holiday bourbon and whiskey guide under $30 and $50

Shopping For Whiskey Is Confusing - This Bourbon and Whiskey Buying Guide Can Help

There’s always a reason to gather, celebrate, and give, so what better way to do it than with whiskey (and food of course). After doing reviews for a few years, I figured it was time to put together a holiday bourbon and whiskey gift guide under $30 and $50 for the holidays or really any time of the year. It’s always a good time to buy and/or give whiskey.

I have to remind everyone – Please drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive…because that ruins far too many people’s lives.

For better or worse, there are a lot of options out there, and also a lot of unfortunate pitfalls to buy a not so great bottle. There’s a lot of “what bourbon / whiskey should I buy?” This is where I come in to possibly help – to provide a bourbon and whiskey guide with a shorter list of more objective suggestions across various prices for your next party, gathering, celebration, or yourself (because you’re worth it too).

Because guess what, these companies don’t pay me for anything, so I can freely tell you whatever I want. Hopefully you’ll find this list useful and it can help make the search just a little bit easier.

For this list, apart from various price ranges (knowing that prices vary), I’ve also tried focus on

  * Accessibility –  It’s not helpful to recommend impossible or extremely difficult to find whiskeys. Still, I can’t guarantee you can actually find these whiskeys. I’m also going Buffalo Trace-free, with one exception

  * Variety – Spread the love to multiple distilleries

  * Quality – Mid Shelf or above

I’m intentionally trying to keep the list somewhat short, so there are other whiskeys that could be included. Some of you reading may disagree with me too, and that’s cool with me.

Because there’s still a lot of bourbon and whiskey to cover, I’ve splitting this gift and buying guide into two parts:

Part 1: Holiday Bourbon and Whiskey Guide Under $30 and Under $50 (This article covers this part)

Part 2: Holiday Bourbon and Whiskey Guide Over $50, with a sort of arbitrary cap at around $110

Without further adieu, let’s get started with my take on a bourbon and whiskey buying and gift guide under $30 and under $50. 

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Bourbon and Whiskey Gift Guide Under $30

Bourbon under $30, or really in general whiskey under $30 offers quite a few gems, but it’s also surrounded by some pretty bad stuff. You have to be careful out there, and this section of the bourbon and whiskey guide should help you avoid some of those traps that will lead you to disappointment. 

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Rating: Mid Shelf+

Price: $20

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond Review

No bourbon and whiskey gift guide would be complete without Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, one of the best bourbons under $20 and $30. This is the my favorite affordable / budget bourbon, so I’ll always recommend it as a high-quality option with fairly rich caramel, vanilla, nuttiness, oak, and spice. Even though it’s pretty no-frills, it’s still very good and people will be surprised that it’s “just” a $20 bourbon. 

Even better, this is sold in virtually every store that sells bourbon, so you’re nearly guaranteed to find it if you’re looking for it. It’s great for yourself, for a party, or as a gift.

Bernheim Wheat Whiskey

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Rating: Mid Shelf+

Price: $25-30

Bernheim Wheat Whiskey Review

This is one of the better wheaters (it’s wheat whiskey not wheated bourbon) you can buy for under $40. It’s also incredibly overlooked because it doesn’t have the brand name of wheated bourbons such as Weller and Old Fitzgerald. 

With some air, you can expect brown sugar, coconut, orange peel, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, and chocolate, making this a dark, mature, and fairly rich whiskey that drinks older than its 7 years. And you know what, I think it’s better than Weller Special Reserve and comparable to Weller Antique 107.  

* Honestly, if you see a Heaven Hill whiskey for $20-30, it’s probably worth buying, because Heaven Hill makes great affordable whiskey…except Fighting Cock. Just not that one. 

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Rating: Mid Shelf+

Price: $28-30

Elijah Craig Small Batch Review

I know I’ve over-indexed a bit on Heaven Hill, but I swear it’s because they make great and affordable whiskey. Elijah Craig is one of the best bourbons under $30 because at around 8 years old, it has pretty rich caramel, creme brulee, funky vanilla, dark fruit such as dates, apple, orange herbal licorice, and a nice oaky and cinnamon-y backbone.

It just delivers a mature and great experience and will leave money in your bank account for gifts. For a lack of a more refined word…it’s a winner and a nice bump up from Evan Williams Bottled in Bond.

As a side note, I didn’t include Evan Williams Single Barrel to the list because I’d just recommend Elijah Craig Small Batch over it every time.

Old Forester Rye

Distillery: Old Forester

Rating: Mid Shelf

Price: $20-25

Old Forester Rye Review

This is a solid option for an affordable rye. For around ~$25, you get a 100 proof rye whiskey that has a darker, earthy, and more bready side that comes from the unusually high amount of barley in the mashbill, with supporting apple, and herbal licorice and fennel that is expected from rye.

The slightly higher proof adds a little more body and personality I personally like it, and I’m sure you and others will enjoy it too…assuming you don’t despise licorice – one of the main traits in rye.

Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Rating: No Rating

Price: $20

Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 Review

This is a strange whiskey to put on this list, but I have some good reasons. This 375mL bottle from Buffalo Trace doesn’t fly off the shelves because honestly, white dog / moonshine can be pretty polarizing. But for the right crowd, it can be very cool. White Dog Mash #1 offers quite the interesting and intense sweet corn-forward traits because it’s unaged, but it’s best used in comparisons and learning.

I really like drinking it, but as a Chinese American who loves baijiu, it’s very much up my alley. 

Drinking white dog / moonshine / white lightning is a fun opportunity to compare unaged new make with a cask strength bourbon to help you better understand how barrel aging turns this intense and clear spirit into dark and lovely bourbon. 

Think about it, this clear spirit turns into Buffalo TraceEagle RareEH Taylor Small Batch (and all the other EH Taylor Bourbons), and Stagg Jr (now Jr-less) among others. It may just give you a greater appreciation for the whiskey-making process and whiskey itself. You can also pour this into a small barrel and age it yourself as a fun experiment.

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Bourbon and Whiskey Gift Guide Under $50 (and technically above $30)

The quality of bourbon and whiskey under $50 really picks up between $30 and $50, but there still quite a few duds to avoid that will make your wallet hurt a bit more. These are not those duds.

Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon 108 Proof

Distillery: Jim Beam

Rating: Mid Shelf+

Price: $30-35

Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon Review

The updated Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon is a sleeper and one of the best bourbons under $50. I’ve even seen it for under $30 sometimes, which then would make it robbery. It has a slightly brighter, fruity, and more vibrant personality that’s high rye-like with enough dark oak, spice, and overall depth to provide a worthwhile experience. 

Unlike other Jim Beam bourbons, it’s not that nutty either, which I know can turn-off some people. Here’s a hot take for you – I think this is a pretty good Blanton’s substitute too, and it just might change some people’s minds about Jim Beam.

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Distillery: Four Roses

Rating: Mid Shelf+

Price: $40-50

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Four Roses defines OBSV as “delicate fruit and rye”, and it really delivers on that label. It has a tasty and somewhat dense honey, apple, orange, and dark berry, with enough roasted oak, oak spices, cocoa, and licorice for extra depth and character. It actually has a sort of similar personality to Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon, and will serve you and others just as well. I also happen to think that this is a great Blanton’s substitute.

Maker's Mark Cask Strength Bourbon

Distillery: Maker’s Mark

Rating: Top Shelf (older releases at least)

Price: $40-50

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Review

This is the gold standard of high quality and accessible high-ABV wheated bourbon, and nothing else comes close. It has that distinctive Maker’s Mark dark sugar, pecan, chocolate malt ball, dry hay, and bread, and the higher ABV just amps it up. 

It’s funny because Maker’s Mark keeps releasing $70 limited editions, but the much cheaper “base” cask strength bourbon is also so good and less expensive. And yeah I’ll say it, this is better than Weller Antique 107.

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey

Distillery: Jack Daniel’s

Rating: Mid Shelf+

Price: $40-50

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Review

If you’re going to a party / event where you know someone likes Jack Daniel’s, the 47% ABV single barrels are a great option to introduce them to the upgraded experience. It’s not one-dimensional or boring at all, unlike some of the other Jack Daniel’s whiskeys (cough cough Sinatra Select). 

Sure it has the usual caramel and vanilla from Jack Daniel’s, but it also brings a bit more chocolate, cinnamon, and orange. It’s far more layered, interesting, and has more viscosity that just might change some people’s minds about Jack.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon

Distillery: Wild Turkey

Rating: Top Shelf

Price: $45-55 (average price teeters around $50, but there seem to be many places selling it for under $50, so I’m putting it in the under $50 category)

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon Review

I’ve written this a few times, but Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon is the king of barrel proof / cask strength bourbon. It may be the single best bourbon under $50, and any bourbon and whiskey gift guide under $50 would be incomplete without it. 

It’s pretty easy to find, almost never marked-up, and fantastic to drink. Rich herbal honey, vanilla, apple, orange, roasted oak, cinnamon, and clove lead the experience that won’t ever lead you astray. It’s big, bold, intense, and great.

That said, be careful if you or the recipient are not that used to higher-ABV bourbons, because it will beat you up if you’re unprepared. There’s a huge jump from 40-45% to 58%. Take it slow and easy if you need to, maybe add some water. The non chill filtered version is an even better version to get if you happen to be able to get it from outside the United States. 

Knob Creek Rye

Distillery: Jim Beam

Rating: Mid Shelf+

Price: $30-40

Knob Creek Rye Review

Knob Creek Rye offers an all around enjoyable rye whiskey experience that balances sweet honey, herbal licorice and fennel, earthy caraway seed, orange, lychee, and oak. The 100 proof holds up well neat, with water, or in a cocktail, so it’s very versatile too. You really can’t go wrong, and it’s been one of my go-to ryes for years. 

Again, this isn’t some showstopper, just a very good and not crazy expensive whiskey that will please a lot of people. If you like rye and haven’t had this yet, it’s a good opportunity to get one and share it with others…or not…it’s up to you. 

This Holiday Bourbon and Whiskey Guide Is Just The Start...Happy Shopping!

I hope you that this holiday bourbon and whiskey guide under $30 and under $50 (but really for any time) is useful for you in some way. I intentionally didn’t list every single possible option because that would be overwhelming and less helpful. Use this as one more input into your buying decisions, although you won’t go wrong with anything listed above. 

If you’re less experienced, you can stick to list more closely. If you’re more experienced, then you can use this as a general guide and you can adjust as you want. Happy shopping! 

Alex author

Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

There are no sponsors, no media companies, and no nonsense. Support The Whiskey Shelf by Buying Me A Shot.

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BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)

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