Bourbon has seen a massive upswing in interest lately. Maybe it’s due to the high price and scarcity of good whisky, or maybe drinkers are finally realizing the uniqueness of bourbon, but whatever the case it means that bourbon prices are starting to rise.
But, that doesn’t mean that bourbon has to be expensive. In fact, good bourbon can still be found at relatively inexpensive price points, especially those labels that drinkers haven’t caught onto yet. So if you’re interested in bourbon but don’t know where to start, here’s a guide to help you at various price points.
We won’t be listing prices, as they vary depending on where you’re buying, but each of these bottles should be around the same price per category.
Cheap (Under $50)
Old Forester has been in operation since 1870, and that includes during prohibition when it was sold for “medicinal” purposes. The Kentucky distiller’s 86-proof bourbon undergoes prolonged fermentation, which adds depth and complexity. It has all of the usual oak notes, with added cigar box and mint aromas, and candied orange flavor.
Don’t let the label fool you, this isn’t your father’s bourbon. Old Grand-dad may seem uncool, but it is actually from the same distillery as Basil Hayden (he’s the old grand-dad in the photo). This bourbon has a very high rye content in the mash, which provides a spicy kick on the palate. It’s a strong bourbon that kicks well above its price point.
Wild Turkey 101
Similar to Old Grand-dad, Wild Turkey 101 is a bourbon that has a lot of punch. The “101” refers to the bourbon’s proof, meaning it’s 50.5 percent ABV. But don’t let the high alcohol turn you off; aged in deeply charred oak barrels, Wild Turkey 101 has pronounced caramel aromas and flavours, backed up by citrus fruits and orange zest.
Average (Under $100)
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Elijah Craig is known as the “father of bourbon” and this small batch series does justice to his name. Each bottle is aged for 12 years, giving it a spicy, fruity, and nutty complexity. This can justifiably be considered the first ‘small batch’ bourbon, although it predates the introduction of that term.
Four Roses Single Barrel
As the name implies, every one of these bottles is sourced from a single barrel, meaning you’re getting a pure form of bourbon here. You’ll find aromas of oak, and burnt sugar, with earthy, resin and corn; velvety smooth on the palate, rich with flavours of corn, wood spice and caramel, with hints of dill and nut; finish is slightly warm and heady.
Basil Hayden Kentucky Bourbon
The recipe for this classic Bourbon dates back to 1796. Amber in colour; on the nose are notes of dried apricot, caramel, custard, green peppercorn and hay; on the palate it is medium-bodied and warming, with flavours of white pepper, burnt sugar, dried white flowers and vanilla that finishes with a lingering herbal spice.
Expensive (Under $150)
Blanton’s Original Single Barrel
Blanton’s gets the honour of being credited as the first producer of single-barrel bourbon. This release smells like freshly baked apple pie, with a generous nose rich in cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, and refined floral notes. On the palate, there are sweet peaches and dried apricots with a touch of maple syrup and molasses.
Koval Single Barrel
This organic distiller from Chicago adds corn and millet to mingle in new American oak barrels resulting in a harmonious relationship that sings from the glass with aromas of mango, vanilla and hints of nutmeg. On the palate it is smooth with sweet apricot and creamy caramel followed by a finish of clove and tobacco.
Splurge ($150 and up)
Wild Turkey Masters Keep Revival
Master’s Keep Revival is made from a blend of Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon aged 12-15 years before finishing in 20-year-old Oloroso sherry casks, hand-selected by Master Distiller Eddie Russell. The result is a one-of-a-kind, 101 proof sipping whiskey with aromas of cherry pie, raisins, citrus, nuts and a touch of oak.
Pappy Van Winkle’s 23 Year
This is THE bourbon, the one everyone covets. Most drinkers will never get a chance to experience Pappy’s to know whether it’s worth the hype or not. Regardless, this bourbon has achieved legendary status, and if you get your hands on one, it may be a smarter move to hold onto it as an investment than to drink it.