Bourbonr “Available” Bourbon of the Year

There were many requests after the 2017 Bourbonr WOTY for a poll that includes affordable and available bourbons. There was a lot of pushback about calling $60 a “budget” purchase. I agree. But, the point of the poll was to identify Bourbonr favorites below the $60 price point. With that in mind, I’d say the poll was a success. Here’s a breakdown of the results.
 
Blanton’s is a great bottle. At around six and a half years old it proves that older is not always better. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof was my favorite release in 2017 so that is no surprise. Old Forester 1920 was my favorite “available” option in 2016. However, this top three comes with a little bit of a caveat. They all cost more than $50. While I believe these are three great bottles, I want to dig a little deeper into “budget”. Here is the list of the top 3 bourbons that are $30 or less:
I did have to include Larceny and Henry McKenna 10-year together. First, Henry McKenna is on the line of $30. Some states it’s $29, other states it’s $32. Second, these two bottles were separated by 2 votes. It felt wrong to leave HM10 off the list. This is a top 3 (4) I can get behind. Buffalo Trace dominated the poll. Pretty much every major Buffalo Trace brand landed in the top 15. But they’re one of my favorite bourbon distillery’s so this comes as no surprise. Even after looking at the list I felt like a few honorable mentions were missing. Here are my top 3 “Budget” bourbons:
Let the debating begin! What was left off? Is $30 still too high to be considered “Budget”?

66 comments

    I have purchased probably too many obscure labels for me in southeast Michigan (using Caskers), but the standout for me this year is Bell Meade sour mash. Larceny is close. I do agree with the Eagle Rare and I use B’Trace for mixing due to my perceived rye hotness of it.

    I agree about the “rye hotness” of Buffalo Trace brands. If you are in southeast Michigan look for Lexington Bourbon. It is a great bourbon for under $30 and is available at some liquor stores and can be special ordered in others. I have drank better bourbons, like Woodford Reserve, but not in the under $30 category.

    Interesting that Weller was left off – Is it not available enough? It costs less than $60. Even the Weller 12 costs under $60 …

    Some people, such as myself, very .uch dislike Weller, but agree with the other choices.

    However some people I know and respect also consider it their go to budget option, so who knows lol.

    But yeah, Weller is in the bottom 3 whiskeys I’ve tried.

    I’m surprised that none of the widely popular and always available bourbons didn’t make it on the list. I’m referring to: Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Makers Mark.

    Here in NY we rarely see Blantons for leas than $70 and the EC Barrel Proof is usually between $70 and $99. Both are great choices I just wish I could find them at those lower prices.

    lol, good price for NY. I have all 3 you mentioned and the prices in the “back Yard” of the distilleries is not any more affordable.
    I live 1 mile from buffalo trace and the smell of the Mash in a fall morning fog is as good as having a bottle of $30 bourbon. Jim Beam is bottled 100 yards from my home. Woodford Reserve 15 minutes away, Four Roses and Wild Turkey 20 minutes away. Dang, I just realized I am spoiled!

    Blake, no real surprises, although, personally, I find Four Roses insipid even as a budget purchaser.
    What did surprise me is that “regular” Elijah Craig didn’t make the top 3 for $30 or less; IMO, it’s superior to BT, Larceny and Eagle Rare (HM10 is great stuff and deserves to be on the pedestal). But as we know, all this is subjective. Cheers, and thanks for the poll.

    EC is one if rhe best deals going for quality and price point together.
    it is hard to beat Henry McKenna 100 proof bonded single barrel for $30 as well. The McKenna used to be a bit cheaper but the price keeps creeping up as people find one of our best kept bourbon secrets in KY.

    Blake, I like ’em all! Great overall selection, some a little more $, some a little less $. I have all of these bottles except for the Old Granddad and the Four Roses Yellow Label. Have not tried either of those, are they good neat, or are they more for the occasional friend who likes to add some Coke or Ginger Ale?

    Nooo…OGD114 is amazing neat. I do agree the original is probably best for mixed drinks. I just wish I could consistently find it in my area of NC.

    I’m in NC and a couple of drinks away from finishing my OGD114 and I have hesitated to finish it because of the lack of availability.

    Can you please post the final results of all the bourbon entries listed in order? I’m curious how many people participated and how some of the other whiskies fared. Thanks!

    Blake, lovelovelove your pick of the OGD114 in this category. I evangelize that damn whiskey every chance I get, and I’d guess that whiskey didn’t get much more than 3-4% of the votes in your poll. So good and so unloved.

    While I enjoy reading and listening to the Bourbonor Blog, I have never posted anything but have corresponded with the proprietor on occasion. I was in my 50’s when a friend introduced me to my first bourbon which was Pappy Van Winkle 20 and I was hooked (who wouldn’t be?). Since then I have broadened my horizons a bit and while initially I was staying in the wheated camp and was enjoying Jefferson’s Presidential 18 until that was literally gone as well as some Weller options. Since then I have been checking out other bourbons and was glad to see two that I really like are first and second in the polling AND I have some inventory of Blanton’s and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 12. I also voted for Blanton’s as I have been drinking it for a few years now but had never had Elijah Craig BP until the year when I read about it here and elsewhere. I may have to break down and pour some of those tonight.

    Thanks Blake for conducting the poll as this supports what I think I have been tasting and gives me a few other options that are reasonably priced to check out. Keep up the great work!

    Well done, all are my favorite go tool’s for my open bar bourbon. One that’s missing, probably because it’s so cheap it gets overlooked as a great tasting bourbon is Evan Williams.

    Blake, where are you finding Rare Breed for less than $30? The best price, even online is $35. As far as the cut off, $60 is not a bad place. If you make it too low, then we are really talking about mixers, with a few exceptions. I get it, not everyone can throw down $60. But it is not unreasonable, as long as you are not knocking back a fifth every night. For example, if you take 3 pours, per night, then $60 of bourbon is basically a weeks worth (skipping a couple of days).

    Nothing thrilling or new, but – Four Roses Single Barrel over Blantons, all day long. Put the ‘regular’ Elijah on the same shelf with Eagle. I’d (almost) take Weller Antique over Larceny, but maybe it’s not as available everywhere (?) .. And, Bulleit I think punches above its price range.

    Like these types of polls. Really interesting results. But please STOP with the praise of HMK 10yr. It is not always on the shelf in KCMO anymore. i might have to start rumors that it is really just a 60-40 blend of Evan Williams Black and Single Barrel, so i can still find the HMK 10yr. I mean I am down to just 8 bottles…;)

    Blake

    I think your poll pretty much nailed it. I completely agree with the selection of Blantons as the winner! My only “quibble” would be that 1792 small batch is a fantastic under $30 and I would have thought it would do better. I also agree that the regular EC Small Batch (particularly the store picks – which still stay under $30 and are often single barrel at that point) would have done better.

    BTW, you should come up to Boston. Blantons can be found for under $50 and my local store has 1920 for under $50 as well (at $49.99) Cheers!

    I like the top three…..solid choices all. Buffalo Trace and Henry McKenna ring true at $30 or less group. I think Rare Breed and OGD 114 are phenomenal!

    I gotta agree with you on the ECBP (although it is more than $60 per at some stores in my area) and I can’t argue with any of these choices though for the most part they wouldn’t be mine. Blantons wouldn’t make it under the $60 limit in my area (I wouldn’t put it on my list anyway) as the cheapest price in my area is $63 and it is illegal to ship alcohol to private residences in my state. I also question the inclusion of BT and FRYL on this list as I would put WT101 ahead of wither one for about the same price as the FR and only a couple of bucks more than the lower pf BT but that’s just me.
    And, yeah I’d also like to know where you are finding Rare breed for less than $30 ($37 at my local TWaM is the best price in my area)

    I’m surprised Evan Williams single barrel didn’t make the cut. At $26/bottle (New York price. I’m sure it’s substantially less in other states) it’s been my go to favorite for quite some time. Yes, there are other much more expensive bourbons that I like better. But, the difference isn’t worth the price unless it’s a really special occasion.

    ECBP is not readily available for the most part, and Blanton’s is hard to find in a lot of places. I live in Lexington KY, and ECBP is gone before it hits the shelf. I don’t think I’d have a problem finding Blanton’s if I wanted some, but I keep getting told it is always out of stock from lots of people looking for it here and elsewhere. OF 1920 is available at most major retailers here, but I would rather spend my money on 2-3 other bottles. Good call’s on the $30 bottles, however, they are much better when you get them closer to $20-ish. I agree Rare Breed is usually more then $30. More like $40 here.

    I guess when ‘available’ means never on a shelf near me (OH / NKY) and $60. Kudos to 1920 for at least being available but hardly <$60. Fail.

    This page apparently does not like special characters. So I will spell it out… I guess when ‘available’ means never on a shelf near me (OH / NKY) and less than $60 means more than $60 everywhere. Kudos to 1920 for being available but hardly less than $60. Fail.

    Blanton’s & EC Barrel Proof ‘all over the place in NKY’? I shop over there a LOT and that is simply NOT true. They are on the shelf NO WHERE at close to retail and only sit at the rip off stores at secondary +++. Post up just ONE place I could go to today and buy either at retail.

    Hey Blake, nice work! My stab at below $20. My Personal Under $20 Bourbons are – 1.Ancient Ancient Age 2. OGD 3. Ezra Brooks/Fighting Cock (Both Heaven Hill)

    Below $20 gets even trickier based on state. But I would agree with your options. Fighting Cock is often overlooked but is a pretty good option

    OGD 114 is fantastic; their Bonded is also a steal of a deal.

    I love the Rare Breed: it’s currently my “desert island” booze. 101 is a faithful standby, too.

    I’d add Evan Williams Single Barrel to the $30 tier.

    If you want to approach the under $25 range, pick up Beam Bonded or Beam Distiller’s Cut: both are wonderful whiskeys that carry serious bang for the buck.

    Cheers!

    Great list!

    I would throw in Russell’s Reserve 10 year – $29.99 in my area of Florida, always on the shelf, and a fine bourbon neat, with ice/water, or in cocktails.

    I also agree with others on Evan Williams Single Barrel – it is a conservative proof and not a mind blowing bourbon, but priced right at $24.99 in my area.

    Good review Blake, glad to see available bourbons in a survey for average bourbon folks to relate and participate. BTC is my favorite but there are many other good ones ! Let’s see it by the numbers

    Almost all bourbon is a great deal compared to other spirits. Elijah craig barrel proof costs $68 at BevMo and is never under $70 anywhere in CA. Costco had Blantons for $45 and it is widely available for $60 so Im not sure about some of these people complaining that it is $70 or unavailable. We literally had an entire pallet with no limit. I bought 3 even though I dislike it. Cannot go wrong with just about any bourbon. Love promoting “budget” options…now if we could only get people to stop wasting money on $300 hype juice bottles we would make some real progress

    That’s what this is about. There’s no need to constantly talk about each new LE. We have plenty to drink on the shelves

    You know what’s cheap and good? Old Taylor and Very Old Barton.
    They are dirt cheap and really good!

    We’re talking like $11-15!

    VOB Bonded is my go-to mixing whiskey for sours and old fashioneds. Can’t beat it for the price, and I can’t bring myself to mix anything further up the shelves.

    BTW, Larceny is not a good whiskey and I have no idea why it would even be shown on here with so many others, that have been named by other people in the comments, are so much better!

    My three personal picks are: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B517 124.2, Rare Breed Barrel Proof 116.8 and Stagg jr 132.8 Barrel Proof. The higher proofs just last longer for me.

    I see you picked an excellent Rare Breed 112.8. I like the Rare Breed 116.8 a tad better, though.

    Thank you soooooooo much for doing this poll. I just found your site via the higher end poll you did a few weeks ago and was very hopeful that you’d do this. While hunting for harder-to-find bottles can be fun, we all need some solid go-to’s that are available. This poll is perfect for that.

    Random comments:

    * Great to see Old Forester 1920 make the grade. I try to stick to $40 and under but after alot of good reviews i picked it up and love it. Warning thou: ive noticed this bottle, more than almost any other, has some serious price variations…ive seen it from $50 to $70. $55 seems to be list. If buying, you may want to look around.

    * another +1 for Evan Williams Single Barrel. I think its the best bang for your buck and the best sub $30 out there. Although im also realllllly liking the standard Elija Craig these days.

    * Do y’all think there’s a shifting trend towards preference and higher reviews for higher proof bourbons? Not sure but for me it seems that alot of the new ones im trying based on reviews are above 100. Im certainly enjoying them.

    Great board, poll, and comments.

    Peace n Happy Sippin!

    Three Toes of Fury

    I have a collection of 45 different whiskey expressions, mostly bourbons. I agree with your poll results, but with a few questions.
    Wild Turkey Rare Breed 116.8 or 112.6?
    Where did Angel’s Envy land overall?
    Not even Maker’s 46 made your list?

    I enjoy my whisky neat, but am curious about how you feel about ice or a drop or two of water?

    +1 for Maker’s 46. For that matter, MM is darn tasty stuff: one of my local package stores regularly discounts it to $20 and I consider it a steal.

    Drop or two of water for me.

    Love the picks, and agree that we’d like to see the total list & number of votes.

    Availability is the key, and pricing is double-tough. I get good to great pricing locally in WY, and in some cases get an additional 10% (silver-hair) or 20% (buy 6 or more) off prices as shown:
    Elijah Craig SB 25
    Elijah Craig BP 55
    Buffalo Trace 21-23
    Eagle Rare 26-29
    Blanton’s 38 (no discount avail)
    I plan to be buried at the Buffalo Trace distillery…

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