepper and nutmeg.
Depending where you live, it might seem crazy for Eagle Rare to pop up on a list of the best bourbons under $100. And, yes, if you find a bottle of Eagle Rare, a bourbon produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, for more than $100 keep moving. If you do come across one in the $60 range, though, grab it and enjoy. This well-aged bourbon is a classic for a reason, with notes of milk chocolate, honey, tobacco and oak. Buffalo Trace makes a lot of unicorn bottles like Pappy and the Antique Collection, but this bourbon is easier to find (usually) and cheaper (hopefully).
Penelope Bourbon was just acquired by MGP, the same massive Indiana distillery that supplies the whiskey for the brand along with many others like Dickel Rye, Bulleit Rye and Brother’s Bond. This release takes the core four-grain bourbon (a blend of four mash bills consisting of corn, rye, wheat and barley) and finishes it in sweet wine casks from Hungary. The resulting whiskey is fruit-forward with some spice and tannin on the palate, a perfect after-dinner dram.
Weller is made at Buffalo Trace, the same distillery that produces high-priced bottles like the Antique Collection and Pappy Van Winkle. The latter actually has something in common with Weller–both are wheated bourbons. A few years ago bourbon fans realized that they could sip something similar to Pappy for much less, and for a while the price of Weller went through the roof. Things have calmed down a bit, so you should be able to find a bottle of the Special Reserve for less than $100. This non-age statement (NAS) whiskey veers toward the sweeter end of the flavor spectrum, but there’s enough oak, espresso and vanilla notes to balance that out.
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