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Cigar Spirits: Five Good Value Bourbons Under $20

19 Nov 2013

One of the great things about bourbon, when compared to, say, scotch whisky, is the quality of spirits available at affordable prices. The five bourbons I highlighted in my article about five good bourbons under $30 demonstrate the impressive spirits available at that price range.

bourbon-under-20Those are all bourbons I’d recommend to anyone, even if you told me price were no concern. Diving deeper into the value range, the following list of bourbons are available for $20 or less.

At the $20 price, you’re probably giving up at least one thing (complexity, proof, intensity), but I’m still impressed at what you can trade for a twenty-dollar bill: a satisfying bourbon that you can drink straight-up or with a few ice cubes, at a price that doesn’t make you wince when you mix it into your friend’s bourbon and Diet Coke.

Four Roses Yellow Label — I’m a big fan of Four Roses Single Barrel and Small Batch ($38 and $32, respectively), but my go-to house bourbon is Four Roses Yellow Label ($18). The bourbon is a blending of ten different bourbon recipes (two mashbills and five yeast strains). The result is a surprisingly rounded, complex bourbon with honey and fruit. My only wish would be to have a proof higher than just 80.

Evan Williams 1783 — The phrase “small batch” isn’t terribly descriptive, but the Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch is almost certainly smaller batch than it’s younger, more ubiquitous cousin who you might have encountered in a frat house. It’s also a nice step up for just a few bucks more (around $15). The 86-proof bourbon is a straightforward and pleasant combination of vanilla, oak, and burnt corn. (Read my full write-up here.)

Old Grand Dad 100 — For the money, I’m not a fan of the $40, 80-proof Basil Hayden, but I think highly of the $20, 100-proof Old Grand Dad. Which is interesting because they are basically the same whiskey (both use Beam’s high rye bourbon mashbill) and are named after the same guy (Basil Hayden is the “Old Grand Dad”). While Basil Hayden may be a bit thin, Old Grand Dad 100 shows off the rye spice with floral notes and a bit of citrus. Even better is Old Grand Dad 114, though it’s $5 more than the $20 Old Grand 100.

Wild Turkey 81 — The $18 Wild Turkey comes from the same barrels Wild Turkey 101 uses. While lacking an official age statement, it’s reportedly 6-8 years old. (The old, discontinued, 80-proof edition was made with four-year-old bourbon.) It has classic Wild Turkey bold flavors with oak, caramel, vanilla, and lots of cinnamon spice.

Old Forester — Old Forester uses the same recipe (mashbill and yeast) as Woodford Reserve. Reportedly, choice barrels are picked to be Woodford Reserve and the others end up as Old Forester, which isn’t aged quite as long and is bottled at 86-proof for $19. Old Forester is similar to its more expensive relative with lots of caramel, buttered corn, and dried fruit. Taste it side-by-side with Woodford and you’ll be surprised how well it measures up at half the price.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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