glencairn-amazonLiquor.com has asked various bourbon bloggers and reviewers to provide their insight on the five best bourbons available today at under $30.  With a stable of over 50 whiskey reviews now, Modern Thirst is stepping up to the plate!  So here’s our list of great bourbons that can be purchased for less than the cost of a decent cab ride in a lot of cities.  We used only bourbons we have fully reviewed on ModernThirst.com in order to provide accurate tasting notes.

Four Roses Single Barrel (100 Proof) $29.99 – Full Review

Four Roses Single Barrel 1

  • Appearance: Bright copper
  • Aroma: Floral potpourri, caramel, maple syrup
  • Flavors: Dark fruit, cherries, caramel, wood/oak.
  • Finish: Long & pleasant

Even at 100 proof, this bourbon sips extremely easily neat, and with a few drops of distilled water, the aromas really pop, without sacrificing the taste.  It can truly be enjoyed however you like your bourbon- neat, with water, or on the rocks. That makes it a very versatile spirit.

At its price point, this is a remarkable bourbon.  It is refined, complex, and packed full of flavor.

Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled-in Bond 10 Year (100 Proof) $29.99  – Full Review

McKenna BiB 10 Year 1

  • Appearance: Mahogany
  • Aroma: Mint, citrus, caramel, oak
  • Flavors: Caramel, vanilla, orange peel, heavy oak
  • Finish: Long with pepper and oak notes on the tail end.

Its 100 proof makes it stand up well to water or ice, and adding distilled water brings out the citrus aromas even more strongly.   If some bourbons can be criticized for being a bit too weak, with the flavors too subtle, this bourbon certainly avoids that pitfall.  It takes classic bourbon flavor and smacks you in the face with it.  Like the big bourbons of ages past, it’s a product of a no-regrets and no-frills distilling philosophy that makes no apologies for what it is, and makes no compromises.  It’s straight forward, powerful, and quite enjoyable.

Larceny (92 Proof) $22.99 – Full Review

Larceny 2

  • Appearance: Medium amber
  • Aroma: Simple syrup, bakery goods, corn, citrus & ripe banana.
  • Flavors: Wheat tingle, sweet simple syrup, caramel, wedding cake, frosting
  • Finish: medium-to-short, crisp, clean

A wheated offering form Heaven Hill, Larceny drinks like a much more expensive bourbon. It is a smooth, creamy, sweet bourbon sure to engage the palate of the most ardent wheated-bourbon fans at a price well within the budget of most bourbon drinkers.

Bulleit Bourbon (90 Proof) $28 – Full Review

Photo courtesy of Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

Photo courtesy of Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

  • Appearance: Bright copper
  • Aroma: Bubblegum, sweet syrup, white icing, spices
  • Flavors: Vanilla, honey, caramel gives way to black pepper and spice
  • Finish: Dry, crisp, with slight hints of rye and bubblegum

At  under $30, it’s a really nice addition to a bourbon shelf for an everyday mixer or sipper, as it works well in both formats.  I’d even call it a ‘sneaky’ bourbon.  There isn’t a ton of buzz amongst collectors and hoarders, but it’s a surprisingly drinkable whiskey.

Elijah Craig (94 Proof) $26.99 – Full Review

Elijah Craig 12 year

  • Appearance: Deep Copper, hint of cloudiness
  • Aroma: Vanilla, Caramel, heavy aged oak
  • Flavors: Maple Syrup, Caramel, oak and bitters
  • Finish: Long, powerful with lots of woodiness and black pepper on the back

It’s hard to find fault with a bourbon this complex in this price range.  At under $30, Elijah Craig remains a popular value buy amongst discerning bourbon drinkers, and is a staple of many bourbon bars.  At 94 proof, it’s just the right ABV to sip neat or with a splash of water.  And a 12 year bourbon in this price range is a steal.  Adding some distilled water opens up those citrus notes on the nose, but doesn’t greatly affect flavor. Elijah Craig is worthy of its praise, and drinks like a bourbon of a much higher price tag.

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About Author

Bill is the Co-Founder, Editor-in Chief, and official Bourbon-o-Phile for ModernThirst.com, and the President and Chief Blending Officer for Four Gate Whiskey Company. He is a native of Louisville, KY in the heart of Bourbon Country. He attended the University of Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. He has also been published on Liquor.com. He has conducted various bourbon and whiskey tastings in cities across the country, and consulted for multiple national labels. He is married with two daughters, and lives in east Louisville. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BillStraub and email him at Bill@ModernThirst.com.

7 Comments

  1. I wish I could find Four Roses Single Barrel for under $40, here in FL let alone $30, I need to give Bulleit a try.
    My under $30 Favorites in no particular order.
    Evan Williams Single Barrel $23
    Buffalo Trace $22
    Four Roses Small Batch $25
    Elijah Craig 12yr $28
    Old Grand Dad 114 $29

    2 that would definitely on that list if they were readily available Elmer T Lee & W.L. Weller 12yr,which when they do pop back up I’ll be shocked if they’re still sub $30.

    • I like that list a lot, and I can’t argue with any of it. I was keeping it to bourbons I’ve already reviewed so that I would have tasting notes, so that eliminated the four roses Small batch, EW Single Barrel (though that varies by vintage, although most have been really good so far), buffalo trace, and OGD 114. I just bought Elijah Craig 12 year last week for $32.99, so I had to leave it off the list, or it would have been my first pick (I’ve become quite the Heaven Hill fan lately, if my reviews don’t reflect it).

      ET Lee was right at that $30 list before the hype went crazy on it. I’ve never been a big Weller fan (WSR and OWA), but I like the 12 year quite a bit. That’s another good one, but the last time I saw it, it was $39.99, which is way overpriced for it. It’s great at under $30.

      I really considered adding Old Fitz 12 year, which is $29.99 here when it is released, but I also wanted to keep my list to standard-release, available bourbons. Larceny is very similar, so I went with that instead.

    • Definitely try the Bulleit. It’s made by four roses for now, so if you like the small batch, it would be hard to find fault with Bulleit (I suspect it’s a blend of four roses recipes, but it’s possible four roses uses a separate one for Bulleit since the mash bill doesn’t fit exactly with either 4R bill).

      The 10 year is better, but the standard Bulleit is a very easy drinker with some good flavors, and a great price.

    • Interestingly, I was contacted by a promotions person from Knob Creek who informed me the MSRP is now $30.99 for Knob Creek, so I replaced it on the list with Elijah Craig.

  2. Yes. I can pick it up at SAMs for around $29. This type of selection is hard for me. So many good drinks right at the $30 mark these days.

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