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Best Bourbon Under $30 | My Top 5 Classic, Budget Friendly Bourbons, and More

I have compiled a list of my top 5, budget-friendly, bourbons from major distilleries. I am also including some lesser-known options that are also very good. This is a great list for beginners and experienced bourbon drinkers alike. I view these as home bar essentials and I feel that all of these bourbons deserve a place on everyone's shelf. Check out my article on the best bourbon under $50.

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Wild Turkey 101 is My All-Time Favorite Classic Bourbon Under $30

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon is crafted using a high-rye mash bill, which gives the bourbon a unique and spicy flavor profile. Once the bourbon has been distilled, it is aged in American oak casks that have been charred with a #4 char.

Typically, the degree of charring within a cask is measured on a scale of one to four, with a #1 char referring to casks that have been lightly toasted, and a #4 char referring to casks that have been charred so heavily that the interior resembles an alligator hide.

After maturing for a minimum of five years, Wild Turkey 101 is bottled at 101 proof. The bourbon has an aroma of brown sugar and spice that give way to bold notes of caramel, vanilla, more spice, and notes of citrus and orange zest on the palate.

The finish is intense and warming. Wild Turkey 101 has earned a score of 92 points from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge and the Gold Medal at the International Wine & Spirits Competition.

Wild Turkey 101 has picked up a reputation of being "cheap" somewhere along the way. That could not be further from the truth. For me, it is the quintessential bourbon. This is always on my shelf. Great enjoyed neat and It is my go-to for making an Old Fashioned.

Since it comes in at a nice 101 proof it holds up very well in any mixed drink. You can usually pick this up for around $22-24 at any local store. Wild Turkey 101 is a fantastic product and needs to be on every bourbon lovers shelf!

Use my exclusive discount code: WHISKEYFOOL10 to receive $10 off qualifying* orders. Copy and paste to use at checkout.
*$100 or more

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

Following the defeat of the British at the Battle of Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War, the territory west of the Appalachian mountains became known as Kentucky County. At the time, the region was considered part of Virginia and was overseen by a military governor named John J. Bowman.

In order to encourage westward expansion, Virginia issued pioneers who agreed to settle in Kentucky County "corn writs," which granted the pioneers 60 acres of land if they agreed to settle in Kentucky and start farming corn.

One year after the defeat of the British, a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig emigrated to Fayette County (today, a part of the State of Kentucky) and purchased 1,000 acres of land in a town named Lebanon. In 1789, Craig built a distillery on his farm and is credited with being the first person to mature bourbon in charred, oak casks, earning him the title "Father of Bourbon Whiskey."

Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey pays homage to Craig and his unique legacy. The bourbon is bottled from the marriage of fewer than 100 casks of maturing bourbon, each of which is rested in a Kentucky rick house for a minimum of a dozen years.

The bourbon has an aroma of honey, sweet corn, vanilla, and brown sugar. The aroma gives way to notes of roasted nuts, creamy vanilla, molasses, and tropical fruits on the palate, which are well-balanced by hints of dry oak and cinnamon.

The finish is long and sweet and ends with a warming touch. Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon earned a score of 95 points from Wine Enthusiast, which called the bourbon "mellow" and said that it had the flavor profile of "butterscotch candy."

In addition, Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, named the bourbon the "Best Bourbon Aged 10-12 Years," and stated that it is "one of my favorite five or six bourbons" in the world. Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon also earned the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the WSWA Tasting Competition.

Unfortunately, they have since removed the 12-year age statement and the bourbon is likely 7-8 years old now. Regardless, Elijah Craig Small batch is a bargain! At 94 proof it is still complex but also very easy to drink. I often recommend this one to beginners who are looking to expand into higher proof stuff. It's a good stepping stone. I usually enjoy this one neat. You can find this one on the shelf for around $22-25.

Use my exclusive discount code: WHISKEYFOOL10 to receive $10 off qualifying* orders. Copy and paste to use at checkout.
*$100 or more

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Buffalo Trace Bourbon

The distillery's flagship bourbon has been made using the same process for over 200 years. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is made from a mash of yellow #2 dent corn, plump rye grains, and malted barley, which is cooked and cooled before being fermented for approximately 3-5 days.

Once fermentation is complete, the bourbon is double-distilled through column stills before being aged in first-fill, American oak barrels (90% of the distillery's oak is brought in from the Ozark Mountains) that have been aged for six months in the distilleries yard before being heavily charred.

After spending at least eight years in these barrels, which are stored on the middle floors of the distillery's warehouses to encourage the greatest temperature fluctuations, no more than 40 barrels at a time are hand-selected to create one single, small batch of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey won the Double Gold Medal in the 2014 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition and a Gold Medal in the 2014 International Wine & Spirits Competition.

This one comes in at number 3 for me, only because I am a proof hound. Buffalo Trace is 90 proof and I love higher proof whiskey because it is often more complex with a more interesting flavor profile. As you begin to expand your palate the higher proof bourbons just can't be beaten. Buffalo Trace is also a great bourbon for beginners or those just starting their bourbon journey. If it's not sold out, you can pick this up for around $25. Unfortunately, it is often sold out and difficult to find in some areas. If you can't find it locally, you can pick it up at

Use my exclusive discount code: WHISKEYFOOL10 to receive $10 off qualifying* orders. Copy and paste to use at checkout.
*$100 or more

Maker's Mark Bourbon

On October 1, 1953, William Samuels Sr. purchased Burks Distillery, which was situated in Loretto, Kentucky, for $35,000.

Five years later, the distillery released the first bottles of Makers Mark Bourbon Whisky, which featured the distillery's distinctive red wax seal. The distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1980.

Made from a mash of corn, wheat, and malted barley, Makers Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky (spelled without an e to honor the Samuels family's Scottish heritage) manages to marry large-scale, global production with a rich tradition in a way that few other distilleries can rival.

The actual makers of Makers Mark still rotate the barrels in the distillery's warehouses, bottle the whisky, and dip the bottles in wax all by hand.

Makers Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon is highly distinct from the majority of other bourbons on the market which are made from a mash of malted barley, rye, and corn. Wheat serves as the replacement for rye in the recipe. This 'wheated' bourbon, is crafted from red winter wheat, and bottled at 90 proof.

Maker Mark is an excellent introduction to wheated bourbon. Weller 107 is my favorite wheated bourbon but it has become impossible to find (more on that in a later article). The nose on Makers Mark is its most remarkable quality. Strong brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla notes really shine through. It reminds me of a homemade cinnamon roll. Those notes don't entirely come through on the palate, but it is still very enjoyable taken neat. It also makes a great mixer. This one is usually right at $30, but I do often see it on sale for $28 at many of the big box stores.

Use my exclusive discount code: WHISKEYFOOL10 to receive $10 off qualifying* orders. Copy and paste to use at checkout.
*$100 or more

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Old Forester Signature 100 Proof Bourbon

The Old Forester Signature 100 Proof Bourbon is a tribute to founder George Gavin Brown, carrying his signature on the label he would sign all the bottles himself in the olden days. It's made from a mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley and bottled at 100 proof.

It's a well-balanced affair with plenty of caramel, cherry, and oaky spice, along with some coffee and chocolate on the nose. The rich palate adds to that some fruity notes, nuts, maple syrup, and caramel. Finishes spicy and complex with pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and oak.

This is a much better iteration than the Classic Old Forester 86 proof which I do not recommend. However, this Old Forester Signature 100 Proof is a very nice bourbon when you consider the price.

This one is also able to be enjoyed neat. It is a staple of many bars and is also a great bourbon for mixed drinks. The price has started to come up on this one. You can find it at big box stores for around $29 and is often on sale for $23 here in Indiana. If you're gonna pick this one up, make sure you get the 100 proof and not the 86 proof...big difference!

Use my exclusive discount code: WHISKEYFOOL10 to receive $10 off qualifying* orders. Copy and paste to use at checkout.

*$100 or more

Evan Williams Bottled In Bond

Founded in 1935, just two years after the curtain fell on Prohibition, Heaven Hill emerged from the ambitions of visionary investors, including Joseph L. Beam of the illustrious Beam family. Encompassing a sprawling estate with 22 towering rickhouses, Heaven Hill is more than a distillery—it's a testament to Bourbon craftsmanship.

Now operating under the name "Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery," they boast a Bourbon inventory that is second only to the largest in the world. What makes it even more remarkable is that this distillery stands proudly as Kentucky’s last family-owned stronghold in the Bourbon industry.

At the heart of Heaven Hill's operation is the Evan Williams label, renowned for its versatile offerings. From the go-to Black Label to the flavored options and coveted limited releases, there's something for every palate. Since 1983, the legacy of Master Distiller Parker Beam, continued by his son Craig, is embodied in their meticulously selected single barrel series—each barrel handpicked to perfection.

A great bottle in their collection is the Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond. Bottled at 100-proof, this Kentucky straight bourbon meets rigorous standards, ensuring at least four years of aging and the guarantee of a single distillation season at one distillery. It’s a harmonious blend of caramel, vanilla, oak, and citrus notes that echo with Bourbon tradition—and it's no surprise it clinched the Double Gold Medal at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. You can usually find this bottle for under $22.

Start Your Home Bar

Starting a home collection of Bourbon can seem intimidating, but with this great list of starters, anyone will be able to find one that suits their taste. Crafted for multidimensional flavors and versatility, each pick is sure to provide an enjoyable experience and leave a memorable, long-lasting impression that only Bourbon can impart. With bold and warm notes from oak barrels, these Bourbons are certain to kick start any evening. Whether you’re looking for a personal favorite or one to share, these selections are a great place to start.

You can find most of these at your local liquor store and most big box stores like Meijer and Costco. If you're like me and like having things delivered to your house, you can also get them all from

Check out my article on the best bourbon under $50.

For some great wheated broubon ideas check out my article on The Best Wheated Bourbons.

Use my exclusive discount code: WHISKEYFOOL10 to receive $10 off qualifying* orders. Copy and paste to use at checkout.

*$100 or more

Tags: Whiskey sour, black pepper, rour roses bourbon, old forester


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