We’ve come a long way since Americans first started distilling bourbon whiskey. It’s also been over half a century since the United States Congress passed The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits that recognized bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States. Since then, the spirit has permeated everything from the craft beer movement to apparel to even the construction of men’s watches – with a few high ticket items in between. Where does this leave us? Floating in a sea of confusion from time to time that’s for sure. But one thing’s for certain, bourbon – no matter how it’s repurposed across separate industries – will remain a uniquely American product that’s damn delicious and most likely sat alongside powerful men throughout history who shaped this fine nation.
Now as lofty as all that sounds that doesn’t mean you need to head out and splurge on a fancy bottle – though we’re not dissuading you by any means. Instead, the time-honored tradition of sipping bourbon is something that can certainly be fulfilled without breaking the bank, even below the $30 price point. Yes, believe it or not, “budget” bourbon doesn’t have to taste like ethanol. On the contrary, there are some options out there that are fantastic for the price point so if you’re interested in saving a bit of coin here, scroll through this list of the best bourbons under $30 and pick your fancy.
Elijah Craig 12
Some devotees will claim you simply can’t go wrong with Elijah Craig, and frankly, we too consider ourselves included in this lot. This 12-year bourbon is both smooth and balanced – complete with sweet notes of creme brûlée, vanilla, and oak. And for the price point, this bourbon displays a complexity of bourbons typically twice its value. Needless to say, if you’re going to mix it do so at your own discretion, for this is bourbon certainly worth sipping neat.
Evan Williams Single Barrel
Despite the previously held notions you may have regarding the more readily available Evan Williams expressions, their single barrel offering is certainly something worth enjoying on a regular basis. In fact, the bourbon has won a variety of awards several years back and for the price point works might fine as either a cocktail bourbon or something to sip on come sundown. It boasts a surprisingly elegant profile as well with a nutty aroma complemented by light toffee, and a palate full of oak, vanilla, and cinnamon.
No secrets here. This is a classic expression from one of the original and oldest distilleries in the nation. Just one sip of this iconic Kentucky straight bourbon will get you hooked no matter if you’re mixing it up in a cocktail or sipping it neat. It features a nose full of sweet caramel, toffee eclairs, a hint of cinnamon and rum spice, followed up by brown sugar, toffee and sweet oak on the palate, and finishing off with a moderately long round of sweet spices, cinnamon, and toffee.
As an award-winning bourbon, there are few offerings out there that can compete with the versatility of Bulleit for the price point. On the nose, the bourbon is lively with notes of orange zest, oak and vanilla, followed by more orange on the palate in conjunction with a bit of wintery spice. It finishes boldly as well, with a combination of both sweet and spicy notes.
Woodford Reserve Distillers Select
Critically acclaimed as one of the best bourbons out there without breaking the bank, the Distillers Select series from Woodford Reserve is one of those essential sipping and cocktail bourbons that simply deserves a permeant spot on the home bar. It boasts an elegant balance of wood, vanilla, and dried fruits that are neither too sweet nor too dry on the palate. Not a bad choice at all.
Distilled using the classic American recipe of wheat, corn, and malted barley, Rebel Yell is one of those expressions that surely doesn’t disappoint. Some may recognize the name’s origin as the former Confederate battle cry, others may simply know this bourbon from its nose full of honey, citrus fruits, and vanilla, a balanced palate alluding to nectarines, and vanilla, and a warm citrusy finish.
Known for distilling a bourbon at the lowest proof of any US whiskey distillery, Maker’s Mark is then able to produce a bourbon that’s rich in flavor and boasts a profile unique to the brand. On the nose, this bourbon is both rich and fruit-forward complete with notes of spiced honey, hazelnut, and toasted oak. The palate is full-bodied as well thanks to notes of rye, spice, butterscotch, and vanilla while it finishes sweet with butterscotch and dry oak to round things out quite nicely.
Four Roses Small Batch
As one of the few releases from Four Roses, this bourbon – similar to their other expressions – is characterized by a delicately balanced blend of bourbons that results in a unique profile you simply can’t find anywhere else. Naturally, the nose on the spirit is smooth and subtle with notes of winter spice, the palate balanced with honey, toasted oats and fruit, and a finish that’s quite vanilla forward.
Bucket List: 25 Bourbons To Drink Before You Die
When money is no object and you’re simply looking to expand your knowledge of bourbon varietals, we strongly suggest you start here with this bourbon bucket list.