The Best Bargains To Be Had In Bourbon Whiskey
By Richard Thomas
Modern bourbon is a pretty fluid thing, pun half-intended. The demands of popularity cause brands to change and prices to rise. This is so much so that our original take on bargain bourbons, little more than a year old, is now partly out of date. One necessary change was to raise the roof on our prince range, from $25 to $30, to retain the premium slant intended by our use of the word “bargain” rather than “budget.”
Despite this, one thing remains a constant: compared to its counterparts from Ireland, Japan and Scotland, American bourbon still offers the best bang for the buck to be had, especially if you live in it’s home country of the United States. The $30 limit presented here is still less than the $35 price point we had to set for bargain Scotch, and the quality of bargain bourbon is still quite high.
The prices listed above were based on a wide sampling of sources, so cost in your area may differ. Following The Whiskey Reviewer’s practice, our choices were based upon consulting experts both in and out of house, as well as our own readers.
1. Wild Turkey 101, $22: By far and away the most popular choice in this category of mid-shelf bargain whiskeys is one that usually isn’t associated with the word “premium.” The classic expression of Wild Turkey bourbon, WT101 combines high proof and bold flavor with a very reasonable price tag.
“It’s great for on the rocks sipping in the summer, said singer-songwriter Katie Buchanan. “But it’s mostly excellent for proper classic cocktails where you can actually taste the spirit.”
2. Henry McKenna 10 Year Old Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel, $26: Votes for Henry McKenna 10 Year Old were often accompanied by half-joking comments to not tell anyone about it, for fear that it would catch on and become the new Weller 12 Year Old (i.e. hunted to extinction). To some, Henry McKenna 10 has effectively replaced Elijah Craig 12 now that the latter has gone NAS, since it’s drawn from the same basic stock and almost as old. Others preferred Henry McKenna 10 all along, noting the higher proof, single barrel, bottled-in-bond points.
3. Old Grand Dad 114, $27: If you’re a bourbon fan and you want to go big, bold, spicy and high proof on a budget, Old Grand Dad 114 is someone you want to meet. Like the standard Old Grand Dad, this comes from Beam’s high rye (27%) stock, but is bottled at a whopping 57% ABV. That is 6.5 points higher than even Wild Turkey 101, and other Beam products pushing the 60% mark cost around 50 or 60 bucks. This item is an overlooked steal.
4. Evan Williams Single Barrel, $25: Elijah Craig 12 Year Old was a major classic of bargain bourbons. For those looking for a replacement, Henry McKenna is one way to go, but another is Evan Williams Single Barrel. It too comes from the same stock, and is also a 10 Year Old. The main difference from a consumer’s point of view is that it’s bottled at a lower proof, 86.6 instead of 100. So, if high octane whiskey isn’t your thing, this one is your bargain bourbon.
5. 1792 Small Batch, $30: Those looking for a distillery that offers good quality, but is still largely overlooked by the drinking masses at large, Barton 1792 is the place to start. Within that distillery’s lineup, 1792 Small Batch is the bourbon to start with. Really the only thing holding it back insofar as we are concerned is the price tag; with an average of $30, it just barely squeaks in, and in some areas it will be priced over the line.