You can still find a high quality bourbon or rye for around $30USD. Many of these are among the best value propositions in the game. Some of the labels listed below may not be readily available at your local grocery store, but you can typically be find them at most bottle shops. They are great gifts for bourbon aficionados, and beginners alike. And at this price, there’s no concern about mixing a little ginger ale or coke.
#1 Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond
There are very few rye whiskies bottled-in-bond, but Rittenhouse Rye is so good there are few people complaining. Bottled-in-bond is the highest badge of honor on a label, according to the whiskey professor Bernie Lubbers, and this expression from Heaven Hill Family Distillery is no exception. This label means the liquid inside is guaranteed to have been distilled by one distiller at one distillery from only one season. Also it must be be 50% ABV (100 proof), and aged for four years under US Government supervision. Rittenhouse Rye is about the best value on the market that can be found regularly.
#2 OGD 114
Seeing Basil Hayden on the label of OGD114 is a reminder of just how overpriced the low octane eponymous bourbon runs. Ironically, his picture resides on one of the best bourbon bargains on the market. OGD 114 is a delicious high rye bourbon expression at near barrel proof. Many cask strength options such as Stagg Jr or ECBP are in the $50-60+ range, which puts OGD114 in a league of it’s own at just over $30. This bourbon has a high rye mashbill, so it has a spicy flavor profile that will stand up well in a cocktail, or neat.
#3 Henry McKenna 10yr Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond
This bourbon must have the longest name in the game. Not for nothing, the words following Henry McKenna are hallmarks of quality in the industry. It has a decent age statement of ten years, which seems to be disappearing in today’s market. This is a single barrel selected from the warehouse that is delicious enough to stand on its own. No mixer required. Last but not least this bourbon is bottled-in-bond. These words do not come cheap for the distillery, so you can bet it’s a quality product.
***Note: Recent accolades have pushed this “worst kept secret” in bourbon into the $40 msrp range.***
#4 Evan Williams Single Barrel
This product is a pioneer among premium bourbons. It is offered as a vintage release, similar to some wines. The flavor profile can shift slightly from year –to-year, so you may want to look at reviews of specific years available to you before purchasing. The packaging is attractive and includes a black wax dipped cork, which always feels fancy. This is a lower proof bottle (86.6) than the options above, and seems to be available at local grocery stores and bottle shops alike.
#5 Editor’s choice: Eagle Rare 10yr
No top five list seems complete without mentioning a Buffalo Trace product. This is selected as the Editor’s Choice because it offers a decent age statement, in a time where that is no longer the norm, and at a reasonable price. Eagle Rare is 90 proof and uses Buffalo Trace mashbill #1, or in other words their lower rye bourbon mashbill. I find this bourbon really opens up over time, so the more will power you can muster after popping the cork, the more you will be rewarded later. Keep an eye out for Eagle Rare private barrel selections from your local liquor shop. These can offer an off-flavor profile experience for the Buffalo Trace lover on your gift list. Unable to keep pace with demand, the Buffalo Trace Distillery discontinued their Eagle Rare private barrel selection program in 2019. Further evidence that I’m not alone in favoring this expression.