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The 10 Best Bourbons Under $100 to Try in 2021
You can ask anyone for their favorite bourbon and chances are you’ll get a different answer most times. One of the things I enjoy about American whiskey is that there are quality varieties from large distilleries and small independent producers, and room for everyone whether you’re from Texas or Kentucky.
Whiskey is accessible and interesting for experienced drinkers but also offers a welcoming smile and tip of the hat for newcomers. The following collection delivers 10 brands offering a mix of mash bills, maturation ages, cask types, and whiskey styles, all under $100 a bottle. There’s even a couple of collaborations between distillers and famous bourbon fans that shouldn’t be overlooked.
There are great tasting bourbon brands for every liquor lover or fan of American whiskey. If your favorite bourbon doesn’t appear on this list, I’m sure that one of these 10 examples could become one.
1. New Riff Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The New Riff distillery does some great exploration of mash bills, and this straight bourbon is no exception – featuring 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley to pack the bourbon with more than a hint of rye spice amongst the sweeter, more caramel notes.
Bottled in Bond for 100 proof pop and without chilled filtration, New Riff Straight Bourbon is aged 4 years in toasted oak barrel before bottling, giving it a rich unfiltered amber color
The rye in the mash bill really comes through at the finish, drawn out against the sweetness and oak wood flavor. It’s an almost perfect exploration of a full-bodied American whiskey.
2. Jefferson's Reserve Very Old
This carefully blended bourbon – from 8 to 18 years – does a wonderful job mixing aged very small batch casks to create an expression with fantastic depth of flavor. While 90.2 proof, this Jefferson’s is bold and textured, with caramel and vanilla notes offset by rye spice and dried fruit.
The palate is earthy spice, with the aged oak texture and traces of citrus, before finishing with a lovely flavor of orange, vanilla, and whisps of pepper. If you’re a bourbon drinker that prefers a strong rye whiskey flavor profile, then Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old will be perfect to warm up cold nights.
3. Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon
Don’t leave out Texas – this small batch bourbon is a rich, dark amber liquid of fine flavor melded into a beautifully smooth tasting drop, with just enough heat behind it (94 proof) to warm the stomach and tongue.
The Garrison mash bill features #1 grade corn, quality winter wheat and two row barley. These quality ingredients result in a smooth, well-aged, fine drinking bourbon. Just like Texas itself, there’s a drawl to Garrison Brothers Small Batch. Verbena, leather, meat, baking spice, candy corn and lemon honey are identifiable in the air or on the palate.
Pour this one neat or add some ice, take a load off and relax. It’s better than watching the Cowboys, and could become your favorite bourbon.
4. Wild Turkey Longbranch
Alright, alright, alright, did you know Matthew McConaughey has served as Wild Turkey’s creative director since 2016? McConaughey got involved in the company’s production as well by collaborating with Master Distiller Eddie Russell on Longbranch – which pairs white oak from Kentucky with Texas mesquite wood during maturation.
Longbranch, bottled at 43.5% ABV – offers the signature Wild Turkey balance of smooth vanilla notes and smoke, but without much of the fire that 101 and especially Rare Breed possesses on the finish. This is a beautifully complex single barrel bourbon whiskey made for sipping, whether you’re an Oscar winner or the quiet fella at the end of the bar you’ll enjoy the quintessential American Whiskey.
5. Larceny Bourbon
A tremendously affordable straight bourbon whiskey made at Heaven Hill distillery, Larceny is well placed next to other notable Kentucky bourbon brands such as Old Fitzgerald, Evan Williams and Elijah Craig, (stars of our best cheap bourbon feature).
Larceny carries on the tradition of Old Fitzgerald Bourbons with wheat as the secondary grain instead of the traditional rye and featured in our list of wheated bourbons to try. According to the Heaven Hill Distillery site, the Master Distiller “selects a limited number of barrels from specific floor locations in the rickhouse for Larceny’s six-year-old taste profile.”
The tasting notes describe Larceny wheated bourbon as the aroma fresh bread and toffee with traces of butterscotch, the taste of traditional flavors caramel and honey, topped off by a long and gentle finish. If you’re looking for an affordable and great tasting wheated bourbon that won’t empty your wallet then Larceny is a great place to start.
6. 1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon is hand crafted from the finest corn, rye and malted barley with an emphasis on rye in the mash bill.
This small batch bourbon is hand selected by the Master Distiller, marrying the bold rye with the traditional notes of charred oak, caramel and vanilla. Berry fruit is prominent on the palate before a long finish of cocoa amongst the heat.
7. Knob Creek Straight Bourbon 12 Year
The maturation process for this extra-long aged Knob Creek 12 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey allowed the bourbon to change in a way that younger whiskies never experience, which is why it was high up on our list of best sipping bourbons try.
All the flavors of oak, caramel and vanilla present within those barrels are concentrated year after year, removing harshness of flavor while still maintaining the unmistakable full flavor of Kentucky Bourbon. By selecting the finest grains and finishing in white oak barrels with maximum char, Knob Creek has created a great bourbon filled with rich flavor and sweetness.
8. Jack Daniels Single Barrel Barrel Proof
This is the first cask strength expression from Jack Daniels, showcasing the rare 130 proof Tennessee Whiskey that despite its kick retains the smoothness of rich brown sugar, toasted oak and baking spice within the beautiful cherry amber liquid. It’s unmistakably brown sugar sweet, but there’s just enough smoke and vanilla to cut off the richness and provide the smooth pull Jack Daniels is renowned for, before ceding to a warm, lengthy finish.
This suits the Bourbon drinker who wants a strong sipping American whiskey with power underneath smoothness. The Single Barrel Barrel Proof is well worth getting to know.
9. Heaven's Door Straight Rye
Folk music legend (and notable visual artist) Bob Dylan has only one commercial collaboration, which is with whiskey producer Heaven’s Door. Each bottle of this high quality, hand crafted whiskey shows off the metal gates Dylan crafted in his Black Buffalo Studios, while the liquid inside isn’t too shabby either.
Heaven’s Door Straight rye whiskey is finished in toasted oak cigar barrels from France (rather than the usual American white oak), which creates a “smooth and approachable” rye whiskey with notes of citrus, rye spice, and garden herbs. This will be a rye for whiskey drinkers that occasionally need to impress a guest with some storytelling power supported by a quality liquid point of difference.
10. Woodford Reserve Master's Collection - Select American Oak
Only fast-growing Ozark Oak was used in the barrels for this select bourbon, creating a different flavor from the company’s norm. This Woodford Reserve expression offers interesting flavor of the spry Ozark oak and nuts, before drawing out vanilla, wafts of white peach, and notes of cinnamon on the palate. The long finishing note is richly enjoyable, again emphasizing the experimental wood finish.
If you’re purely a traditional bourbon fan it’s probably best to try a different bottle from this list, but if you’re looking to sample a different flavor profile from one of the USA’s foremost distilleries, you’ll find it’s well worth opening.