Top 5 Bourbons Under $30
#1 Eagle Rare 10 – 45% ABV – 90 Proof $29.99
Eagle Rare introduced in 1975, is one of the widely available flagship products from the Buffalo Trace distillery. Eagle Rare uses the low rye #1 mash bill which is also used for Buffalo Trace, George T. Stagg, Old Charter and others. Eagle Rare received a string of gold and double gold medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition between 2005 and 2010 and was given an above-average score of 92 by the Beverage Testing Institute.
Eagle Rare Tasting Notes:
Eagle Rare is a bright honey and bronze colored nectar of the gods. The nose is extremely pleasing with hints of honey, tobacco, fruitiness and vanilla. It has a thickness to it that coats the tongue and warms the edges nicely. It has a very sweet floral flavor with hints of charred oak, corn, vanilla and a grain like taste that is hard to describe but amazing. This is by far one of the the best values in bourbon there is.
#2 W. L. Weller 12 – 45% ABV – 90 Proof -$25.99
Weller is yet another amazing product from the Buffalo Trace distillery. Weller is a wheated bourbon meaning they use wheat instead of rye in the mash bill. The most famous (or infamous) wheated bourbons of all are the Pappy Van Winkle line – also made now by Buffalo Trace. Wheated bourbons often have a much sweater flavor than more traditional bourbons and with W.L. Weller 12 that is definitely the case. Weller 12 is in fact the same stock from which the Pappy bottles sprout from. Now that Buffalo Trace has taken over production of the Van Winkle line from Stitzer Weller, the Weller stocks at Buffalo Trace are what the Van Winkle barrels are chosen from. Word about this has started to spread greatly thus making the W.L. Weller 12 much harder to come across these days.
W.L. Weller 12 Tasting Notes
The Weller 12 has a very sweet noise with hints of candied nuts, vanilla, slight toasted oak and a caramel sugar. It has a very sweet, rich, vanilla butterscotch flavor. the mouthfeel is very thick and almost syrup like and tickles the tongue with sweetness with a medium finish. The finish is extremely sweet and lingers for a bit. The ease which with this goes down is extremely dangerous. The Weller 12 is just about on par flavor-wise with the Van Winkle Lot B 12 but at half the price it is a much better bargain if you can find it these days.
#3 Elijah Craig 12 – 47% ABV 94 Proof $24.99
Ah, good ole Elijah Craig. This bourbon, made by the Heaven Hill distillery, is named in honor of the Reverend Elijah Craig who was a Baptist preacher and the person with which many credited as being the inventor of “true Kentucky Bourbon” by inventing the process of charring the inside of the oak barrels used to store bourbon.
Elijah Craig 12 Tasting Notes
Elijah Craig has a very strong and fruity nose. Hints of vanilla, oak, toffee and slight cherry. There is a strong caramel flavor and a spiciness from 94 Proof. A very full and rich tasting bourbon and a great mouthfeel. Definitely complex and an insane value for the price. This is my go-to daily bourbon. I always keep a bottle at home and at work – you know for those long days. ;-)
#4 Buffalo Trace – 45% abv (90 Proof), $20
Like Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace’s namesake bourbon is made from the distillery’s #1 mash bill. It is Buffalo Trace’s most widely available product these days and is extremely affordable.
“One of the world’s great whiskies.”
–Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
Buffalo Trace Tasting Notes
Buffalo Trace has a deep golden amber color to it. The nose consists of hints of rye, oak, vanilla and a certain fruitiness to it. The palate is very sweet up front giving way to more of an oak-y, woody flavor which lingers for a bit. It taste much more mature than what it is.
This bourbon punches far above its weight in the flavor department. Around the same price per bottle as Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace puts Jack to shame as a much more complex bourbon which does not taste like it cost $20 a bottle. Buffalo Trace is also a great mixer for an old fashioned or a Manhattan.
Now for the heat. Old Grand-Dad comes from the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. The bourbon was created in honor of Basil Hayden who’s face is on every bottle. Hayden was known for creating a bourbon that was made with a higher percentage of rye. Old Grand-Dad was one of the few distilled spirits allowed to be produced during prohibition as a medicinal spirit. I wish there was still prescriptions for whiskey…but I digress.
Old Grand-Dad 114 Tasting Notes
Old Grand-Dad 114 has a deep copper color. It has a very spicy rye nose with a lot of floral, vanilla and citrus coming through. It definitely has a bite but not nearly as much as you would expect from a bourbon that is 114 proof. I like my bourbons high proof, but if you are newer to the bourbon world you may benefit from adding a small amount of water. Upon tasting you definitely get the spiciness from the rye and a mellow sweetness which coats the mouth. The finish is longer and lingering and definitely warms you up as it goes down. Perfect for the winter we are currently having in the North East.
I hope this list helps the newcomer to bourbon by showing the range of quality out there for not much more money than the more popular brands such as Jack and Beam. This list is far from definite. The beauty of bourbon is the sheer amount of quality that brands offer these days. There is a ton of variety to please infinite individual tastes. Some may agree with this list but many may totally disagree with everything I have written here. To each there own.