With New Year’s Eve rapidly approaching (and falling on a weekend this year), it’s time to think about stocking that bar cart for the festivities. That means it’s time to call out some great, easy-to-find, and very tasty bourbons to grab from the liquor store right now.
For this list, I’m calling out bourbons that cost less than $50. These are also bourbons that you can actually get (in most places). This isn’t about some $5,000 bottle that you have to know the cousin of a friend’s aunt’s husband’s niece’s pediatrician’s golf buddy to find. You should be able to find any of these bottles at pretty much any decent liquor store or delivery service (just click those prices).
Furthermore, I’m not ranking these. They’re all good, folks. That said, I’ll call out how I’d use them in the “Bottom Line” section of each entry — cover everything from shots to neat pours. Hopefully, that’ll give you enough to go on when you grab your own bottle(s) as the ball drops on 2023. Let’s dive in!
Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months
Average Price: $47
This bottle from Beam Suntory marries Kentucky Bourbon, California wine, and Japanese whisky blending in one bottle. Legent is classic Kentucky bourbon made by bourbon legend Fred Noe at Beam that’s finished in both French oak that held red wine and Spanish sherry casks. The juice is then blended by whisky-blending legend Shinji Fukuyo.
Nose: Sticky toffee pudding with a hint of sour grapes, sweet red berries, old oak staves, vanilla husks, and salted toffee all mingle on the nose.
Palate: The palate has an almost bitter cinnamon and cherry bark vibe that smooths out toward creamy nutmeg-heavy eggnog with a hint of clove next to dried cedar bark and raisins.
Finish: The end mixes wild berry jam with a sense of buttermilk biscuits, brown butter, sultanas, dates, and winter cake spices as old wine-soaked oak staves add a gentle woodiness to the finish.
This is the ultimate utility bourbon. It’s going to impress as an on-the-rocks sipper, in a highball with fizzy water and citrus, and it’s pretty damn tasty in a cocktail, especially a boozy Manhattan.
Jack Daniel’s Bonded
Buy Here: $44
This whiskey is from Jack’s bonded warehouse. The mash of 80% corn, 12% barley, and 8% rye is twice distilled before it’s run through Jack’s very long Lincoln County process of sugar maple charcoal filtration. The spirit then goes into the barrel for at least four years — per bonded law — before it’s batched, cut down with that Jack Daniel’s limestone cave water, and bottled as-is.
Nose: Yellow sheet cake with vanilla frosting leads the way on the nose with dry cherry candy, new leather jackets, sweet fir bark, and a hint of orange tobacco.
Palate: The palate is full of still-warm apple fritters with plenty of winter spice and a sugar glaze that hits a moment of nutmeg-rich creamy eggnog. The mid-palate veers away from all of that with a sweet white grits vibe with brown sugar and butter that’s topped with stewed cinnamon apples and a raisin or two.
Finish: The finish mellows toward a Cherry Hostess Pie stored in a cedar box with a leaf or two of sticky pipe tobacco.
This is just good whiskey. While I tend to lean more toward old fashioneds and whiskey sours with this one, it does work over rocks too. That said, it’ll also make a mean Jack and Coke — just make sure to use Mexican Coke for the best results.
Jim Beam Single Barrel
Buy Here: $24
Jim Beam’s single-barrel bottlings are pulled from single barrels that hit just the right spot of taste, texture, and drinkability, according to the master distillers at Beam. That means this juice is pulled from less than 1% of all barrels in Beam’s warehouses, making this an exceptional bottle at a bafflingly affordable price.
Nose: You’re greeted with vanilla pound cake drizzled with salted caramel, mulled wine spices, and a cherry hand pie with powdered sugar icing that’s just touched with dark chocolate and maybe some broom bristles and corn husks.
Palate: The taste leans into floral honey cut with orange oils next to sticky toffee pudding and cherry tobacco packed into an old leather pouch.
Finish: There’s a hint of coconut cream pie next to woody winter spices on the finish with a touch more of that cherry tobacco married to salted dark chocolate all layered with dry sweetgrass and cedar bark.
This is Beam at its best and works as a great cocktail mixer. I do like it on the rocks with a splash of fizzy water and a dash of bitters too. Maybe add a twist of orange or lemon peel and you’re set.
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Buy Here: $26
This is Elijah Craig’s entry-point bottle. The mash is corn-focused, with more malted barley than rye. The whiskey is then rendered from “small batches” of barrels to create this proofed-down version of the iconic brand.
Nose: The nose opens with a hint of taco seasoning mix next to vanilla malts, caramel apple, and a touch of fresh mint.
Palate: The taste opens with smooth vanilla and spicy winter spice mix that’s cinnamon and allspice heavy with a touch of anise next to oaky tobacco.
Finish: The end has a nice woodiness that leans more toward pine tar and broom bristles with a soft and sweet vanilla cream cut with toffee and vanilla lattes.
This is the ultimate mixing bourbon on the list. I’d use it if I were making a batched cocktail or big punch in a bowl. It’s perfectly fine with ginger ale or Coke too.
Evan Williams Single Barrel
Buy Here: $30
This is Heaven Hill’s hand-selected single barrel Evan Williams expression. The juice is from a single barrel, labeled with its distillation year, proofed just above 86, and bottled as is.
Nose: This has a really nice nose full of woody cherry, salted caramel with a tart apple edge, and a soft leatheriness.
Palate: The palate feels and tastes “classic” with notes of wintry spices (eggnog especially) with a lush creaminess supported by soft vanilla, a hint of orange zest, and plenty of spicy cherry tobacco.
Finish: The end is supple with a hint of tart apple tobacco with a light caramel candy finish.
I like this over a few rocks with a dash of Angostura Bitters. It’s refined, simple, and delicious.
Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey 2022 Holiday Blends
Average Price: $46
This high-rye bourbon from out in Colorado was blended especially for the holiday season this year. The juice is rested for three years high up in the mountains before it’s batched and cut with that iconic Colorado Rocky Mountain glacial water for bottling.
Nose: Fresh butterscotch and orange dark chocolate balls, apple cider, and a nice sharp cinnamon and clove spiciness present on the nose.
Palate: The palate opens with that orange dark chocolate, brown sugar sweetness, and a touch of powdery white pepper next to ground cinnamon and star anise-heavy mulled wine.
Finish: The end has a slight minerally edge with a dash of black pepper and creamy butterscotch next to apple cider spiked with cinnamon and orange rinds.
This a solid choice for lower-ABV shots or mixing into nogs, hot toddies, or boozy apple cider.
Knob Creek Small Batch Aged 9 Years
Buy Here: $46 (one-liter)
This is Jim Beam’s small batch entry point into the wider world of Knob Creek. The juice is the low-rye mash aged for nine years in new oak in Beam’s vast warehouses. The right barrels are then mingled and cut down to 100 proof before being bottled in new, wavy bottles.
Nose: The nose on this feels classic with a bold sense of rich vanilla pods, cinnamon sharpness, buttered and salted popcorn, and a good dose of cherry syrup with a hint of cotton candy.
Palate: The palate mixes almond, orange, and vanilla into a cinnamon sticky bun with a hint of sour cherry soda that leads to a nice Kentucky hug on the mid-palate.
Finish: That warm hug fades toward black cherry root beer, old leather boots, porch wicker, and a sense of dried cherry/cinnamon tobacco packed into an old pine box.
This is another great utility bourbon that works as well over some rocks as it does neat or in a simple cocktail where the whiskey shines. It also feels like the distinct flavor notes make for a fun bottle to teach people how to taste bourbon like a connesuier.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
Average Price: $45
This special release from Maker’s Mark is their classic wheated bourbon turned up a few notches. The batch is made from no more than 19 barrels of whiskey. Once batched, that whiskey goes into the barrel at cask strength with no filtering, just pure whiskey-from-the-barrel vibes.
Nose: Burnt caramel candies and lush vanilla lead the way on the nose with hints of dry straw, sour cherry pie, and spiced apple cider with a touch of eggnog lushness.
Palate: The palate has a sense of spicy caramel with a vanilla base that leads to apricot jam, southern biscuits, and a flake of salt with a soft mocha creaminess.
Finish: The end is all about the buzzy tobacco spiciness with a soft vanilla underbelly and a hint of cherry syrup.
Use this for Manhattans. Go easy on the sweet vermouth and amp up the orange oils at the end and you’ll have a delicious wintry cocktail.
Michter’s US *1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $40
Michter’s really means the phrase “small batch” here. The tank they use to marry their hand-selected eight-year-old bourbons can only hold 20 barrels, so that’s how many go into each small-batch bottling. The blended juice is then proofed with Kentucky’s famously soft limestone water and bottled.
Nose: The nose on this is very fruity with a mix of bruised peach, red berries (almost like in a cream soda), and apple wood next to a plate of waffles with brown butter and a good pour of maple syrup that leads to a hint of cotton candy.
Palate: The sweetness ebbs on the palate as vanilla frosting leads to grilled peaches with a crack of black pepper next to singed marshmallows.
Finish: The end is plummy and full of rich toffee next to a dash of cedar bark and vanilla tobacco.
This is the go-to old fashioned whiskey. It’s got a nice punch that isn’t too warm while packing all the classic flavors you’ll want in a bourbon-forward old fashioned.
Eagle Rare 10
Buy Here: $49
This might be one of the most beloved (and still accessible) bottles from Buffalo Trace. This juice is made from their very low rye mash bill. The whiskey is then matured for at least ten years in various parts of the warehouse. The final mix comes down to barrels that hit just the right notes to make them “Eagle Rare.” Finally, this one is proofed down to (a fairly low) 90 proof.
Nose: Old leather boots, burnt orange rinds, oily sage, old oak staves, and buttery toffee round out the nose.
Palate: Marzipan covered in dark chocolate opens the palate as floral honey and ripe cherry lead to a winter cake vibe full of raisins, dark spices, and toffee sauce.
Finish: The end has a balance of all things winter treats as the marzipan returns and the winter spice amp up alongside a hint of spicy cherry tobacco and old cedar.
This is perfect for all-night sipping when poured over a single large ice cube.