You don’t have to spend a fortune to find delicious American whiskey, and we tasted enough bottles to prove it.
Sure, a splurge-worthy bottle of American whiskey is a great way to ring in the holiday season. But you don’t have to drop a ton of money for the good stuff. The 64 selections below are all under $100 — most of them, in fact, are well under — and more than worthy of space on your shelf or bar cart.
Baker’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This gem, which was barreled in December 2011 and then aged for eight years and seven months, rings in at 107 proof, and is sweetly appealing as soon as you smell it. The aromas of slow-roasted walnuts, toasty vanilla, freshly grated cinnamon, clove, and well-developed dulce de leche are really beautiful. On the palate, the toast and sweet spice of the oak are kissed with cracked peppercorn, and resolve in notes of chocolate-coated figs and cafe mocha.
Basil Hayden Red Wine Cask Finish Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aromas of candied red apples, mashed peanuts, and cherries, with just a hint of herbs in the far background, tee up flavors of brown sugar caramel, warm honey, Cracker-Jacks in the best possible sense, marzipan, a hint of dried rose petals, kirsch, and sweet craisins through the generous finish.
Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
This whiskey rolls over the palate with graham crackers and spiced butterscotch, whole cloves, and a suggestion of leather. It’s balanced and friendly, silky in texture, and shows unexpected suggestions of cherry on the long finish. You can find this for less than $50 retail, which is an absolute steal.
This brings to mind toasted marshmallows slowly softened over a campfire, honey, a touch of flowers, and praline, all with a subtle core of corn cakes drizzled with clover honey. Yet it wears its sweetness well, and never seems cloying.
Booker’s 2022-03 Kentucky Tea Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aged for seven years, four months, and 14 days, this bourbon is big (126.5 proof), yet harmonious. The interplay of hazelnuts, honey-coated almonds, and toffee with orange pastry cream and pralines is excellent, and the wood tannins that frame the finish make this a fascinatingly friendly food-pairing option.
Broken Top Mountain Whiskey Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distilled and aged in Indiana and bottled in Sisters, Oregon by Cascade Spirits, this is a nutty, bass-note-forward dram with hard orchard fruit and hints of pralines and roasted chestnuts.
Brother’s Bond Hand Selected Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Made from corn, rye, wheat, and barley, the upfront cereal grain character here has a spine of salinity and tobacco leaf that provide a skeleton of sorts for subtle and spice-dusted flavors of hard apples and roasted almonds.
Bulleit Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Recently re-released for the first time since 2016, this 120.2 proof high-rye bourbon is powerful but well-balanced, with coconut cream, vanilla flan, and milk chocolate notes that finish with honey flecks and cafe mocha. It makes excellent Manhattans, and works beautifully with a large ice cube, too.
Castle & Key Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The first release — dated 2022 on the bottle — was worth the wait. The spice and tannin of oak provide ample structure for flavors of dried apricots and pineapple, toasted coconut, white raisins, and caramel. It will be very exciting to follow the trajectory of Castle & Key in coming years.
Cooper’s Craft Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Sweetly spiced with toasty coconut, caramel, and chocolate, and silky with flavors of orange-blossom honey and Halloween candy corn, this is dangerously easy to drink both on its own and in a wide range of cocktails — it makes a particularly delicious Old Fashioned.
Four Roses Bourbon
Four Roses offers some of the best value in the world of American whiskey, from the Small Batch to the annual Limited Edition Small Batch release. Yet the original, which can be found for right around $20, remains a tried-and-true go-to for both casual sipping and classic cocktails. Its subtle spice amps up corn nuts, caramel, and dried orchard fruit, making it a reliably excellent option no matter what your budget might be. Also worth checking out is the New Belgium Oakspire Bourbon Barrel Aged Ale, which leveraged ex-Four Roses casks for a particularly decadent brew.)
Great Jones Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey
As the label says, this is grown, distilled, and aged in New York, and the result threads the needle between sweet and spicy, with enough bergamot, toasty vanilla, carob, and clove to season dried stone and citrus fruit.
Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey
From the Hudson Valley of New York, this whiskey is aged in a solera system before being finished in 20-year-old Oloroso casks. It’s a praline-perked bourbon with notes of fruit cake, biscotti, honey, and a floral lift peeking through it all.
Hirsch The Horizon Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Velvety and easygoing, this bottle comes in waves of honey, then maple, then dried apples and sweet vanilla dusting a candied lemon peel before a final corn-nut note appears, lending savoriness.
I.W. Harper Cabernet Cask Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This is finished in ex-Cabernet Sauvignon casks from California. The cereal notes of the nose turn to a palate that reminds me of honey-drizzled corn bread, white and milk chocolate, caramel-enrobed currants, and the suggestion of leather, all before a finish that speaks of toffee, charred vanilla, grilled white peaches, and sweet tobacco.
James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Bottled by Old Smoky, this is redolent of orange marmalade dusted with Chinese five-spice powder, as well as brown-sugar caramel, baked pears and apples, and a finish flashed with carob, roasted cacao nibs, and coffee beans.
Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Voyage 24 Very Small Batch Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys
This release of the popular series spent its life prior to bottling in the heat of the Caribbean, where, Jefferson’s explains, “the humidity was tropical and the average temperature inside the containers was 93.82 F.” The result is a savory-sweet whiskey whose cooked honey and chocolate ganache flavors are joined by dried cherries, graham crackers, baseball-mitt leather (in a good way!) and deeply toasted vanilla.
Journeyman Distillery Featherbone Bourbon Whiskey
Distilled in Three Oaks, Michigan, this showcases distinct aromas of leather and cigar tobacco leaf, joined by hints of boiled peanuts and black licorice before a palate of assertive peppercorn savoriness that’s cut with cooked brown sugar and vanilla pod. Additional notes of orange pith and crunchy apples find a counterpoint in a spine of minerality.
Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This layered, delicate bourbon is a fantastic value, unfurling with flavors of honey-coated almonds, graham crackers, caramelized-vanilla pastry cream, and candied citrus peels. Sweet spices—clove and cinnamon prominent among them—linger through the finish.
Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2022 Limited Release BRT-01 and -02 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Every year, the limited wood finishing series releases from Maker’s Mark are highly anticipated. This year, they came out with two at the same time — the BRT-01 is made with 10 virgin toasted American oak staves and shows notes of French toast, deeply roasted coconut, fresh-grated cinnamon, and vanilla pod. The BRT-02, crafted with 10 virgin toasted French oak staves, is more chocolatey, with clove-seamed molasses, hazelnut liqueur, and black-cherry jam and plums joined by flamed orange oils. Both are terrific.
Old Elk Wheated Bourbon
Aged for five years, this has a bit more spice than what you might expect of a wheated bourbon, but it’s still quite accurate for the style. It’s upfront and very friendly with nougat, Nilla Wafers, Twix bars, and orange marmalade, making it a fantastic all-day dram.
Old Forester “1910 Old Fine Whiskey” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This delicious expression from the venerable Old Forester benefits from a finishing stint in a heavily charred barrel, into which the liquid enters at just 100 proof (it’s ultimately bottled at 93 proof). Nougat and fudge flavors are complemented by notes of cafe mocha and dried stone fruit and orchard fruit. It brings to mind sweetly-spiced Twix Bars in the best possible sense.
Penelope Rosé Cask Finish Straight Bourbon Whiskey
After reposing for more than two years in charred new American oak, this was finished in Southern Rhône Grenache rosé casks, lending it fresh, bright notes of wild strawberries and strawberry fruit roll-ups (in a positive sense), lemon-blossom honey, and nectarines, alongside more concentrated flavors of golden raisins and white figs.
Redemption Wheated Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Nutty yet lifted aromas of honey-tinged peaches and nectarines precede a palate of delicacy and easy sip-ability. The expected honeyed sweetness of the 45% winter wheat has lent this a sense of generosity, and it glides over the palate with almost dangerous ease.
Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Brandy Casks
Non-chill filtered and distilled and aged in Long Island, this high-rye gem is assertive with classic rye spice and anchored by a core of caramelized stone fruit. It is mouth-filling and seamed with a spine of minerality, and the cooked-down figs and mountain-berry fruit ring through the finish.
Bottled at cask strength, this blend of bourbons (one mainly corn and the others rye-centric) is sweet and ripe, with generous flavors of toffee-coated almonds, chocolate, mashed pear fritters, and candied orange peels. The finish is just as complex, with peaches, marshmallows, sweet spice, and coffee beans.
Tattersall Minnesota Wheated Bourbon Whiskey Bottled in Bond
This is nutty and expressive of nectarines, orange creamsicles, caramelized marshmallows, and sweet pears. Expect lingering lemon blossom and honeysuckle on the finish, with tinges of mint and blueberries sweeping in.
The Splinter Group Straight Edge Bourbon
Finished and bottled in Napa, California, this is a notably savory bourbon, and the wine tannins from the barrel finishing are certainly clear here, lending dryness and structure. Before that, flavors of cherry, caramel, carob, cacao nibs, and a touch of dried flowers join citrus and caramel.
Village Garage Village Bourbon Vermont Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Crafted from 60% corn and 40% rye grown in Vermont, this whiskey makes a great argument for exploring bourbons from parts of the country that are less famous for their whiskey. This one is a more savory expression — no surprise given its higher-rye mash bill — with leather, spice, and tobacco anchoring Seckel pears, yellow apples, and fennel seeds.
Yellow Rose Distilling Outlaw Bourbon Whiskey
This 100% corn, pot-distilled bourbon isn’t finished in secondary barrels, but its particular use of wood for the primary aging is notable: It reposed in small American oak that changed the ratio of liquid to wood, imparting a more assertive oak character to the finished liquid, which is dense and rich, with maple-pecan pralines, black and yellow raisin financiers, and vanilla-chocolate pudding, all ending on a subtly floral note—honeysuckle, primarily—that is structured with notable oak tannins.
From one of southeastern Pennsylvania’s most exciting distilleries, this 100% rye shows the sweeter, more generous side of the spirit, with melted chocolate, dried apricots, and raisins serving as delicious counterpoints to rye’s classic spice.
Boondocks Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled In Bond
From Master Distiller David Scheurich comes this spice-seamed rye that sings with warm honey, brown-sugar caramel, and spices like bergamot, clove, and nutmeg. It also has a finish that rings with chocolate-enrobed orange peels and a hint of spearmint, which lends excellent freshness to this plush dram. The Boondocks 8-year-old Port-barrel-finished bourbon is also delicious.
Catoctin Creek Roundstone Cask Proof Rye Whiskey
Produced in pot stills in Virginia and then finished in a single maple syrup barrel and cask-proof bottled at 58.8% ABV, this is generous, fresh, and sweetly spiced. Maple candies, dried currants, and black cherry notes shimmer with candied violets, and are anchored by bananas foster and French toast with a grace note of wintergreen at the edges.
Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey Finished in Maple Syrup Casks
Local maple syrup producers first age their liquid in these casks, which then are filled with Dad’s Hat’s excellent rye. The result is full of honey-coated nuts — pecans, walnuts, almonds — as well as maple pralines and orange marmalade, all tingling with just the right amount of rye spice.
FEW Spirits Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled in Bond
Entirely produced in Evanston, Illinois (according to the back label, it’s “mashed, fermented, distilled, and bottled” there), this is a more subtle style of rye. The cereal grains themselves come to the fore and their spice only grows as the long, balanced finish rolls on for nearly a full minute. Before that, mineral-seamed flavors of grilled Seckel pears, apricots, and toasted walnuts ride along the mid-palate.
High West Whiskey Rendezvous Rye
This is an unexpectedly sweet rye with flavors of nectarines, candied orange and lemon peel, as well as suggestions of white licorice and cloves. The finish is flecked with cardamom, which is a nice counterpoint to the persimmon notes lingering through the finish.
Hudson Whiskey NY “Short Stack” New York Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels
What’s in a name? Everything you need to know, here: This whiskey practically vibrates with notes of syrup-drenched pancakes, as well as maple-butter biscuits flecked with just a bit of cracked black peppercorn. The balance of sweet and savory is very well-calibrated.
Kinsey Rye Whiskey Finished in Vermouth Barrels
From Philadelphia-based New Liberty Distillery, this whiskey is nutty and silky in texture, with apricot pits, peach preserves, and woodsy spice. A hint of licorice lends the spiced caramel excellent complexity.
Lost Lantern x New York Distilling Co. Single Cask Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in an Apple Brandy Cask
Honey, cinnamon, and cider flavors are underpinned by sweet, woodsy spice, all of it complicated by pears and red apples dipped in caramel and rolled in peanuts. Also look for Lost Lantern’s bottling of Spirit Works California Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in a Sloe Gin Cask.
Mad River Distillers Rye Whiskey Finished in Silver Oak Cellars Barrels
Leveraging barrels previously used by one of Napa Valley’s (and Anderson Valley’s) most recognizable Cabernet Sauvignon producers, this excellent Vermont distillery has crafted a 100% rye whiskey with distinct cocoa powder and cinnamon flavors that are framed by the subtle sweetness of currants and resolve with hints of maple syrup.
Milam & Greene Straight Rye WhIskey Finished in Port Wine Casks
Ambrosial aromas of dark-chocolate-covered cherries set the stage for generous, balanced flavors of chocolate-enrobed caramels, cinnamon-chocolate pot de creme, orange oils, golden raisins, and fresh figs.
New Riff 6-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Malted Rye Whiskey Bottled in Bond
Effusive and impeccably balanced notes of malt balls, milk chocolate, cafe mocha, and sweet spice are carried on a plush, almost honeyed frame that’s informed by clove- and allspice-baked pears and grilled peaches.
Re:Find Handcrafted Rye Whiskey
This whiskey from Paso Robles, California, is sweeter and more silky than rye typically is. It’s aged entirely in small (as in, really small: just 10 to 15 gallons in size) American oak barrels, which lends it a cinnamon and cafe mocha character, but what sets it apart is the pre-fermented liquid itself, called wort, which was crafted by a local beer brewery from a mash of rye, wheat, and barley.
Rieger’s Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled in Bond
Barreled in 2015 and bottled in 2021, this 6-year-old gem is the first Kansas City-distilled whiskey since the dark days of Prohibition. It’s an assertive and concentrated dram, with preserved citrus-flecked nougat, grapefruit oils, and peppercorn spice ringing through the long, balanced finish. Flavors of milk chocolate and chamomile serve as fantastic counterpoints.
Uncle Nearest Straight Rye Whiskey
A phenomenally bright and layered expression of rye, this new release, 100-proof bottling is going to appeal to a broad swath of whiskey drinkers, namely fans of sweeter drams as well as those who demand a slightly spicier one. Candy corn, honey-coated almonds, pecan pralines, and vanilla-and-coconut pot de crème lightly dusted with cinnamon sing with each sip, complimented with peppercorn subtly sizzling in the background.
American Single Malt Whiskey
Broken Barrel Luciferous American Single Malt Whiskey
Crafted from Indiana spirit that was batched and aged in Los Angeles, this unexpected whiskey is made from 100% barley mash that was aged in 20% French oak (nothing too unusual there) and 80% ex-amaro casks (highly unusual!). The result is a fascinating whiskey with gobs of black licorice, saddle leather, cedar, and orange creamsicle, as well as notes of kirsch and mountain-berry liqueur.
Cedar Ridge “The QuintEssential Signature Blend” American Single Malt Whiskey
A whiskey that’s predominantly aged in ex-bourbon barrels and then finished in either wine, rum, Port, brandy, or sherry casks before being blended in a solera-type system to marry them together. The result is a velvet-textured whiskey with notes of melted chocolate, cafe mocha, dark cherries, and maple-pecan cookies, as well as notes of grilled summertime stone fruits, all finishing with matcha, unexpectedly enough.
Old Line American Single Malt Whiskey Double Oak Series – Sherry Cask
This is a concentrated whiskey that spent a little over three-and-a-half years in #4 char new white oak before reposing for a final 10 months in oak that had previously held Oloroso sherry. The result is a whiskey that speaks of Halloween candy corn, honey pizzelles, and brown-sugar-maple biscuits, as well as apricot preserves and a touch of praline.
St. George Spirits “Baller” Single Malt Whiskey
After maturing in French-oak casks that previously held red wine and American-oak barrels that had been home to bourbon, this uniquely delicious spirit is then finished in ex-umeshu casks. Aromas of plums and hoisin sauce are sweet and savory, and the depth of the palate is remarkable: Cracked peppercorns, fermented black plums, toasted carob, roasted chestnuts, salinity, and a thin wisp of smoke at the edges, both anchoring and lifting it simultaneously.
Stranahan’s “Blue Peak” Single Malt Whiskey
The Colorado-based Stranahan’s has gained some serious traction in recent years, and it’s no wonder once you taste this solera-finished single malt. Peanut brittle and cinnamon-baked pears mingle with hints of white chocolate, toffee, and spiced candied walnuts.
George Dickel Tennessee Whisky Bottled in Bond 2022
This year’s release of the Bottled in Bond expression was distilled in the fall of 2008 and bottled in 2021, making it a 13-year-old whisky. All of that time has served it well, mellowed it into a languorous bottling that flashes with singed spearmint and subtle spice, apricot compote and orange marmalade, and a honeyed note to the toasted almonds. This is a whole lot of whiskey for right around $50.
Blended and Misc. Whiskey
Firestone & Robertson TX Blended Whiskey
From the highly respected Texas producer comes this easy-sipping gem, whose distinct honey and praline notes are joined by orange marmalade and a suggestion of bananas foster that shimmers through the subtly Andes Mint-tinged finish.
High Bank Distillery Co. Whiskey War Barrel Proof
Ringing in at a substantial 116 proof, this high-octane, rye-forward blend of whiskeys showcases joyful flavors of cherries and pomegranate molasses, which lend lift and freshness to the deeper tones of caramel and toffee, and a finish that is reminiscent of ginger snaps and espresso with the oils from an orange peel expressed on top.
Humboldt Malt Whiskey
Oak-driven sweet spice runs through each sip of this USDA Organic, non-GMO dram that’s crafted from malted barley. In an American-esque riff on a Rob Roy cocktail, it shines.
Manatawny Still Works Select Four Grain American Whiskey Finished in Cherry Brandy and Vermouth Barrels
Based in Pottstown, PA, Manatawny has emerged as one of the most exciting distilleries in the vibrant Philly area. In the past, I’ve enjoyed their tequila barrel-aged “El Murciélago” Whiskey and the “Scorpiones,” a whiskey aged in Mezcal barrels — both are unexpected and ultimately very appealing. This one is also delicious, and a little less idiosyncratic: Sweet and unabashedly kissed with cherry and chocolate notes, this is a whiskey that will perfectly accompany chocolate-based desserts, but it’s just as successful alongside a cheese plate with a scattering of dried fruits.
Tamworth Distilling Dunce Series 001
From Tamworth, New Hampshire, this is the first whiskey to be crafted to go along with a book, in this case “Brand Mysticism,” by Steven Grasse and Aaron Goldfarb. Grasse has created a wide range of successful spirits, most notably Hendrick’s Gin. Dunce Whiskey, despite its name, is anything but: It’s a creamy, generous sipper with distinct flavors and aromas of orange creamsicle, crushed-peanut-coated apples, and candy corn.