Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that has been gaining popularity in recent years, with sales reaching record highs. Its unique flavor profile and versatility in cocktails make it a favorite among both casual drinkers and connoisseurs alike. But with so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to choose the right bourbon for your budget.
Brief Overview of Bourbon and its Popularity
Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is made primarily from corn mash and aged in charred oak barrels. It gets its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky, where it was first distilled in the late 18th century. Today, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, but it must still meet strict regulations set forth by the federal government.
In recent years, bourbon has seen a surge in popularity as more people discover its complex flavors and appreciate its versatility in cocktails. With the rise of craft distilleries and small-batch bourbons, there are now more options than ever before for drinkers to explore.
Explanation of the Purpose of the Article
The purpose of this article is to provide readers with a comprehensive guide to some of the best bourbons available for under $40. We’ll cover everything from classic picks to lesser-known gems that offer great value for their price point. Whether you’re an experienced bourbon drinker or just starting out on your journey into whiskey, there’s something here for everyone.
We’ll also provide tips on how to choose a bourbon that complements other ingredients in cocktails and explain some common terms found on bourbon labels so you can make an informed decision when purchasing your next bottle. So sit back, pour yourself a glass (neat or over ice – we won’t judge), and let’s dive into the world of budget-friendly bourbons.
Top 5 Bourbons Under $40
You don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy a quality bourbon. Here are our top picks for bourbons under $40 that won’t disappoint:
1. Evan Williams Black Label
At just around $15, Evan Williams Black Label is an excellent budget-friendly choice. This bourbon has a rich, full-bodied flavor with notes of vanilla and caramel, and it’s aged for at least 4 years. It’s perfect for sipping straight or mixing in cocktails like a Kentucky Mule or Whiskey Sour.
2. Old Forester 86 Proof
Old Forester 86 Proof is another affordable option that delivers on taste. This bourbon has a smooth, balanced flavor with hints of oak and spice, and it’s aged for at least 4 years. It pairs well with BBQ or smoked meats and makes a great Old Fashioned.
3. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Buffalo Trace Bourbon is one of the most popular bourbons on the market, and it’s also very reasonably priced at around $25. This bourbon is aged for at least 8 years and has notes of caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon. It pairs well with chocolate desserts or can be enjoyed on its own with a splash of water.
4. Four Roses Yellow Label
Four Roses Yellow Label is an excellent choice for those who prefer sweeter bourbons. At around $22, this bourbon has notes of honey and apples along with a spicy finish. It’s aged for at least 6 years and pairs well with fruit-based desserts like apple pie or mixed in cocktails like the Mint Julep.
5. Jim Beam Black Label
Jim Beam Black Label is another affordable yet delicious option that’s perfect for both sipping and mixing in cocktails. At around $25, this bourbon has a smooth, oaky flavor with notes of caramel and spice. It’s aged for at least 6 years and pairs well with smoked meats or in classic cocktails like the Manhattan. No matter your budget, there’s a bourbon out there for everyone. Try one of these top picks and savor the flavor.
Best Budget Bourbons for Cocktail Making
Bourbon is a popular spirit for making cocktails because of its rich, complex flavors. However, not all bourbons are created equal when it comes to mixing.
Some can overpower other ingredients, while others may be too subtle to stand up to bolder flavors. Here are a few budget-friendly bourbons that work well in classic cocktails like Old Fashions and Manhattans:
1. Evan Williams Black Label – This bourbon is a great choice for an Old Fashioned because it has a strong flavor profile with notes of caramel and vanilla. It also has a reasonably low price point, making it an excellent option for those on a budget.
2. Four Roses Yellow Label – This bourbon is perfect for making Manhattans because it has a bold flavor profile with hints of cherry and spice. It also mixes well with sweet vermouth, which is a key ingredient in the Manhattan cocktail.
3. Wild Turkey 101 – If you’re looking to make an Old Fashioned or Manhattan that packs a punch without breaking the bank, Wild Turkey 101 is an excellent choice. It’s higher proof than most other bourbons at this price point, which means it can hold its own against other strong flavors.
Tips on how to choose a bourbon that complements other ingredients in a cocktail
When choosing a bourbon to use in your cocktails, there are several factors to consider beyond just price point. One essential consideration is the flavor profile of the bourbon itself.
For example, if you’re making a cocktail with citrus or sweet ingredients like orange juice or simple syrup, you’ll want to choose a lighter-bodied bourbon with hints of sweetness to complement those flavors. Another factor is proof – higher-proof bourbons tend to be bolder and spicier, which means they can stand up to other strong flavors like bitter amaro or herbal liqueurs.
Consider the age of the bourbon. Generally speaking, older bourbons will have a smoother, more complex flavor profile that can complement a wider range of ingredients.
However, this also means they may be pricier than younger bourbons. By keeping these factors in mind when choosing your bourbon for cocktails, you’ll be able to create drinks with a well-rounded flavor profile that doesn’t overpower any one ingredient.
Hidden Gems: Underrated Bourbons Under $40
The Quest for Affordable Quality
As bourbon continues to gain popularity, prices for some of the most well-known brands have skyrocketed. But fear not, fellow bourbon lovers!
There are still plenty of hidden gems out there that offer excellent quality without breaking the bank. Here are a few underrated bourbons that deserve a place on your shelf.
A Few Recommendations
First up is Old Forester 100 Proof Bourbon. This bourbon packs a punch with its high alcohol content, but also carries a smooth flavor profile with notes of vanilla and caramel. It’s perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks, and its affordability makes it an excellent choice for cocktail making as well.
Another great option is Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon. Despite being overlooked by many, this bourbon offers a complex flavor profile with hints of spice and fruit.
It’s versatile enough to be enjoyed straight or mixed in your favorite cocktail. We have Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon.
This bourbon is aged for 8-10 years and boasts rich flavors of oak and caramel with a spicy finish. It’s a great value at under $30 and can hold its own against many pricier options.
Where to Find Them
These underrated bourbons may not be as widely available as some of their more popular counterparts, but they can still be found if you know where to look. Check out specialty liquor stores or online retailers to find these hidden gems at an even better price point than you might expect. Don’t let high prices deter you from enjoying quality bourbons!
These underrated options offer great value without sacrificing flavor or complexity. So go ahead and add them to your collection – your taste buds (and wallet) will thank you!
Bourbon Basics: Understanding Labels and Aging
An explanation of common terms found on bourbon labels, such as “straight” and “single barrel”
When it comes to selecting a bottle of bourbon, understanding the labels can be daunting. Terms like “straight,” “single barrel,” and “small batch” can all seem confusing. However, once you understand what they mean, it becomes much easier to find the perfect bourbon for your taste buds.
Let’s start with the term “straight.” To be labeled as such, a bourbon must be aged for at least two years in new oak barrels that have been charred on the inside. Additionally, straight bourbons cannot contain any added flavors or colors.
This means that when you see the word “straight” on a label, you know you are getting a pure expression of bourbon. Next up is “single barrel.” As the name suggests, this term refers to bourbons that come from a single barrel rather than being blended from multiple barrels.
Single barrel bourbons tend to have more variations in flavor profile compared to blended bourbons since each barrel can produce unique flavors due to differences in aging conditions. Some popular single barrel bourbons include Blanton’s and Eagle Rare.
We have “small batch.” This term is somewhat subjective but generally refers to bourbons blended from a relatively small number (e.g., 4-9) of hand-selected barrels for consistency purposes. Examples include Maker’s Mark and Four Roses Small Batch.
Information on how aging affects the flavor profile of bourbon
Now that we’ve defined some common labeling terms let’s talk about how aging affects the flavor profile of bourbon. During its time in oak barrels, bourbon picks up flavors from both the wood itself and any residual liquid that may have been left over from previous contents (like sherry or port). Over time as the liquid moves in and out of the barrel, it also gains color and complexity as well.
Young bourbons (say, 2-4 years old) tend to be lighter in color and flavor with more pronounced corn sweetness. Older bourbons (8+ years) tend to have a much darker, richer color, with more complex flavors like caramel and vanilla.
However, the aging process is not linear. There can be a “sweet spot” for a particular bourbon where it has aged enough to develop complex flavors but not too long that it becomes overly woody or tannic.
This is where the art of distilling comes into play – knowing when to pull a particular barrel based on its individual characteristics. It’s important to note that personal taste plays a big role here as well.
Some people prefer younger bourbons with more pronounced sweetness while others love the complexity of older bourbons. Regardless of age, there’s no denying that bourbon can offer an incredibly wide range of flavor profiles depending on how long it’s been aged in oak barrels.
Recap of Top Picks Under $40
After exploring a variety of bourbons under $40, there were a few that stood out as exceptional values for their price point. The first was Buffalo Trace, which offers a versatile flavor profile that can be enjoyed neat or in a cocktail. Evan Williams Single Barrel also impressed with its complex flavors and smooth finish.
For those who prefer a sweeter bourbon, Elijah Craig Small Batch is an excellent choice with notes of vanilla and caramel. Four Roses Yellow Label and Wild Turkey 101 rounded out the top picks with their bold flavors and affordable prices.
Final Thoughts on Exploring New Bourbons Without Breaking the Bank
While it’s easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding expensive, rare bourbons, there are plenty of excellent options available at lower price points. Don’t be afraid to try something new and explore different flavor profiles – you might just discover your new favorite bourbon.
And remember, price does not always indicate quality – many affordable bourbons offer exceptional value for their cost. At the end of the day, enjoying bourbon is about more than just the taste – it’s about sharing good times and creating memories with friends and loved ones.
Whether you’re sipping on an old favorite or trying something new, take time to savor each sip and appreciate all that this beloved spirit has to offer. Cheers!