The 5 Best Whiskies Under $30

Buffalo Trace Bourbon - Best Whiskey Under $30

3 / 6
Buffalo Trace is a highly characteristic bourbon that never disappoints. Price: $25

Old Grandad 114 Bourbon - Best Whiskey Under $30

4 / 6
Old Grand Dad 114 has many layers of flavor that you could easily pay twice the price for. Price: $28

Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Bourbon - Best Whiskey Under $30

5 / 6
A high-rye bourbon that starts out sweet with fig and nougat but then develops mid-palate into so much more. Price: $27

Elmer T. Lee Bourbon - Best Whiskey Under $30

6 / 6
Elmer T. Lee is a little hard to find. But, it’s definitely worth the hunt. Price: $30

For someone just getting into whiskey of any kind, it can be a daunting and challenging task to pick a sure-fire winner from the hundred or so bottles lining the shelves. Anyone who’s been into a liquor store recently can attest to the fact that whiskey offerings have absolutely exploded in recent years.

Many of the newer boutique brands with fancy labels and cool-looking bottles are very expensive. But price is not always the best indicator of quality. And the good news is that you don’t have to pay a lot of money for a great bottle.

Here are five picks – all under $30 – you can’t go wrong with.

The 5 Best Whiskey Buys Under $30

1. Bulleit Rye

Bulleit sets the standard for rye whiskey. It leans more towards the fruity side, but has subtle pepper and spice notes in the background. A slightly oily body with a medium finish. I always suggest Bulleit Rye to anyone looking to get into rye whiskey.

Price: $25

2. Buffalo Trace Bourbon

An absolute steal. The Buffalo Trace Distillery consistently pumps out some of the most desirable whiskies on earth. And this bourbon is one of their flagship offerings. Smooth and sweet with great balance, Buffalo Trace is an extremely versatile sipper – a highly characteristic bourbon that never disappoints.

Price: $25

3. Old Grand Dad 114

If you’re in the mood for a high-proof bourbon but don’t want to pay barrel proof prices, this is the one you want. With a high rye mash bill Old Grand Dad 114 has many layers of flavor that you could easily pay twice the price for. On the palate, you’ll get leather, oak, pepper, vanilla and citrus notes. I recommend letting this one sit for a day after opening, and to do it justice by sipping it neat.

Price: $28

4. Ridgemont Reserve 1792

A high-rye bourbon that starts out sweet with fig and nougat but then develops mid-palate into so much more. Minty spice and citrus fruit notes lead into a rye and sweet popcorn finish. It comes in a gorgeous bottle that also makes it a great whiskey to give as a gift.

Price: $27

5. Elmer T. Lee

A single barrel bourbon with a nice sweet start that transitions into a cinnamon spicy treat. Finishes with a balanced ratio of pepper to sweet, with charred oak that lingers for a long finish.

Elmer T. Lee is, admittedly, a little hard to find. But, it’s definitely worth the hunt. Yes, there are hard to get whiskeys even in this price range. Also, If your local store marks this up a bit due to its scarcity, then pay the extra for it! It’s worth every penny.

Price: $30

Don’t miss our Guide to the 5 Whiskey Terms you should know.

Got a favorite whiskey under $30? Chime in below!

Stylishly Yours,

Chris Sarangoulis
HSS Contributing Editor
Whiskey & Cigars

Feature image by Rob McIver Photo

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Chime In

  • http://www.thekentuckygent.com The Kentucky Gent

    Bulleit Rye FTW!

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.com

    • Chris Sarangoulis

      I love Bulleit Rye, they have great bourbon too.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Yup. Amazing quality for the price.

  • Michael

    For the scotch drinkers looking for a budget option, I would suggest monkey shoulder. It’s a blended scotch and not available everywhere but at around $32 it is surprisingly smooth, especially for a blended scotch. It’s a mix of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie and unless you have a very discerning palate, it really does taste almost like a single malt.

    • Steve Markley

      I have tried it numerous times… GOOD Scotch Blend!

      • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

        I have to say that when it comes to blended scotches, I’m a fan of Dewer’s White Label. Some of the slightly higher tier Johnny Walker offerings are no-brainers as well. I think Chris feels the same way.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Been a while since I’ve had it as well. Though I remember it being quite good. It’s getting to be scotch season.

      • Chris Sarangoulis

        Agreed. Want to crack open that bottle of Lagavulin 16yr I’ve been carrying around?

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          If we were going north…

    • beurbs

      What do you think of Tomatin 12yr and Speyburn 10yr?

      • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

        I’ve tried the Speyburn and remember liking it. A bit briny if I recall. Tomatin 12 I haven’t tried. Are you a fan?

      • Michael

        Haven’t had the tomatin, haven’t had the speyburn in a while but I think I remember liking it, is the tomantin any good?

        • beurbs

          Sure is

      • Benjamin Anderson

        Both are solid, I have both bottles. The Tomatin needs a week or 2 to open up. Don’t judge it on your very first glass. Speyburn is solid as well.

  • Chris Sarangoulis

    It’s been quite a long time since I have had that. I’ll have to give it another try. What’s up with that name?

    • Michael

      When the maltmen who used to turn the barely by hand worked very long shifts, they sometimes developed a condition which caused their shoulder to hand down like a monkey’s so they nicknamed it “monkey shoulder”.

      • Chris Sarangoulis

        I love it! Thanks for the info.

        • Michael

          My pleasure! (Most of what I mentioned could be found on the side of the bottle though)

      • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

        Great story!

        • Michael

          Yep and the bottle has a pretty cool piece of metal on it shaped like three monkeys sitting on each other’s shoulders

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            Definitely great packaging. Any favorite bourbons or ryes for a great price?

          • Michael

            I’ve never really been a big fan of rye so I can’t really suggest anything other than bulleit. Bourbon on the other hand I would suggest Woodford Reserve, a really nice blend of spicy and sweet at $32. If you like your whiskey a little stronger, I really enjoy the Henry McKenna 10 year old Single Barrel Bottled in Bond which is 101 proof and really packs a punch (a drop of water can go a long way toward opening it up) and that clocks in at $33. If your willing to spend a little more, Basil Hayden is quite nice at $40

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            I haven’t tried the Henry McKenna. Basil Hayden I find to be quite on the sweet side. I gave Chris the under-$30 directive for this post, but there are so many more great choices when you bump it up to a $40 or $50 price point.

            We’ll likely publish another piece closer to the holidays focusing on those “special” bottles you’d want to spring for for a special occasion.

          • Michael

            Yea I understand, that’s why I mentioned the other three that are right around $30. Looking forward toward a list of more expensive whiskeys that you guys enjoy, that should be fun.

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            Chris has a bottle of George T Stagg and Thomas H. Handy waiting to be opened. Both extremely hard to get.

          • Michael

            Are we going to see reviews?

          • Chris Sarangoulis

            What do you say Brian? It would be good to open them on camera and give our first impressions.

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            Yes! Let’s do it.

          • Michael

            Agreed!

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            Oh, but ryes… Definitely give them another shot. What is it about them that you’re not totally a fan of? Bulleit is a GREAT option. Both Chris and I are also big proponents of the Willett 2-year rye. A higher proof offering that’s available at a great price point.

            Our review is here: http://hespokestyle.com/willett-2-year-rye-review/

          • Michael

            To be honest it’s probably just me being lazy and not trying them enough. I generally stick to single malts and bourbons and haven’t really had a rye in a while, I should probably go try a few. It’s more likely my lack of experience rather than an actually dislike for them.

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            Well, trust us – you can’t go wrong with Bulleit or Willett 2-year!

          • Chris Sarangoulis

            EH Taylor Rye is great One to try. It has some age to it so the spice and pepper that may turn some people off to rye’s is tamed. It’s a deeply complex and smooth rye. It is also around $75 a bottle…

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            I’ve actually not tried that EH Taylor. The barrel proof bourbon is the sh#t though, as you know.

          • Chris Sarangoulis

            I had a bottle about a year ago. I remember it being very smooth and complex. The extra age it had really mellowed a lot of the rye characteristics. I’m pretty sure you tasted it Brian, it was on my shelf for long time. There is a lot of whiskey tasted in my bar to remember them all though…

  • Stratcat

    Incredible bourbons for under $30 would be Elijah Craig Small Batch (Formerly 12 year) and Evan Williams Single Barrel. Great Scotch for under $30 would be Johnnie Walker Red and Black. Great Rye for under $30 would be Sazerac Rye, Jim Beam Prohibition Rye and Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond. Some great various whiskies, under $30, are Crown Royal Deluxe, Bushmills Original and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

    • Chris Sarangoulis

      Great choices. I’m working on a bottle of Sazerac right now! Great rye and hard to find sometimes. Johnny Walker is my preferred blended scotch and the double black is one of my favorite offerings from them. Elijah Craig is another great bourbon. I have slowly been working on a bottle of barrel proof that clocks in at 140 proof! You can still sip it neat!

      • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

        I’ll need a sip of that again.

    • Colonel Ziggy

      I like your bourbon and other whisky choices. I can’t comment on the Scotches and Ryes.

  • dmb7184

    If you’re going to mention a hard to find one like ETL, you have to include Weller 12. Light years better than 1792. Also, if you like 1792, try Very Old Barton 100. Its half the price, same mash bill, slightly higher proof. For $12/750ml it should be number 1 budget bourbon.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the comment! @chrissarangoulis:disqus, are you familiar with these?

      • Chris Sarangoulis

        Yes, Weller’s entire line is very good for the money. I’ve read that Weller Antique is pappy 12yr rejects. That’s another hard to find one too. I’m going to be on the lookout for Very Old Barton 100, I haven’t had that one. You guys are giving some great suggestions, keep them coming!

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          Yes, I remember the bottle of Weller Antique I snagged last spring. Really a great bourbon.

  • beurbs

    Let me add a couple: Evan 1783, which is around $15 for a tasty 10yr bourbon, and Benchmark which is $10 for a dry smoky 8yr!

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the recs!

    • Colonel Ziggy

      I agree with your choice of Evan Williams 1783. I’ve not tried Benchmark.

  • Dan L.

    I thought that the 1792 was rather harsh. A much better bourbon for under $30 is Lexington Bourbon.

    • Colonel Ziggy

      I like them both.

  • Colonel Ziggy

    Regarding $30 and under whiskeys, my every day “go to” bourbon is Jim Beam Black. I also serve and enjoy Crown Royal, Gentleman Jack, Wild Turkey 101 and Woodbridge Reserve (when it is on sale). Cheers!

  • JD

    Bulleit Rye isn’t actually made by Bulleit, it’s one of those liquors made by the huge Indiana distillery that makes a lot of fake craft co’s liquors. Not that it’s bad quality, just disingenuous marketing.

    • Rebel Tuba

      It tastes like grass to me.

  • Chris Wilson

    Larceny is better than anything on that list.