Budget Bottles: The Best Whiskies Under $20

We choose the best bourbon (and one scotch) to be had under $20

Ed. note: As a companion to our list of whiskies to splurge on for the holidays, we thought it apropos to present a polar opposite guide as well. Because you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot to taste a great whiskey.

Here at HSS, we stock our bars with just about everything. Even the less-than-premium stuff. Hey, everyone needs a daily sipper or a great spirit to mix a cocktail with, right?

These days the “bottom shelf” is a crowded place and it can be hard to pick something that will meet the standard. So we’re going to let you in on our favorite inexpensive (a.k.a. cheap) whiskies. $20 bucks or less. Here you go.

Very Old Barton Bourbon

I remember paying $8 for a bottle of this at their distillery right outside Bardstown, KY. That makes this the lowest price point spirit on the list. However, I’m sorry to say that “Very Old Barton” isn’t all that old. Meaning, it’s still an easy bourbon. A softer body at a lower proof makes it very approachable. Taste-wise, it’s decently balanced with a medium body and finish. It’s got everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t.

J.W. Dant 100 Proof Bourbon

Bottled in Bond for $15? Yes, please! At 100 proof this bourbon is a spicy kick in the teeth with some candied cherries and a quick oak finish. Perfect for your flask on a cold night out. Also makes a feisty Manhattan.

best cheap whiskies under 20 bucks

Old Ezra 101 Proof Bourbon

This bourbon is another great value if you like your whiskey as strong as we do. 101 proof and seven years of aging makes this a great, full-flavored bourbon. Pepper, citrus, and vanilla really sparkle on the palate. Charcoal filtering also gives it a great smokey flavor that makes this bourbon unique. If you’re a fan of Jack Daniel’s but need something with more kick, Old Ezra 101 is a great choice.

Johnnie Walker Red Blended Scotch

For just about $20 you can sip on the world’s best selling blended scotch. Sip neat, over ice, mix, you just can’t go wrong with this scotch. At 80 proof, Johnnie Red is on the lighter side with notes of fruit, nuts and a hint of peat. Medium body with a slight dryness and a smokey finish.

Jim Beam Black Extra Aged Bourbon

2016 Wine and International Spirit Competition winner of the bourbon trophy. For $20 get a bottle right now to sip on. Extra aging over standard Jim Beam makes this bourbon distinctively caramel and impressively smooth. Sip this one neat and let us know how you like it!

Chime in: What are your favorite cheap whiskies?

Thanks for reading.

Chris Sarangoulis
He Spoke Style

Photography by Rob McIver Photo

Chime In

  • http://sdjackofclubs.com Jack of Clubs

    Black Bottle is another slightly peated Scotch for around the $20 mark. Nice flavor for those days when you just need a drink, and don’t want to break out the “good stuff.”

    • Chris Sarangoulis

      Haven’t had it. I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • http://sdjackofclubs.com Jack of Clubs

        My pleasure! Happy Holidays!

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the recommendation! Another one I’ve not tried.

  • Tom B

    Rebel Yell, for a whopping 12 bucks, is a very decent mixer and a Coke ‘n Bourbon mainstay. Honey and fruit with a relatively long finish. Its a bare minimum 80 proof, but still a good basic Bourbon – the UPS of whiskey!

    • Chris Sarangoulis

      Rebel Yell is a great choice too! Ever try pouring Bookers on some pumpkin ice cream or in egg nog? It’s an amazing holiday treat.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      I’ve actually not had that, believe it or not. Will have to look for it next time I’m in the store.

  • Justin Fyles

    Old Overholt is a great go-to rye. The quintessential Manhattan rye

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Agreed. Good stuff. In the just-over-20-dollar range, I also really like Rittenhouse rye for Manhattans. Used in many top notch classic cocktail bars.

      • Cliff Anderson

        My two faves. Can’t go wrong here.

  • Roberto José Villarraga

    My most favourite cheap whiskey is a an Irish Blended Whiskey called Jameson.

  • Roberto José Villarraga

    My most favourite cheap whiskey is an Irish Blended Whiskey called Jameson.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Definitely a good one, Roberto. It come in over $20 dollars most places around here. Let us know where you can find it cheaper!!

  • Remy Etienne LeBarr

    With respect sir – I am not sure how much it is in your neck of the woods, but for a good sipping, blended scotch that isn’t so grain-heavy, might I put in a vote for Dewar’s White. My father and I have spent many a closing nights over academic and gentlemanly discussion over glasses of Dewar’s. It’s certainly not top shelf, nor is it even mid, but with all of the competition of blended scotches (read: headache inducing) few can go wrong with Dewar’s on the rocks.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Totally agree with you, Remy. Dewar’s White Label is a no-brainer as well.

  • Cooper Kennard

    Old Weller Antique is still my favorite bottle for the price. It is right at the $20-$22 threshold, but one of the best cheap bourbons that you can buy. And at 107 Proof, it makes a great spicy Manhattan.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Totally agreed. Thanks for chiming in!