You don’t have to pay premium prices to enjoy premium whiskey.
Let’s face it, there’s something alchemistic about a good whiskey.
A good whiskey hits the nose with a light tap, works the mouth with a steady assault, then delivers the knockout punch as it slips down into the belly. It balances sweet and sour, spicy and dark—this is truly one of life’s true pleasures. Bourbon, rye, scotch…there’s a whiskey for every taste. But you shouldn’t have to pay a premium to get a good one.
Whether you prefer yours neat, on the rocks or mixed, here are the best whiskeys under $30:
6. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon – $27
Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon consistently scores in the high 80s-mid 90s, making it a true classic. It’s a vintage whiskey, with the years 2000, 1996, and 2004 coming in as the highest-rated.
The Evan Williams is single batch, with a dark caramel, sweet oak and charred wood nose. The taste is spicy honeyed oak, with notes of apple and orange, and a long, mellow finish. It holds its own against whiskeys in the $1,000 range. The Single Barrel has been awarded Whiskey of the Year five times and comes in at 86 proof.
5. Alberta Premium Dark Horse – $30
The 90 proof Dark Horse from Alberta is bold and sweet. The nose features aromas of molasses, spice, and smoke. It is well-balanced, tasting of spice, vanilla, and roasted nut with a brown sugar finish. Dark Horse is a Canadian rye, kicked in the butt with a splash of corn whiskey and a sherry finish. Compared to the regular Alberta Premium, it’s worth the extra $6.
If you can find it.
4. Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel – $29
A 2014 Gold Medal Winner at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, the Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel is made by people who know their craft. The Buffalo Trace Distillery has won both World Whiskey of the Year (2013), and Whiskey Distiller of the Year (2014), among a host of other accolades.
The 90 proof Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel offers whiskey lovers an affordable bourbon that doesn’t compromise on flavor. A nose of clover, vanilla, and old leather gives way to a balanced honey and fruit taste with a warm finish.
3. Cutty Sark Prohibition – $27
A tribute to Prohibition era whiskey-runner Captain William McCoy, this whiskey is the Real McCoy (yes, that’s where the saying came from). The blended scotch whiskey has a darker taste, with hints of the American oak casks in which it was aged, toffee, and smoke. At 100 proof, the Prohibition is a full 20 proof higher than the regular Cutty Sark blend.
2. George Dickel Superior No. 12 – $20
With their Superior No. 12, the George Dickel distillery hits the perfect combination of flavor and value. Don’t let the price fool you, it doesn’t take away from the 90 proof Superior’s depth of flavor; bitter chocolate and charcoal play off lighter citrus tones with a buttery finish. A Tennessee whiskey that stands up neat or mixed, the Dickel Superior is an 84% corn mash, complemented with 8% rye and 8% barley.
1. Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Bourbon – $28
Named for the year that Kentucky joined the Union, this 93.7 proof small batch bourbon has a higher rye content than most, making it slightly sweeter and spicier. A slight custard flavor hides underneath the bolder oak and apple. Established in 1879 and still brewed from the same spring water, the 1792 is a true Kentucky bourbon.