This weekend is going to be a good weekend for some bourbon drinking. Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest non-holiday holiday on the American calendar and it’s one that’s awash in booze. If you ask me (your friendly neighborhood whiskey critic), you should be grabbing tasty, affordable, and easy-to-find bourbon for this weekend’s festivities.
Sure, you can finally crack that bottle of Pappy 20 if your team wins. But the rest of us will need a reliable and affordable bottle of bourbon to enjoy during the game, the commercials, and amidst gorging ourselves on wings. So let’s focus on that.
Below, I’m calling out 20 bottles of bourbon that all cost under $50 — all of which you should be able to find at any liquor store. That does narrow it down a bit. I’d love to call out local to Kansas City bourbon J. Riger’s Bottled In Bond, but it’s not available nationwide yet and it’s just north of $50 per bottle. The bottles listed below are going to be right there at any Costco, Total Wine, Whole Foods, Kroger, or wherever good liquor is sold.
- The 100 Best Bourbon Whiskeys Of 2023, Ranked
- The ‘Smoothest’ Bourbons Under $100, Blind Tasted And Ranked
- The 100 Best Kentucky Bourbons, Ranked
- The Absolute Best Tasting Bourbons Under $50, Ranked
- The Absolute Best Bottle Of Whiskey From Each Of The 50 States
20. Old Grand-Dad 114 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $24
Hailing from the James B. Beam stills and warehouses, this “Old” whiskey is a fan favorite. The whiskey is from Beam’s high rye mash bill. The hot juice is then matured until it’s just right. After the barrels are blended, the whiskey is just touched with water to bring the proof down, and then it’s bottled.
Nose: Vanilla tobacco meets hints of rye spiciness with a dose of caramel and old oak on the nose.
Palate: The palate holds onto that rye spice as notes of cherry and oak dominate the vanilla and toffee sweetness.
Finish: The end returns to the spice with a chewy tobacco edge that lingers for a short time but leaves you wanting more.
This is a good crowd-pleaser that’s not going to break the bank. It works wonders in Coke or 7-Up since it’s bold enough to stand out with those big sweet soda flavors. It makes an easy and fun old fashioned thanks to the cherry and vanilla sweetness. And you can shoot it with a beer if you’re so inclined. That’s versatility.
19. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $28
This is the whiskey that heralded a new era of bourbon in 1999. Famed Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee came out of retirement to create this bourbon to celebrate the renaming of the George T. Stagg distillery to Buffalo Trace when Sazerac bought the joint. The rest, as they say, is history, especially since this has become a touchstone bourbon for the brand.
Nose: Classic notes of vanilla come through next to a dark syrup sweetness, a flourish of fresh mint, and raw leather that veers towards raw steak.
Palate: The palate cuts through the sweeter notes with plenty of spices — like clove and star anise — next to a hint of tart berries underneath it all.
Finish: The end is long, velvety, and really delivers on the vanilla and spice.
This is a step up but still very much in the “mixer” category of good bourbons. You can batch this into a Manhattan or old fashioned very easily. Or just use it for mixing simple cocktails all day. It’ll shine.
18. Remus Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $34
This is the entry-point bottle to the beloved Remus Reserve yearly releases. The whiskey is MGP’s bourbon (from the Ross & Squibb branded distillery) but they don’t let us know the mash bill or how long these barrels age before they go into the batch.
Nose: The nose is full of berry brambles heavy with sweet, tart, and dark berries, thorny stems, green leaves, and even a little dark soil next to Cherry Coke with a hint of spicy and a touch of sweet oak.
Palate: The cherry morphs into a syrupy and spicy cherry pie with a lard crust next to hints of vanilla pudding, brittle toffee, and more of that soft and sweet oak.
Finish: The finish is short and sweet and highlights that cherry while layering in new leather, more oak, and nice and lush vanilla cream.
This whiskey is from one of the most renowned sources of bourbon on the planet, MGP. It’s simply quality whiskey that delivers exactly what you want for this price point — classic notes, easy drinking, and solid mixing prowess.
17. George Dickel Bourbon Whisky Aged 8 Years
Average Price: $31
The whisky in the bottle is the same Dickel Tennessee whiskey but pulled from barrels that leaned more into classic bourbon flavor notes instead of Dickel’s iconic Tennessee whisky notes. The barrels are a minimum of eight years old before they’re vatted. The whiskey is then cut down to a manageable 90-proof and bottled.
Nose: This nose is classic, with rich vanilla next to dry spicy tobacco leaves next to apple hand pies with sugar icing made with plenty of dark spices and butter.
Palate: The palate has a bran vibe that hints at a white Necco Wafer with a ripe white peach fresh off the tree with a hint of ginger bite to it.
Finish: The end circles back around to a vanilla wafer with nutmeg, orange zest, and a twinge of dark chocolate sauce leading to a dry and slightly molded wicker chair sitting in the sun.
This is a good bottle of Dickel whisky. The bourbon is perfect for mixing cocktails, especially if you want to lean into citrus or chocolate notes.
16. Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $20
Each of these Jim Beam bottlings is 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 one percent of all barrels in Beam’s warehouses, making this a very special bottle at a bafflingly affordable price.
Nose: The nose opens with classic notes of vanilla sheet cake, salted caramel, wintry mulled wine spices, and a sense of cherry pie in a lard crust next to a hint of dried corn husk, old broom bristle, and dark chocolate pipe tobacco.
Palate: The palate layers orange zest next to sticky toffee pudding, old leather, and cherry tobacco next to dark chocolate with this lingering sense of coconut cream pie lurking somewhere in the background.
Finish: The finish leans into more woody winter spices (especially cinnamon bark and nutmeg) with rich toffee and cherry-chocolate tobacco braided with dry sweetgrass and cedar bark.
This is one of those bottles that has no business tasting as good as it does for this price. That said, the end is a little light, making this the perfect candidate for mixing up killer cocktails all Sunday long.
15. Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $25
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: There’s a light sense of rickhouse wood beams next to that mild taco seasoning on the nose with caramel apples, vanilla ice cream scoops, and a hint of fresh mint with a sweet/spicy edge.
Palate: The palate opens with a seriously smooth vanilla base with some winter spice (especially cinnamon and allspice) next to a hint of grain and apple pie filling.
Finish: The end leans towards the woodiness with a hint of broom bristle and minty tobacco lead undercut by that smooth vanilla.
This is another great cocktail base bourbon. It’s quintessential when it comes to the flavor profile — all that cherry, vanilla, caramel, and spice sings on the palate. That said, I’d still lean more toward mixing with this one than sipping, but I’m not stopping anyone from pouring this over some rocks and enjoying the hell out of it on Super Bowl Sunday.
14. Bulleit Bourbon 10 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $44
This is classic (sourced) Bulleit Bourbon that’s aged up to 10 years before it’s blended and bottled. The barrels are hand-selected to really amplify those classic “Bulleit” flavors that make this brand so damn accessible (and beloved) in the first place.
Nose: A lot is going on with butter and spicy stewed apples, maple syrup, Christmas cakes full of nuts and dried fruit, and a hint of savory herbs all pinging through your nose.
Palate: The palate brings about smooth and creamy vanilla with plenty of butter toffee, sourdough crust, more X-mas spice, cedar bark, and a hint of dried roses.
Finish: The finish is long, warming, and embraces the toffee and spice before echoing the stewed fruits and buttery vanillas.
This is pretty damn good over ice in a rocks glass. It has a classic bourbon vibe that you’re looking for in an easy-drinking everyday bourbon. This also makes a mean old fashioned or whiskey sour.
13. Knob Creek Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 9 Years
Average Price: $44 (one-liter)
This is 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 where you get into the easy everyday sippers that work just as well in cocktails. This is basically a dealer’s choice whiskey pour with a vintage Kentucky bourbon vibe.
12. Rebel Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel
Average Price: $49
This is Lux Row’s classic wheated bourbon recipe from 1849. The mash is made with 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley before it’s distilled and then left to mature for at least four years. Once aged, the whiskey barrels are batched and then bottled as-is at cask strength (mostly for retailers or bars).
Nose: Pecan waffles, pancake syrup, and blueberries drive the nose with a hint of toasted marshmallow and old oak.
Palate: Those blueberries drive the palate toward honeyed Graham Crackers with a sense of almost floral honey, wet brown sugar, and old boot leather.
Finish: That honey amps up through the finish with the leather as cedar kindling and dry tobacco round out the hot finish with a sense of chili peppers stewed in brown sugar syrup with cinnamon and clove.
This whiskey has a little bit of punch to it, which is fun when applied in small doses. Overall, I’d pour this over a big rock and let it settle into itself a little. Then I’d try it in whiskey-forward cocktails for the rest of the day.
11. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey
Average Price: $48
This was first introduced in 1997. The whiskey is hand-selected from barrels on the upper floors of Jack’s vast Tenessee rickhouses. The whisky is bottled at a slightly higher proof to allow the nuance of the single-barrel whiskey to shine.
Nose: A clear sense of toasted oak, dark apple tobacco, apricot jam, and a hint of molasses drives the nose toward pear syrup and pancakes covered in blueberry sauce.
Palate: Notes of caramel corn, mild winter spice barks, and plenty of oily vanilla beans are countered on the palate by cream soda, cinnamon cookies, and soft apple butter tobacco with a mild chewiness.
Finish: The sweet banana fruit arrives on the end and marries well to a peppery spice, apple clove gum, and mulled wine that amps up as the end draws near with a touch of woody pipe tobacco on the very end.
This whiskey is a fruit bomb but it works as a delicate and subtle sipper, especially over a single small ice cube. This is a good whiskey to have on hand on Sunday to pair with food too, those fruits work well against big savory and/or spicy flavors to calm them down.
10. Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 1870 Original Batch
Average Price: $44
This Old Forester celebrates the distillery’s founding in 1870. Back in the day, Geroge Brown would pull barrels from his three distilleries to create a consistent blend to bottle. Today, the good folks at Brown-Forman pull three barrels from three of their Kentucky warehouses. Each barrel will have a different day of distillation, a different entry proof before aging, and different ages. Those barrels are batched and then proofed down.
Nose: This opens with a rush of fresh wildflowers next to bold citrus notes — especially grapefruit and orange oils with a dash of lemon zest in the mix — before a deep and stewed cherry arrives with plenty of winter spice.
Palate: The taste takes that lemon and layers it into a very vanilla and butter-forward shortbread with a dusting of raw sugar that leads towards an eggnog spice mix cut with brandied cherries.
Finish: Spiciness drives the finish as a hint of that dark cherry and lemon mingle on the warm and fairly long end.
This is a whiskey that goes well beyond the ordinary to deliver something special and delicious. The fruit and floral notes really add something that elevates this whisky to a great sipper over a rock or a killer cocktail base for a whiskey-forward concoction.
9. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $49
This expression takes standard Woodford Bourbon and gives it a finishing touch. The bourbon is blended and moved into new barrels that have been double-toasted but only lightly charred. The juice spends a final nine months resting in those barrels before proofing and bottling.
Nose: There’s a welcoming aroma of marzipan, blackberry, toffee, and fresh honey next to a real sense of pitchy, dry firewood.
Palate: The taste drills down on those notes as the sweet marzipan becomes more choco-hazelnut, the berries become increasingly dried and apple-y, the toffee becomes almost burnt, and the wood softens to a cedar bark.
Finish: A rich spicy and chewy tobacco arrives late as the vanilla gets super creamy and the fruit and honey combine on the slow fade.
The nutty fruitiness and silk nature of this one amps it above the average pour. You can pour this over some rocks and sip at it all day long if you want to. That nuttiness makes this a great candidate for a Manhattan too.
8. Rabbit Hole Cavehill Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $49
This four-grain Kentucky bourbon is made with 70% corn, 10% malted wheat, 10% honey malted barley, and 10% malted barley. That spirit is then aged for three years in toasted and charred barrels before it’s small batched from only 15 barrels, proofed, and bottled.
Nose: This has a lot of apple cobbler on the nose with sweet and bright stewed apples, plenty of dark brown spices, brown sugar, buttery pastry cobbles, and a touch of honey sweetness.
Palate: The honey becomes creamy and spiked with orange zest as the malt shines through as a digestive cookie with a hint of fresh mint and more of that honey with a flake of salt.
Finish: The finish brings about that spice again with a little more of a peppery edge this time as the fade slowly falls off, leaving you with a creamy vanilla tobacco feeling.
This is another bourbon that goes far beyond the average. A lot is going on here and it all works to create a vibrant sipping experience or a delightfully deep and delicious (simple) cocktail.
7. Michter’s US *1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $43
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 probably the best cocktail bourbon on the list. This whiskey will stand up and work with any flavor profile direction that you can go in the cocktail world. And if that sounds too tiring, you can easily pour this over some rocks and enjoy it just as well.
6. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
Average Price: $42
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.
This is an essential Kentucky bourbon. Pour it over a big rock and let it wash over you all Sunday long.
5. Russell’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10 Years Old
Average Price: $37
This small-batch expression is hand-selected by both Jimmy and Eddie Russell (the father and son team behind all of Wild Turkey’s line). The duo picks out ten-year-old barrels that hit just the right spot in both flavor and texture then small-batch them into this tasty bourbon.
Nose: This is a classic bourbon nose with clear notes of spiced cherry cola, lush vanilla, salted caramel, and soft oak next to almost botanical winter spices.
Palate: The taste delivers with more lush vanilla next to spice barks, soft cedar, and deeply dark and red fruit with a whisper of smudged sweet sage.
Finish: The end dives into a dark spiced cherry vibe next to soft and luxurious vanilla, tempered oak, and a mild sense of just “bourbon.”
This is another crowd-pleaser. You cannot go wrong opening this bottle on any given Sunday for neat pours, on the rocks sipping, or mixing into your favorite whiskey-forward cocktail.
4. Coopers’ Craft Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 100-Proof Barrel Reserve
Average Price: $31
This whiskey is from Brown-Forman (which also makes Jack Daniels, Old Forester, King of Kentucky, and Woodford Reserve in the U.S.). The Kentucky-distilled juice is aged in special oak barrels that are chiseled before charring to create more surface space for carbon filtering and aging in the barrel. The best barrels were then batched, slightly proofed with that Kentucky limestone water, and bottled.
Nose: There’s a sense of old oak and almost smoldering cinnamon bark on the nose with a hint of apple/pear cider cut with orange oils and a whisper of vanilla-nougat wafers.
Palate: That apple/pear cider vibe dominated the start of the palate with a Martinelli’s cider sweetness next to clove buds and more cinnamon bark, a light sense of vanilla cake, and burnt orange.
Finish: The cinnamon attaches to the apple/pear cider on the finish with a fleeting sense of sweet oak and old evergreen pitch and an echo of orange tobacco.
This is a bit of a hidden gem bourbon that gets a little lost on an over-crowded bourbon shelf at the liquor store. Grab some and pour it over some ice and you’ll be in for a choice Kentucky bourbon treat.
3. Four Roses Small Batch Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $49
This expression uses six of Four Rose’s ten whiskeys. The blend employs OBSV, OBSK, OBSF, OESV, OESK, and OESF (see what that all means here) all aged six to seven years before batching, much lighter proofing, and bottling.
Nose: This nose is enticing with a mix of dark berries and cloves with a yeasty doughnut filled with dark fruit and covered in powdered sugar next to a thin line of berry brambles — stems, thorns, dirt, leaves, everything.
Palate: The palate is lush with a balance of dark berry pie filling next to winter spices, mincemeat pies, nutshells, and brandy butter vanilla sauce.
Finish: The finish arrives with a rush of fresh mint next to wet cedar, blackberry Hostess Pies, and nutmeg-heavy eggnog all leading to a final note of that dark berry bramble black dirt.
This is one of the best Four Roses bottles that money can buy. This whisky is excellent as a sipper or cocktail base (especially one that you can have fun with).
2. Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $39
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 whiskey is then blended by whisky-blending legend Shinji Fukuyo at Suntory.
Nose: Plummy puddings with hints of nuts mingle with vinous berries, oaky spice, and a good dose of vanilla and toffee on the nose.
Palate: The palate expands on the spice with more barky cinnamon and dusting of nutmeg while the oak becomes sweeter and the fruit becomes dried and sweet.
Finish: The finish is jammy yet light with plenty of fruit, spice, and oak lingering on the senses.
This is maybe the easiest and most rewarding sipper on the list. It’s lush and full of deep nostalgic flavor notes that’ll have you pouring more than one on Sunday.
1. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $49
This is the mountaintop of what the main line of Wild Turkey can achieve (that is still easily found on liquor store shelves for the most part). This is a blend of the prime barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. This is a classic Turkey bourbon with nowhere to hide.
Nose: This opens like a dessert table during the holidays with crème brûlée next to a big sticky toffee pudding with orange zest sprinkled over the top next to a bushel of fresh mint.
Palate: The palate hits an early note of pine resin as the orange kicks up towards a bold wintry spice, soft vanilla cream, and a hint of honeyed cherry tobacco.
Finish: The end keeps the winter spices front and center as a lush pound cake feeling leads to soft notes of cherry-spiced tobacco leaves folded into an old cedar box with a whisper of old vanilla pods lurking in the background.
This is it. This is the whiskey that you want to buy if you want the perfect pour this Sunday. Yes, it makes an amazing cocktail too. But this is good enough to pour neat and take slow all day long.