Let's face it, being cheap when it comes to whiskey is a gamble. You may not want to spend over $20 for a bottle, but you're more likely than not to buy something you'll regret. However, there are some decent American whiskies available that are both affordable and make a good drink.
When you're looking to save a little cash, you'll need to shop smart or you will get burned because cheap whiskey can be like drinking fire. We've chosen a few good American whiskies that every frugal drinker should know. A couple may be priced just above $20, but it's not too difficult to find those on sale.
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Few brands of whiskey are as recognizable as Jim Beam. Their "White Label" is the flagship of these iconic bourbons and it's a tried and true whiskey that never changes.
Aged for four years and bottled at 80-proof, this bottle of Jim Beam can easily become your go-to whiskey for everyday drinking. It mixes well with almost everything and is a staple in most bars.
On average, you can expect to pay $18 or so for a bottle, though deals are definitely around. For a bit of an upgrade, look for Devil's Cut or the Black Label. Both receive extra attention in the aging process and are definitely worth the extra cash.
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The big difference is that Evan Williams has a lighter profile. It is a good mixer that can work very well in simple whiskey highballs and for around $15, it's surprisingly smooth. While this 86-proof whiskey may not be your first choice, it can grow on you.
The distillery offers higher-end options, though the Bottled-in-Bond White Label is also affordable and still under $20. This one is 100-proof, full of flavor, and worth checking out as well.
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Four Roses has some very nice bourbons, including the Private Selection, Small Batch and Single Barrel. Those are quite pricey, but the hidden gem of frugality within the portfolio is the standard Four Roses Bourbon, otherwise known as "Yellow Label."
This is a great value bourbon that you'll definitely want to mix, especially in highballs like the John Collins. At the least, serve it on the rocks to soften it a bit. That's a good rule of thumb for almost any bargain whiskey, so don't hold that advice against this bottle.
At right around $20 a bottle, this is a nice 80-proof whiskey that may just become your new favorite. It has everything you want at a reasonable price.
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In some circles, the name of this bourbon may be offensive. Just keep in mind that it's talking about "The Kickin' Chicken" and watch how you recommend it to people who may be sensitive. Yet, if you're looking for a fun, new bourbon to try out, Fighting Cock is one to seek out.
This is a 6-year-old bourbon from Heaven Hill Distilleries that is bottled at a whopping 103-proof. The $19 price tag and high alcohol content may lead you to believe that this one is really harsh, but it's actually relatively smooth.
The mash bill has a good balance of rye and corn, so it does have a kick though it's also quite sweet. Mix this one up however you like—even with seltzer or club soda alone—because it won't get lost. Is it worthy of drinking straight? Most people would advise against it, but give it a try it if you like.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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If you love a good wheated bourbon, Rebel Yell is the bottle for you. The wheat to corn ratio makes this one of the softest, smoothest whiskies in this price range. That's a fact that some people like and others (who expect the burn) don't.
Honey is the most notable flavor in this 80-proof sipping whiskey and that's exactly what it is. Don't bother mixing it, simply drink it straight and add a splash of water if you like. It will get lost in mixed drinks, but at $17 or less, it's a fantastic find.
The distillery also offers other interesting whiskies. Their Small Batch Reserve retains the wheat, and their Small Batch Rye and American Whiskey are equally impressive. If you're looking for a little flavor, try out their Root Beer or Ginger whiskies as well.
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Old Forester is an old name in the bourbon world and their flagship bottle is everything you'd expect. It's a timeless, reliable bourbon that never disappoints.
While the suggested retail on this one is $23, it's incredibly easy to find it for less. If you like the sweet and spicy rye, the brand has plenty of opportunities for an upgrade for special occasions. The annual release of their Birthday Bourbon is one you'll definitely want to watch out for.
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As you might expect by the name and the bottle, this is what many think of as a "man's whiskey" though plenty of women like it too. Old Grand Dad is that quintessential back porch-sipping whiskey that is hard not to love.
Bottled at 80-proof, this bourbon has a lively spice thanks to the rye that was the distiller Basil Hayden's signature ingredient. Distilled today by Jim Beam (who produce the top-shelf Basil Hayden Bourbon as well), it's a classic whiskey you won't want to miss.
While that bottle will set you back $20, if you have a few extra dollars to spend, pick up the Bonded bottle. This one's a robust 100-proof that continues to astound whiskey drinkers. Either OGD whiskey is great on its own and can stand up to any mixed drink, so have fun with these guys.
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It's hard to find a rye whiskey in the budget-friendly category, but Old Overholt is still here to fill the need. This bottle stuck out those long decades of the rye decline and it's as reliable as it ever was.
Sure, you can spend some cash on some very impressive rye whiskies today, but this one is smooth enough as is. It's a perfect introduction to the full rye spice, yet it has a full, sweet body.
In all honesty, if you're expecting the same smoothness out of a $20 (or much less) bottle of Old Overholt as you would from whiskies twice the price, you'll be let down. However, if you're looking for a decent rye that won't kill your budget, it's a fantastic choice.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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We really are going to the bottom shelf for these last two and we're perfectly okay with that. You may not have heard of Mellow Corn, but a number of bartenders are discovering that it's actually fantastic.
How can a $12 bottle of corn whiskey impress anyone? It's all about the sweet simplicity, which makes it an excellent candidate for many whiskey cocktails. At 100-proof and with a mashbill of 90 percent corn and 10 percent rye and malted barley, it has a great balance of sweet vanillas and soft oaks.
Plus, this is a bottled-in-bond whiskey, so you know it's been aged for at least four years and comes from a single distillery. That's something else to look for in inexpensive American whiskies, because labels with no age statement have no such guarantees.
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Old Crow Bourbon
What do Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and Hunter S. Thompson have in common? Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon, of course. It's well-known that these three gentlemen were fans of this whiskey and you can join the club.
If you're going for a true bottom-shelf whiskey, this should be your choice. It's definitely one you won't forget, but it's not going to leave you hurting like its $10 counterparts, either.
Mix it with Coke or have a straight shot. Either way, you'll notice it doesn't have that super-harsh burn and it even has a bit of a sweet side.