For someone looking to get into bourbon, or for your seasoned bourbon drinker looking for a good “daily sipper,” there are a ton of great options at a relatively inexpensive price point. Today, I’m going to explore my top 5 bottles, at $50 or under, that you can find on the shelf today.
As Orion explained in his “Top 5 Whiskeys for $50 and Under” this list is 100% subjective. I would also like to put out a disclaimer that the prices are based on the national average MSRPs for a 750 mL bottle, so don’t @ me. Also, I would have no issue writing an article with my top 20 as there are a lot of really good bourbons that have a price tag under $50.
While it was tough to narrow down some of these, I feel like these five bottles, for the price and availability, are hard to beat. Cheers!
1. Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 ($50)
Don’t take my being from Chattanooga as a bias on this one. Chattanooga Whiskey has come a long way since I last lived there in 2013 and toured the distillery in 2012. With that aside, we start with the most unique, the highest proof (111 proof), and the most expensive bottle on the list.
Chattanooga Whiskey uses at least 25% malted grains in their mash bill, in which they don the title “Tennessee High Malt Whiskey.” This process gives the 111 proof a smoother, almost velvety mouthfeel that really mellows out the heat of this pour.
Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 is the barrel-strength version of the flagship bottle. I prefer the higher proof of the two as I feel that more flavors really come through with this bottle. At only 2 years old (Age statement: More than Two Years) it is surprising how smooth, rich, and complex this bottle is. It has enough heat for a veteran bourbon drinker who prefers a little proof behind a pour, but smooth enough for someone who is just starting to explore whiskey. And at this price point, would make a perfect gift for your favorite bourbon drinker while not breaking the bank. Check out our review of a Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 here.
2. Wild Turkey 101 ($25)
Coming in second on the list is an old favorite. This has always been a go-to for me. In college, it was cheap, usually on sale, and an easy find. Now that I’m throwing back fewer shots, I can appreciate the full-bodied and robust flavors that this $25 (750mL) has to offer, I still find myself drawn to this bottle.
As the flagship whiskey for the Wild Turkey distillery, it definitely holds up to the namesake. The reason this bottle makes the second spot on my list is how versatile it is. This whiskey holds enough flavor to be poured neat. It has enough heat to be served on the rocks and it does not feel like it’s diluted. It is exceptionally flavorful so it bodes well in your favorite cocktail and is cheap enough, so you don’t feel bad for mixing it if that’s your preference.
3. Old Grand-Dad Bonded ($30)
Basil Hayden’s grandson created the brand “Old Grand-Dad” after his grandfather who is currently portrayed on the bottle.
During prohibition, it was crafted as a medical whiskey and could only be bought with a doctor’s prescription. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a medical treatment (though I’m not a doctor), I would encourage you not to turn your nose up to the label.
Hints of cinnamon candy and lingering caramel make this bottle incredibly smooth and easy to drink. When making my selection on which bottles to write about, It came down to this bottle and the Old Grand-Dad 114. While the 114 bottle is a fantastic pour, this is the rare occasion that I have found that the proof of the 114 takes away from the flavors offered in the bonded.
Leaps and bounds above the bottle that a lot of us may or may not have had rough mornings after with, this bottle offers more to the palate and overall experience than what you probably know of Old Grand-Dad.
4. Four Roses Single Barrel ($45)
Four Roses Bourbon also takes me back to my college days.
I wasn’t buying single barrels, nor could I have told you what that even meant. But, for the price point of the bourbon and the small batch expressions of Four Roses, it was perfect for a college kid.
Similar to the Old Granddad, Four Roses Single Barrel offers much more to experience than that of the yellow label.
Of course, this is not referring to gold-labeled barrel picks or the cask strength expressions that are available with the Four Roses Single Barrel program. I am especially referring to the widely available main-line single barrel expression.
Also, sitting at 100 proof, it is just enough heat to give us that mild Kentucky hug but not take away from the 7-9 year flavor profile that you don’t get in the yellow label.
5. Old Forester 100 ($20)
Brown- Foreman offers a lot of great whiskeys. However, to me Old Forester takes the cake. Its product line is, overall, fantastic.
I had a tough time choosing between this bottle and Old Forester 1987.
Both the 100 and 1987 offer outstanding flavor profiles, fantastic drinking experiences, and both sit at 100 proof.
I inevitably picked this bottle because of its incredible value. The price point for Old Forester is $20 for 750mL and $30 for a liter. Even the 1.75L makes the cut for under $50 (around $47.99), making this the best value bourbon on the list.
Along with the excellent price point, this pour offers all of the flavors I have come to love in the Old Forester product line. It has a bit more punch than that of some of the lower proof bottles that Old Forester offers, but it is also more refined than some of the higher proof options, like the Old Forester 1920.
BONUS BOTTLE – Russel’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon ($40)
The father and son master distillers at Wild Turkey, Jimmy and Eddie Russel, put together an incredible hand selection of barrels to create their Russel’s Reserve product line.
The Russel’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon is a small batch of a specific selection of barrels that, while some may be older, have been aged for a minimum of 10 years.
In an effort to keep my core five bottles diverse, I excluded the RR10 and kept the Wild Turkey 101 for three reasons:
The first reason was availability.
The second was this bottle’s proof. RR10 comes in at the lowest proof on my list at 90 proof. I try not to be a proof snob but sometimes there is just something to a little more heat.
And last was simply personal preference. What can I say? I like my 101.
However, RR10 is an incredible pour. All Wild Turkey Bourbon is made with only one bourbon mash bill. So, with this bottle, you get all of the Wild Turkey high rye notes, but with 10 years of age. This gives the pour a deeper seasoned oak and richer caramel flavor profile that you don’t get on a lot of their younger products.
Chris first became affiliated with Whiskey Culture when he met Greg at one of their regular hangouts, Whiskey Willy’s in Tampa, FL.
Their mutual love for whiskey and connecting with other whiskey enthusiasts quickly spurred a great friendship between them. Chris and Greg would share samples, and hunt bottles for each other as their travels took them around the country.
Chris regularly attended Whiskey Culture events, and was even invited to sit on the tasting panel for Whiskey Culture’s first private barrel pick!
Now in Philadelphia, Chris is a regular contributor for Whiskey Culture writing op-ed pieces and bottle reviews.