Everyone knows you can easily spend hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars on a hard-to-find bottle of American whiskey. If you want to do that, it’s your prerogative. Nobody is going to tell you not to save up for that bottle of Pappy, Weller, or Stagg you’ve always wanted.
But the whiskey world is also full of bargains. You just need to know where to look. Some of the most well-known American whiskey brands make reasonably priced bottles perfect for your home bar cart or liquor cabinet. We’re talking less than $40.
Jessica Balts, bartender at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar in Minneapolis has a favorite bottle that’s a bargain… if you can happen upon it.
“Hands down, Weller Antique 107, if you can find it,” she says. “Typically runs about $26 at the store and it’s the best value out there.”
To find the best bargain American whiskeys, we asked a handful of our favorite bartenders for an assist. Check out all of their picks below.
Jim Beam Black
Bobby Gleason, USBG bartender in Las Vegas
Jim Beam Black has been awarded as the world’s best bourbon and at around $20 a bottle. It is bottled at 86 proof which is easy to sip and very versatile in cocktails.
A bottle that should be in every liquor cabinet and on every back bar.
Average Price: $27
Four Roses Yellow Label
Siobhán Cusumano, bartender at Buya Ramen in St. Petersburg, Florida
Four Roses does a wonderful job at making an affordable bourbon that is easy to drink, and whose cinnamon and caramel play really well in a traditional whiskey sour.
Average Price: $20
Michael Norat, bartender in Puerto Rico
If I had to pick an American whiskey under $40, I would go with a classic, rich bourbon like Bulleit. Bulleit Bourbon has very smooth cinnamon notes, sherry, wood notes that I like.
Average Price: $29
Old Forester 100 Bourbon
Eugene Lee, founding bartender at Mix Lab in Los Angeles
There’s actually quite a few options for good American whiskeys at that under $40 price point. These days, I really enjoy the Old Forester 100 proof bourbon or rye. Perfect for old fashioneds.
Average Price: $33
Mellow Corn Whiskey
Jared Staples, general manager of Angelena’s Ristorante Italiano in Pensacola, Florida
Mellow Corn (Heaven Hill) is a Bottled-In-Bond aged at least four years. It’s 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye. It’s very sweet to the nose and has a very strong sweet corn flavor, with not a very long finish.
At $18 a bottle, you can’t beat it.
Average Price: $18
Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
Becky Rose, lead bartender at Queen’s Eleven in Denver
I could write an entire article on great American whiskeys under $40. My top two choices would be choices Evan Williams Straight Bourbon and Wild Turkey 101. Evan Williams for its sweeter caramel and brown sugar notes, highlighted by a faint floral aspect which makes it versatile and a great choice for both stirred and shaken cocktails.
Wild Turkey is higher proof so it has a stronger bite and is highlighted by baking spice and earthy campfire notes. It’s balanced by some vanilla, making it perfect for highballs, old fashioned, and sipping neat.
Average Price: $25
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Austin Zimmer, bartender at Le Prive in New York City
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey. It’d a great whiskey for under $40. It has a smooth and smoky, sweet taste with a light licorice note on the palate.
Average Price: $25
Old Forester 86 Bourbon
Andres Rairan, lead bartender at High Tide Beach Bar & Grill in Miami
For me, the best American whiskey under $40 is Old Forester 86. This whiskey goes down like a top shelf bottle at a “well” price. It’s is light, smooth, with caramel and vanilla notes, and still has a great bite at the end that I look for in a good whiskey. This whiskey is a steal.
Average Price: $26
Kraig Rovensky, bartender at Deep Dive in Seattle
Value, story, taste. Those are three things that I always try and balance when making a new cocktail menu, and choosing spirits to put on the back bar. When thinking of a whiskey cocktail I have turned to Redemption Rye over and over again. It has the perfect balance to me of all those things and is also just excellent on its own. The high rye mash bill makes it perfect to punch through a wide variety of mixers, and it has this perfect balance between spice, citrus, and light floral tones that allows it to meld with so many different flavors.
Average Price: $28
Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Nikole Calvo, bar manager at SIX in Tampa, Florida
The best American whiskey brand you could get for under $40 would be Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The distillery has been making this bourbon for over 200 years the exact same way, so the flavor notes are going to be the same in every bottle that you open. When you taste this whiskey, you’re going to taste a deep amber complex flavor with aromas of vanilla, mint, and molasses. There’s also a hint of brown sugar with toffee and dark fruit with star anise. It’s a smooth finish that hits the back of your throat just right.
Average Price: $23
Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
Ryan Cunningham, bartender at Anchor and Brine in Tampa, Florida
Basil Hayden’s stays stocked at my home bar. The high percentage of rye into the whiskey’s mash build really plays nicely into the natural sweetness of bourbon. Great for an old fashioned, or on the rocks you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend around $40.
Average Price: $39
George Dickel No. 8 Tennessee Whiskey
Jeremy Williams, mixologist at MDRD at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids. Michigan
George Dickel, a Tennessee whiskey, has a phenomenal lineup of whiskey and rye that are great options for the price. Also, since Tennessee law requires its whiskey to undergo sugar maple charcoal filtration, it lends a characteristic smoky richness, which is unique and rustic.
Average Price: $22
Chris Stevens, general manager of Five Sisters Blues Cafe in Pensacola, Florida
Larceny, the same distillery that brought us Elijah Craig. A very pleasant blend of cherries, Benedictine, corn, sweet maltiness, and a touch of oak and spice make it a great, smooth whiskey.
Average Price: $25
Jeff Rogers, bar director for Jester Concepts in Minneapolis
Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey follows the rules of Bottle-in-Bond. It is 4 years aged and bottled at 100 PF. It is a standard in the world of rye whiskey. Rye spice followed by orchard fruits and baking spices and is a steal for the price point.
Average Price: $27
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
Pascal Pinault, food and beverage general manager and lead mixologist at Ambersweet at The Confidante in Miami
My favorite is the Elijah Craig Small Batch. It flies under the radar and you can get a great bang for your buck. There are some sweet notes of honey, vanilla, and oak. This is a great product for someone who is beginning to dive into the world of whiskey.
Average Price: $32