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The Best Bourbon Under $100

The Best Bourbon Under $100


One of the holy grails of a well-stocked home bar is a stellar bourbon that doesn’t break the bank. A bottle that’s not too precious to mix into cocktails, but can hold its own served neat. Some may argue that the $40 to $50 range is where “bargain” bourbons start, but those under $100 can still offer excellent value. Here, we share the best bourbons under $100 to try this year.

What Makes a Good Budget Bourbon?

The short answer is: the same things that make a great bourbon at any price range. Much of that is subjective, of course. The aroma and flavor should be pleasing, perhaps with some sweetness from the corn or baking spice on the finish. The oak should be well-integrated (the tannic “sucking-on-a-wood-stave” quality is a giveaway of a too-young or poorly-made whiskey). And, it should be versatile enough to sip or mix.

“A good budget-priced bourbon has all the characteristics of any good bourbon,” notes Adam Polonski, co-founder and head of whiskey sourcing for independent bottler Lost Lantern. “Budget-conscious drinkers do not have to skimp on quality. Budget-priced bourbons aren’t necessarily younger or made less carefully than expensive ones. They just aren’t as rare and sought-after.”

And while opulent bottles might look nice displayed on your bar cart, your bourbon budget might go further without fancy packaging. “I don’t want to pay for a pretty bottle,” protests Samara Davis, CEO and executive director of the Black Bourbon Society. “I want to pay for a good whiskey. If it’s a $20 whiskey in a $200 bottle, just throw out that bottle and give me the whiskey.”

So, whether you’re looking for a budget option to add to the best bourbon cocktails (like this Mississippi Bourbon Punch) or simply the best bourbon for sipping, try these best bottles.

The Best Bourbons Under $100


The Best Bourbons for Cocktails

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Finished in Pinot Noir barrels from Oregon’s Elk Cove, this bourbon shimmers with dark fruit and spice. Vanilla and caramel are layered with dark cherry, dried fig and fruit leather, finishing long with clove and black pepper. —Kara Newman

$49.99
Mash&Grape

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

A warming whiskey that’s like wrapping up in a big blanket—vanilla, oak and cocoa lead into a nutty, palatecoating finish laced with leather, cigar wrapper and just a hint of butterscotch and warming spice. —K.N.

$67.97
Wine.com

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is for those who prefer a sweeter-style bourbon. Vanilla and brown sugar aromas lead into a velvety palate that echoes those notes, braced by a black pepper tingle. Made with Texas-grown grains. —K.N.

$39.99
Total Wine & More

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

The sweet vanilla aroma is echoed on the palate, where it’s accompanied by perky pops of allspice, ginger and clove heat, gliding into a smooth finish tinged with almond. This is a blend of bourbons aged between three and six years. —K.N.

$54.97
Wine.com

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

The first sips offer oak, toffee and clove, accented with a hint of dark fruit. Adding water brings out lighter, nuttier flavors, pleasantly suggesting peanut brittle, brown butter, caramel corn and maple. —K.N.

$37.99
Caskers

The Best Bourbons for Sipping

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Nuanced vanilla and tropical fruit aromas introduce this blend of straight bourbons, aged from 6–16 years. The palate opens with brown sugar and mouthwateringly savory spices, cayenne and clove. Adding water dials in an espresso note, while a fleeting hint of pineapple emerges on the exhale. —K.N.

$88.99
Total Wine & More

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

The concept: a blend of bourbons finished in four California wine barrels, intended to replicate a popular wine blend. The result: allspice, cola and sarsaparilla aromas, leading into a bracing palate with burnt almond and oak. It finishes with a big, drying exhale of cinnamon and burnt orange peel. —K.N.

$45
Hinterhaus Distilling

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Vanilla and caramel aromas are echoed on the palate, leading to additional flavors of cinnamon, clove and black pepper, plus a hint of lemon peel. This pleasant sipper is a blend of apple brandy-finished bourbon and straight bourbon whiskey. —K.N.

$39.98
Woods Wholesale Wines

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Bold vanilla and oak aromas introduce this single-barrel, six-year-old bourbon. Spice is the leading characteristic; a splash of water helps mellow the big alcohol bite, letting cinnamon and baking spice wind into a long vanilla finish paired with a hint of sherry-like golden raisin. —K.N.

$76.99
Total Wine & More

The Best Overall Bourbons

96 Points Wine Entuhsiast

Lively, complex and deeply aromatic, with hits of Christmas spice, orange blossom and vanilla. It’s spicy on the tongue, with lots of woodsy vanilla and orange. Medium body, this would rock a Bourbon-based Sazerac. —K.N.

$56.99
Total Wine & More

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Created by master distiller Brent Elliott to mark the distillery’s grand reopening, this Bourbon is the first permanent addition to the portfolio since 2006. This is a concentrated sip—even with plenty of water—showing warm, toasty vanilla, sugar cookies and buttery brioche, finishing extra-long and drying, accented by plenty of baking spice. It’s a real lip-smacker. —K.N.

$62.99
Total Wine & More

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

A good workhorse for all manner of cocktails, this bright amber Bourbon has a butterscotch aroma and oaky, relatively dry flavors that elongate into a rich caramel finish. Best Buy —K.N.

$49.99
Caskers

FAQ

Does Good Bourbon Need to Be Expensive?

Absolutely not, and the pros agree.

“Bourbon doesn’t have to be expensive,” declares Davis definitely. “It’s corn and water and time and yeast. It’s made out of very basic ingredients that are—minus supply chain issues—plentiful and bountiful in our country.”

A good bourbon “doesn’t have to be the most expensive or the rarest,” adds Darron Foy, bar manager at The Flatiron Room, a whiskey-focused NYC bar. “The versatility of the spirit is a good indicator of its worth.” In other words, it’s about finding a bourbon that works well to drink neat or on the rocks, or that mixes easily into cocktails. And that can extend to a range of reasonably priced bottles.

What’s the Difference Between Expensive Bourbon and Bargain Bourbon?

Spoiler alert: the difference between a “luxury” bourbon and value-priced bourbon often has little to do with the liquid itself.

“Ingredient costs, essentially the cost of the bourbon itself, are usually not the primary driving factor,” explains Marianne Eaves, who has made bourbon for Castle & Key and Brown-Forman, among others. “However, it could be other materials, glass, the closure, etc. that force the hand of some producers to ensure they make their target margin.”

It’s also worth noting that bourbon has become more expensive in recent years, points out Polonski. (In part, you can blame the Pappy’s phenomenon.)

Even just five years ago, there were relatively few bourbons priced above $100,” Polonski says. “Those that were generally had clear and obvious marks of distinction–often a very high age statement (15-plus years) or coming from a very well-known and highly regarded brand.”

While there’s no aging minimum for bourbon, it needs to age at least four years to qualify as bottled-in-bond, and most pros suggest bourbon peaks after five to 12 years of barrel time.

“Age is one of the most significant factors when it comes to price point,” says Murphy Quint, head distiller for Iowa distillery Cedar Ridge. From a distillery’s point of view, “the longer a barrel of bourbon has been aged, the more bourbon has evaporated out of the barrel, and therefore the distillery will need to sell the remaining liquid at a higher price in order to cover the evaporated loss.” In other words, you’re paying for the angel’s share—the bourbon that evaporated during the aging process.

In general, “there is not inherently a huge difference in flavor or quality between a budget-priced bourbon and an expensive one,” Polonski notes. “Bottles over $100 usually command that price for some specific reason.” This is often because they are scarce, have a high age statement or have a long history of strong reviews for that brand. Additionally, some brands use luxury packaging or celebrity partnerships to elevate perception—and price. That said, “There are great whiskies, and bad whiskies, at all price points.”

What Is the Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon?

Whiskey is a category of distilled spirit. Bourbon is a type of whiskey that contains 51% corn and is aged in charred new oak barrels. If the bourbon is distilled in the state of Kentucky, it can be referred to as Kentucky bourbon. For a refresher on which whiskeys are considered bourbon, see our Ultimate Guide to Bourbon.

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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Published on January 20, 2023





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