American Whiskey on a Budget

Whisky is a luxury item.  It can range in price from several thousands for a rare bottle to a few bucks for a bottom shelfer.  While $100+ whiskies are becoming more and more common, they are still out of reach for many people.  Starting around Thanksgiving, folks ask me for whiskey suggestions in the $20 – $30 range.  I thought I’d share with you what I usually tell them.  I’ve limited this list to American whiskies, as Scotch whiskies generally command higher prices.

1.  George Dickel No. 12 ($25) – Solid offering from the Tennessee distillery.  George Dickel is technically not a bourbon, but it’s close enough. It has some great sweet corn, caramel, barrel char and flinty notes.  Great for sipping or mixing.  I like adding some to my barbecue sauce.

2.  Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond White Label ($20) – A four year old whiskey full of classic bourbon flavors.  It also packs a punch at 100 proof.  Evan Williams White Label is fine on its own, but shines in an Old Fashioned.

3.  Knob Creek ($30) – This (formerly) 9-year-old , 100 proof bourbon is a great sipper with it’s strong oaky and brown sugary notes.  You might still be able to spot an age stated 9-year-old Knob Creek on shelves.

4.  Rittenhouse Rye ($25) – Heaven Hill’s bottled-in-bond rye whiskey is extremely flavorful and better still, it’s very affordable.  I keep a bottle around the house mainly for cocktails (try making a Sazerac or Manhattan), but it’ll do just fine neat in a glass.

5.  Bulleit Bourbon ($25 – $35) – A great spicy bourbon due to the high amount of rye grain in the mashbill.  It is extremely versatile.  Lots of mixologists like using this one in cocktails, but it’s generally a sipper for me.

I hope this helps out.  If there are other budget-friendly American whiskies you’d recommend, please share in the comments below.


  1. I’d add 1792 to the list as well. Earlier this year, I hosted a blind tasting of 8 bourbons, all 90-100 proof, all 8-12 years old. This included ORVW10 (diluted to 90 proof), Weller 12, Elijah Craig 12, Bulleit 10, etc… we had two dozen people in attendance (ranging from whiskey snobs to neophytes), the winner by a nose was the 1792, followed by the Weller 12. For ~$20-30, the 1792 is a whiskey that’s very accessible and won’t break the bank.

    My other favorites in the affordable range are Old Grand Dad 114 ($25), and killer for mixed drinks, but sippable striaight up; Wild Turkey Rare Breed ($35-$40), which is a value win for an affordable “top shelf” whiskey… I’ve tried ~200 American whiskies, and WTRB still belongs on the top shelf even with price as no object.

    It’s also worth considering Evan Williams Single Barrel ($25), Henry McKenna 10 year ($25).

    The other two to keep an eye out for are Sazerac 6 year rye ($35) and Eagle Rare 10 year ($30-$35), both of which I still see reasonably often on the shelf, though their availability is highly regional.


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