Earlier this year during the storm of the Maker’s Mark dilution scare, Buzzfeed did a ranking of cheap bourbon replacements for people who appreciated Maker’s Mark. The problem I have with their list is that their definition of cheap costs a lot more than mine. I now present the top 6 bottles of truly cheap bourbon.
This cheap bourbon has seen a lot of love and perhaps even a bit more hate. A favorite of frat boys and anyone else in search of a cheap mixing bourbon, Seagrams 7 has quite a following of fans and haters. Truth be told, this isn’t a complex whiskey. And it is just a blended American whiskey, not specifically bourbon. It’s just good ole simple American bourbon with a strong burning finish. And at $14 a handle, you get what you pay for. This is a cheap bourbon whose cost reflects its taste.
(5) W L Weller Special Reserve
First off, this is a great wheat bourbon with a ton of depth, the main issue with it is that it isn’t always cheap. To be ranked higher on the cheap bourbon list, I feel it would need to consistently be a cheap bourbon. WLW can be found under $10/fifth, but more commonly in the $12-17 range. If you can find this bourbon on the inexpensive side, buy and you will not regret. And although it is still a good bourbon for the money at the upper-end, it is no longer a bargain and your money could be better spent elsewhere.
(4) Jim Beam White Label
Coming in fourth on the cheap bourbon list is Jim Beam. Jim Beam has been a household name in bourbon since 1795, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Being easily found for just upwards of $20/handle, this cheap bourbon offers a simple flavor profile, but excels when mixed into a classic cocktail such as a Whiskey Sour.
For the price and taste, this cheap bourbon is pretty great. Costing about $18/handle, it consistently scores higher than popular (and more expensive brands) such as Jim Beam and Jack Daniels (which is actually a Tennessee whiskey, not even a bourbon). It doesn’t have the complex flavor profile that some of the other bourbons on this list have, but it does have strong notes of vanilla and subtle hints of caramel and oak.
Old Crow has a rich history and a long claim to its name. Founded in 1835, this bourbon was created with a process that has become the industry standard: sour mash. Although or perhaps because it is a cheap bourbon, Old Crow has had many famous followers including General Grant of the Union Army during the Civil War. At about $10/fifth, this truly is a cheap bourbon, and yet it has a unique flavor profile with a finish with just enough burn to remind you that you just drank whiskey. If you like your bourbon rough, Old Crow can be enjoyed neat, and it flourishes in a sour drink such as the Jack Collins.
Benchmark by far is my favorite cheap bourbon and not because it includes my last name (although that doesn’t hurt). It’s made by Sazerac at Buffalo Trace Distillery with the same mashbill as the famous Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Eagle Rare 10 & 17 year. But at $10 or less per fifth, you can’t go wrong. This award winning cheap bourbon is smooth enough to enjoy neat and mixes great even for cocktails with sophisticated profiles, such as The Old Fashioned. At the 2013 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, Benchmark took a gold medal with an impressive 91 points. With strong notes of honey, caramel, and fruits and subtle undertones of mint, leather, and oak, this cheap bourbon is perfect for every home bar and as a well bourbon in every bar.
BONUS ROUND: Evan Williams Single Barrel
This bottle costs too much to rightfully add it to the list, at around $20-25/fifth (depending on where you live). But EVSB is the best example of a single barrel cheap bourbon that is produced in yearly vintages, is consistently good and can be found often for under $25 per bottle. And it tastes fantastic, with strong notes of fruit and caramel. If you want to drink bourbon neat, consider this the perfect celebratory bourbon to put on your shelf.