Whisky Advocate Ratings

Highly rated brands that don’t hurt the wallet as much under $50. 
All rated 88 – 100 by http://whiskyadvocate.com/

Top 3 – Price (score)

$40.00 (96) Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 1994 vintage, 47%

$47.00 (95) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 1995 Vintage, “American Oak Chips Seasoned,” 45%

$26.00 (95) Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 vintage), Barrel No. 1, 43.3%


$20 (no score) Heaven Hill’s Larceny – Challenger for Maker’s Mark

$25 Henry McKenna (88) http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/henri+mc+kennal+single+barrel+ten+old+bourbon+whisky+kentucky+usa

Ancient Age – $15

(Discontinued) $15 (85) Ancient Ancient Age, 10 year old, 43% (Careful to note 10 year not 10 star)

Angel’s Envy – $46

$46 (93) Angel’s Envy, 43.3%

Baker’s – $47

$47 (92) Baker’s, 53.5%


$50 (89) Booker’s (Batch No. C06-B-15), 64.45%

Buffalo Trace – $47 – 50

$47 (95) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 1995 Vintage, “American Oak Chips Seasoned,” 45%

$47 (94) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection

$47 (94) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Chardonnay Aged Bourbon, 14 year old, 45%

$47 (94) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Fire Pot Barrel Aged, 10 year, 45%

$47 (94) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection French Oak Aged, 10 year old, 45%

$47 (94) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 14 year old, Fine Grain Oak, 45%

$47 (94) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 year old wheated bourbon from floor #5, 45%

$50 (92) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Zinfandel Aged Bourbon, 14 year old, 45%

$47 (92) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Wheat 90, 45%

$47 (92) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Extended Stave Drying Time, 45%

$47 (92) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 year old wheated bourbon from floor #9, 45%

$47 (91) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, Cabernet Franc aged 6 years, 14 year old, 45%

$47 (91) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rye 115, 45%

$47 (91) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Rye 125, 45%

$47 (90) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection “Rediscovered Barrels,” 1993, 17 year old, 45%

$47 (90) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 year old bourbon from floor #5, 45%

$47 (90) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 year old wheated bourbon from floor #1, 45%

$47 (90) Buffalo Trace 2000, 45%

$47 (89) Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection “Rediscovered Barrels,” 1989 vintage, 21 year old, 45%

Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. – $50

$50 (90) Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Small Batch Bourbon, 50%

Eagle Rare $38

$38 (93) Eagle Rare, 17 year old, 1984, 45%

$48 (93) Eagle Rare, 17 year old, 45%

Elijah Craig – $40

$40 (89) Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 12 year old, 67.1%

Elmer T. Lee – $25 – 30

$25 (91) Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, no age statement, 45%

$30 (90) Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel (90th Birthday Edition), 45%

$25 (90) Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, 45%

Evan Williams – $22 – 26

$26 (95) Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 vintage), Barrel No. 1, 43.3%

$25 (94) Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1996 Vintage, 43.3%

$25 (90) Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1997 Vintage, 43.3%

$25 (90) Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage (Barrel No. 1), 43.3%

$26 (90) Evan Williams Single Barrel (Barrel No. 1) 2004, 43.3%

$25 (90) Evan Williams Single Barrel 1995 , Barrel #1, 43.3%

$22 (90) Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1990 Vintage, Barrel #1, 43%

Four Roses – My Grandad’s Favorite – tribute to Owen Hall

$40 (92) Four Roses Single Barrel, Barrel #87-6L, 50%

George Dickel – $40 – 46

$40 (92) George Dickel Barrel Select 2006, 43%

$46 (92) George Dickel Barrel Select 2012, 43%

Jim Beam

$35 (89) Jim Beam Single Barrel, 47.5%

Knob Creek – $40

$40 (94) Knob Creek Single Barrel, 9 year old, 60%

$40 (90) Knob Creek, 50%

Maker’s Mark – $40

$40 (93) Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, 56.6%

$34 (90) Maker’s Mark “46”, 47%

Pappy Van Winkle – $50

$50 (93) Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 year old, 53.5%

Rowan’s Creek – $40

$40 (92) Rowan’s Creek, Batch 03-59, 12 year old, 50.05%

Russell’s Reserve

$50 (89) Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel, 55%

Sam Houston

$28 (89) Sam Houston, Batch #1, 10 year old, 45%


$45 (94) George T. Stagg, 2nd Edition, 71.35% ABV

$45 (93) George T. Stagg, 15 year old, 68.7%

$45 (93) George T. Stagg, 65.45%

Old Forester – $40 – Some Disagree

$40 (96) Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 1994 vintage, 47%

$40 (93) Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Spring 1990, 46.5%

$40 (91) Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 1997 Vintage, 12 year old, 47.5%

$38 (91) Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Fall 1990, 44.5%

Vintage Bourbon – $50

$50 (92) Vintage Bourbon, 17 year old, 47%

Wild Turkey – $25

$25 (89) Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve, 10 year old, 50.5%

Woodford Reserve – $50

$50 (91) Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, 45.2% (88 score)

WL Weller – $48

$48 (94) W. L. Weller, 19 year old, 1982, 45%

$48 (89) W. L. Weller, 12 year old, 45%

Under the Label Rankings

Another good site http://whiskey.underthelabel.com/

with an under $20 Offering

$19 (93) Four Roses Yellow Label Straight Bourbon

Others to try …

Ancient Age

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star

Benchmark 8

Bull Run’s Temperance

Buffalo Trace

Bulleit – Trader Joe’s

Costco’s small batch Kirkland bourbon – Harsh  Reference

Dickel’s Cascade Hollow

Eagle Rare 10 single barrel

Early Times 354 bourbon

Ezra Brooks

Heaven Hill: Bottled in Bonds

Heaven Hill: Evan Williams 1783 – Smoother than EW Black

Heaven Hill: Evan Williams Black

Heaven Hill: Evan Williams “White Label” Bottled in Bond

Heaven Hill: Fighting Cock, 103 proof

Mark Twain

Old Charter

Old Crow Reserve

Old Ezra 101

Old Fitzgerald

Old Forester 86

Old Forester 100

Old Grand-Dad Bottled in Bond

Old Weller Antique 107

Southshot bourbon


Wild Turkey 101

Very Old Barton Bonded

Wheated Bourbons

Larceny – wheated bourbon

Rebel Yell 101 – wheated bourbon


Old Bardstown (NAS by NDP)

Corner Creek (NAS by NDP)

NAS by NDP (No age statement products made by Non Distilling Producers)

Great Repost …




I love this bourbon. This six-year-old high-rye bourbon is a great value for the price, and it simply tastes good. I’d say it compares to Wild Turkey 101—it’s very similar, in fact, but about five bucks cheaper. When I have the five extra bucks, I go with the Turkey instead of the Cock, mainly because I feel kind of like a frat boy when I buy Fighting Cock. Still, the name aside, Fighting Cock is perhaps my favorite on this list. Makes a killer Old Fashioned and an equally good Manhattan. It’s one of the most versatile bourbons on this list—it’s great for sipping and for mixing.



Old Fitzgerald is a wheated bourbon, with a soft, smooth, mildly sweet flavor. As a wheater, it tastes similar to Maker’s or W. L. Weller: mellow, with hints of citrus and tree fruit. It mixes well, and it’s a decent sipper. Although I think Weller is by far the best wheated bourbon on the market, I like Old Fitzgerald a little better than Maker’s, especially given the price difference.



The 8-year old expression of Beam (its white-labeled brother is 4 years old) shows the benefit of longer barrel aging. I’m not a fan of the white-label release; I find it a little one-note. But the black label is just what you want bourbon to be: smooth, with just the exact amounts of vanilla, caramel, and woodiness you want from good bourbon whiskey. If I were going to select a bourbon to give to someone who’s never had bourbon before, I think I might pick the Beam Black. It does what bourbon should, and its proof level isn’t so high it would scare anyone off.



Aged 5 to 7 years, Evan Williams is a solid bourbon, and it rightfully appears on most lists of the best budget whiskeys. I can usually get a 1.75L handle of it for about 25 bucks, and it lasts … well, let’s not about how long it takes me to drink through a handle of bourbon. But if you don’t need that much bourbon around at any one time, 14 bucks for a 750 is a pretty darned good deal. I prefer Evan Williams for sipping more than for mixing; I think it’s a little flat in cocktails, except perhaps for an Old Fashioned.



I tried very hard to limit this list to bourbons that are widely available, but I had to throw Old Barton in here. It’s somewhat hard to find outside of Kentucky—apparently, the Bluegrass State prefers to keep the good stuff mostly to itself. Hey, I won’t judge. What you’ve got here is a bonded bourbon whiskey that has some age on it and still retails for fourteen bucks. If you don’t like that, I can’t help you. VOB is a flavorful bourbon, packed with fruit and spice and a hint of rye. You can mix with it, and you can sip it, but either way, I think you’ll enjoy it. Incidentally, I used to get mine at LeNell’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn, way back when. Now that she’s in Alabama, I’m not sure how to get it in New York aside from ordering it online. If you ever happen to see a bottle, though, buy it. If anything knocks Fighting Cock from the top of my list, it would be the VOB.



Here’s just one more that might not be super-widely available, but I need to include it because it’s such a good value. Old Heaven Hill is a basic bourbon, from the company that brings you Evan Williams, Fighting Cock, and Old Fitzgerald (sound familiar?), plus Elijah Craig and Rittenhouse Rye. Here’s a 100-proofer for 12 bucks. It’s not a super-complex bourbon, but what do you expect for the price? It’s good on ice and it’s also good in cocktails, especially an Old Fashioned.



Old Crow Reserve is a bump up from regular Old Crow. It’s 86 proof, compared to Crow’s 80, and it’s four years old instead of three. I found that I liked it more in cocktails than I did on the rocks, so if you like your Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, but you want to economize, this is a good way to go.



You remember last year when Beam Inc. planned to lower the proof of Maker’s Mark? Remember the backlash? At about the same time, Beam dropped the proof on Old Grand-Dad (from 86 to 80), and hardly anyone noticed. Nevertheless, I think it’s still a bargain at $17. It tastes a little spicier to me than anything else in Beam’s low-cost portfolio, implying that it might be a little more rye-heavy. I like this on the rocks and in cocktails, too.

If you want to drop a few extra bucks, and if you can find them, Grandpa also has a bonded version ($21) and a 114-proof ($25), both of which are better than the original. But they’re just outside my price range for this piece, so I’m going with the OG.



Four Roses made the top-selling bourbon in America until just after World War II, and thanks to the perambulations of American servicemen during and after that conflict, it became popular in Japan, as well. Seagram’s bought the company and turned it into a blended whiskey, mostly grain neutral spirit with a bit of bourbon added for flavor. So the top-selling brand in America became cheap rotgut. But only in America. Japan still got the good stuff.

In 2002, the brand was purchased by Kirin Brewing of Japan, and the Kirin folks decided to discontinue the blended product. Kirin took the step of purchasing back all blended bottles of Four Roses still on shelves in the United States and destroying them. Then the brand got quiet for a time in the U.S., until it slowly started rolling out its small-batch and single-barrel releases.

The yellow label, though, was still associated in consumer minds with rotgut, so Four Roses bided its time, and finally reintroduced the yellow label years later, this time as a true bourbon whiskey.

What you find with the small batch and single barrel releases are bourbons that are very expressive in certain distinct ways. Maybe one release is a little fruitier, for example, or spicier. With Yellow, what you get is a bourbon that is just the basic Four Roses style of bourbon, consistent from year to year and from batch to batch. It’s never going to surprise you the way the fancy limited releases might, but it’ll also never disappoint you. I mentioned earlier that Beam Black might be the one bourbon I’d pick to introduce someone to bourbon. Four Roses Yellow is the other choice I’d offer, both for mixing and sipping.



A high-rye bourbon from Buffalo Trace, Benchmark is a good, solid bourbon for just $10. The rye gives it a little spice and kick, but it’s still a pretty smooth sipper. I wouldn’t necessarily serve it to guests, but it’s fine when you have only a little money to spend, and you need something reliable. It’s fine to sip or just to mix into a highball. Depending on where you are, you might even find a 1.75L handle for $20, which puts even the big guy in the ‘budget’ range.