Cheap Bourbons You Should Always Buy

Whether you drink it neat, on the rocks, or in a sophisticated Manhattan, bourbon is one of the most American drinks you can swig. In fact, whiskey needs to be made in America to count as bourbon. Bourbon also needs to contain at least 51% corn and spend time aging in new charred oak barrels. Making this type of booze is an art. Depending on the maker, you'll most likely detect perceptible hints of caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, grain, wood, or flower (via The Whiskey Guide). The strength of the bourbon really depends on the exact aging process. According to Difford's Guide, there's no minimum aging requirement for bourbon, unless you want to call your bourbon a "straight" whiskey, in which case it needs to age for a minimum of two years in an oak cask.

Now, knowing the best bourbons to try no matter the cost is one thing, but not everyone can drop over $100 on a bottle of liquor. We're here to deliver exciting news: you can most definitely find affordable bourbon (under $30) that's not just palatable, but totally robust in flavor. This is our comprehensive list of cheap bourbons you should always buy.

Jim Beam White Label

According to ForbesJim Beam White Label is the top-selling bourbon in the world. It's widely available in most grocery stores and liquor stores for around $15-$20 (via Total Wine). This brand started churning out premium-grade bourbon back in 1795, melding together a sweet blend of corn, rye, and malted barley. Jim Beam White Label bourbon ages in new charred oak barrels for four years, leaving you with a light gold, medium-bodied flavor generating soft whispers of caramel. 

Now, don't get us wrong, this bourbon is blatantly basic and not meant to enlighten your world with intense or mind-blowing flavors. But according to Breaking Bourbon, this is one of the best "bottom of the barrel" bourbons you can find. It's a perfectly suitable option for cocktail mixing because it's not overpowering. This makes it a good "starter bourbon" as well. If you prefer your whiskey straight up or on the rocks, there might be better options for you.

Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond

If you get stuck in the rabbit hole of impassioned opinions on the r/bourbon over at Reddit, you might find that Evan Williams Bottled in Bond is well-liked in the community — especially when it comes to cheap, 100 proof finds with an elongated aging process of four years. Per Forbes, Evan Williams Black Label is the second best-selling bourbon in the world. Bottled-in-Bond is Black label's slightly fancier, boozier cousin. It still doesn't break the bank — it's available at Drizly for under $20. When you sip this, you may discern notes of toasty oak and chocolate with a dash of dried fruit. It's slightly pepper-forward from the rye but notably warm, long, and dry. 

According to Bourbon Obsessed, don't be surprised if you also pick up notes of sweet black tea, oak, char, and jam too. When it comes to consuming, this bourbon deserves to be served on the rocks or with a splash of water.

Wild Turkey 101

When it comes to fully-mature bourbon, Wild Turkey's process is unrivaled. The distillery's 101 proof bourbon is a result of a tried and tested method, aged six to eight years in charred American white oak barrels. This vanilla and cinnamon-forward whisky with hints of tobacco and citrus is made from non-GMO grains that are cooked in limestone-filtered water from the Kentucky River. Wild Turkey ferments the grains with its own proprietary yeast strain that creates a bold, well-rounded flavor (via Wild Turkey).

According to Vinepair, Wild Turkey 101 offers a level of versatility and value that's rare in today's bourbon market. This whiskey is perfect for an aromatic Old Fashioned, but you can also drink it simply on the rocks — which is rare in the world of budget bourbons. It also lands within the $15-$20 price range, which is super-affordable for an over-proof bourbon like this. This classic Kentucky-made bourbon is a must-try (via Total Wine).

Old Tub

If you're not swimming in a tub full of this bourbon already, then we suggest you pick up this unfiltered, rustic 100 proof whiskey, pronto. You can think of Old Tub as Jim Bean's glorified, limited edition cousin. It comes straight from Bardstown, Kentucky, and is aged for a total of four years. The primary flavor you get from this shimmering gold whiskey is oak, with warm caramel and candied orange adding complexity. Whiskey Monster denotes Old Tub as peppery on the finish, with a creamy base. Since it's unfiltered, you could think of it as the "Hazy IPA" of bourbon. Hovering in the $15-$20 price range, this is a type of bourbon that goes down easy on a blistering cold evening nestled by the fireplace.

"This Jim Beam expression really surprised with its bright, crisp but still nicely balanced and fragrant palate. Great finish with sweet and rich notes and feel. Stunning VALUE," said a verified customer at Total Wine.

Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey

While you're perusing the eye-catching aisles of Trader Joe's for an abundance of affordable snacks and enticing frozen dinners, might as well throw TJ's Kentucky Bourbon in your basket. It's ridiculously cheap, delicious, and gets the job done in bourbon-based cocktails. You can drink it straight up too — it's up to you how you want to enjoy this. Trader Joe's says this is a sour mash whiskey, which means a little bit of an old batch of mash (the fermented grain) is mixed into every new batch. Apparently, this means that you're guaranteed to get a consistent batch of this golden elixir every time.

This is an easy-drinking whiskey with predominantly sweet and fruity notes and a pronounced vanilla undertone to button up the finish. According to Barrels and Mash, you might also detect hints of sugar cookie and tobacco, creating an earthy palette that is rather enjoyable. A 750 ml bottle will run you $14.99 which is pretty unbeatable if you ask us, especially given that it ages for five years. This is a low-risk, high-reward bourbon that should always live in your spirit stash.

Knob Creek

If you're reading this, you're most likely familiar with the striking Knob Creek label — you can spot it in bars across the country, and for good reason too. According to Gentlemen Ranters, Knob Creek is produced in the same distillery as Jim Beam and has the same mash bill (meaning it's made with the same grain recipe). Although it skews a bit more high-end on the monetary side, Knob Creek 9 year, 100 proof Bourbon Whiskey is delicately aged in white oak barrels, providing a full-bodied flavor with caramel and sweet vanilla notes.

"Just breathing in the light caramel notes and the fruitiness brings relaxation. It is perfect neat at room temperature," said a reviewer on Knob Creek's website

According to Spruce Eats, Knob Creek is not for the faint-hearted simply due to its boldness. However, it's versatile — perfectly suitable for drinking on the rocks, or in cocktails too. To open up its rich profile, we suggest that you add a splash of water to activate the multitude of flavors.

JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond

Ask any whiskey person about good bottom-shelf bourbon, and they'll most likely point out JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond. Coming straight out of Bardstown, Kentucky, and priced out around $15, this is a bourbon staple you should consider. This 100-proof expression is aged for four years and distilled from a mash bill with a high corn content: 78%, with 12% malted barley and 10% rye.

Whiskey Consensus notices a banana and nutty nose with subtle hints of oak, vanilla, and fruit. The finish is rather spicy, expressing whispers of nutmeg and black pepper. They also assert that even though there are superior, more expensive options on the market, JW Dant meets expectations for the particularly affordable price tag.

"Look no further for an affordable bourbon that can be enjoyed neat as well as mixed. In fact, this is too good to dilute beyond adding a splash or cube. Sip carefully lest the 100-proof strength stuns your senses. If you revel in "smooth" bourbons this might not be for you, but if you like your bourbon to give you a wake-up call at the end of a flavorful sip look no further," said one reviewer on Total Wine.

Very Old Barton 100 Proof

Like most entry-level bourbons on our list, Very Old Barton 100 Proof is a classic whiskey that is approachable and easy to sip on. It used to be labeled as "bottled in bond," meaning it was aged for at least four years, but now makes no age claims on the label. Priced in the under-$15 range, this bourbon with a bright nose of buttery leather should maintain a forever home on your at-home bar cart (via Total Wine).

Bourbon Culture suggests that the palette of this one is "hot" with warm snickerdoodle cookie, berry, and Saigon cinnamon spice, which naturally seems like an intriguing magical potion of aromas. It's rated a 6 out of 10, which is most definitely worth your time for the price, especially since it is more complex than many of its competitors. Some might even think this is a $40 bourbon in a blindfolded taste test. Overall, Old Barton is a crowd-pleasing bourbon that definitely deserves a spot on our list.

Maker's Mark Whisky

A smooth and silky bourbon that uses a red winter wheat mash, Maker's Mark Whisky is treasured in the whiskey community. Yes, it's whisky, not whiskey: since the Samuels family that produces Maker's Mark has Scottish heritage, they spell whisky the Scottish way (via The Spruce Eats). It's easy to spot in any market or liquor store because of its bright red signature wax top. You'll certainly detect caramel, vanilla, and fruit, along with a wood-wheat aroma. This sweet, eclectic combo complements any Old Fashioned but can also stand by itself without any trepidation.

According to The Spruce Eats, Maker's is produced in Loretto, Kentucky and the recipe comes from one of the oldest families in bourbon-making history. It has no age statement but is apparently aged for somewhere between five and eight years. Landing in the $15-$20 range, this trademark bourbon definitely is worth every penny.

Old Grand-Dad

Heavy on the rye, Old Grand-Dad isn't your conventional bourbon. It's challenged many taste buds since its inception in 1882. Old Grand-Dad is quite affordable, landing in the $15 price range (via Total Wine). If you're wondering if some sweet grandfather is part of the brand's origin story, you'd be right. According to Vinepair, maker Raymond B. Hayden was inspired to name this whiskey after his own grandad, Basil Hayden Sr.

Although it's undergone several packaging iterations, the recipe has remained very consistent. Bourbon lovers can choose between three different proofs: 80, 100, and 114. With a deep golden honey body, bourbon drinkers will pick up on charred oak and peppered spice notes, with subtleties of vanilla, caramel, and dried fruit. It's quite delectable and highly recommended in the bourbon community.

"This is one of my favorites due to the high rye grain bill. One of the best bonded bottles at any price range, but definitely a steal for this price," said one verified buyer on Drizly.

Old Crow

This refined bourbon is quite legendary, and not just because of its taste. It's named after a distiller named Dr. James C. Crow who was one of the first whiskey makers to label his bourbon as a sour mash. Sour mash doesn't mean that Old Crow tastes sour. It actually refers to using leftover mash from a previous distillation to regulate the acidity of a new batch of fermenting mash (via The Whiskey Wash). There's more science to it, of course, but that's the consolidated Cliffs Notes version.

Old Crow has an alluring golden amber color with notes of sweet banana, caramel, vanilla, and a velvety butter finish. According to Whiskey Watch, this bourbon tastes a little bit wild and untamed because it's not aged for very long, but it's still well worth your time. At less than $15 from Drizly, this bottom-shelf bourbon is certainly worthy of a spot in your liquor collection.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

With ancient roots that extend over 200 years ago, Buffalo Trace Bourbon is one of the most traditional Kentucky-made bourbons you can find. It's hand-crafted at Buffalo Trace Distillery, known for always producing consistently solid batches of whiskey, and aged for at least eight years (via Buffalo Trace bourbon is a notch above many other budget-friendly whiskeys, and it's delicious on the rocks or in cocktails.

Buffalo Trace exudes a complex variety of flavors, ranging from warm toffee to candied fruit and vanilla. It's also decorated with several renowned liquor awards, including Gold at the 2020 American Whiskey Masters. It's a bit pricier in comparison to other bourbons on our list (around $20-$30), but it's well worth the extra couple of dollars.

"Buffalo Trace is a solid sipper for newbies and bourbonites alike. For a lower priced bourbon it provides a lot of flavor and a finish expected of higher priced bourbons," said one reviewer on Caskers.

Benchmark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Like the previous entry on this list, Benchmark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky comes from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. With an intricate stone-fruit foundation and discernible notes of leather, tobacco, cherry, and oak, this bourbon will tickle your tastebuds while giving them a dynamic, consistent treat.

According to Whiskey Rocks, Benchmark is produced with the same mash bill as Buffalo Trace Bourbon: 75% corn, 10% rye, and 15% barley. However, it doesn't taste much like Buffalo Trace and is noticeably sweeter. The flavor is so approachable that you can drink it in a multitude of ways based on your preference: on the rocks, with a dash of water, or in your favorite bourbon cocktail. As far as the price point, you can usually find it in between $10-$15, which makes it a heck of a deal and a necessity for all bourbon lovers searching for unbeatable bottom-shelf finds (via Drizly).

Four Roses Yellow Label

This bourbon's elegant packaging featuring four red roses might stop you in your tracks. Four Roses is a historic brand in the U.S., but it disappeared from the American market for decades before reappearing in local stores in 2002. The Yellow label is an 80 proof bourbon that's smooth and easy to sip on. With a light amber body, the palette is noted as floral and fruity with a subtle spice finish that's quite invigorating. Based on Breaking Bourbon's review, the Yellow Label is best served in cocktails due to its well-balanced characteristics. On its own, this entry-level bourbon won't knock your socks off, but it's more than worth its $20 price tag (via Total Wine).

"A little sweet, a little heat. Fantastic price point for this entry-level Bourbon. Expect even more from their single barrel and other selections. Caramel apple on the palate with sweet corn on the nose. Short to medium finish. Not a game changer, but a great daily drinker or cocktail base," said reviewer Matthew on Flaviar.

Ezra Brooks Black Label Kentucky Sour Mash

If you're a Jack Daniel's drinker, then Ezra Brooks Black Label Kentucky Sour Mash might feel very familiar to you. It has a similar bottle shape and a black label that's strikingly classy. This 90 proof whiskey is aged to perfection in new charred oak barrels and charcoal filtered, generating a balanced flavor palette that is attractive to all bourbon drinkers. You'll most definitely detect notes of spicy caramel and warm vanilla with a layer of chocolate, along with other subtle nuances. It's fancy and you'll feel like a king or queen when mixing it into a classic Manhattan or drinking it neat.

"This is a mouthful. The bouquet is a sandalwood platter serving up a bed of toasted grain, pressed vanilla, and peanut brittle. The palate is juicy and miraculously balances a circus of extreme flavors, clarified butter initially, roasted peanuts, char marks, vanilla, and wood tannins on the finish. This is one worth sipping all evening," said reviewer Sam Davies via Distiller.