Taste is subjective. Someone’s “best slice of pizza ever” doesn’t hold a candle to another person’s “tastiest hoagie on earth.” However, there is a certain level of expertise required to know what separates a truly awesome bottle of whiskey with the half-full thing of Fireball your dad keeps underneath the sink.
Things get a tad more complicated when money is involved. A $700 bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 10-Year-Old 107 Proof Bourbon must taste better than a $27 Game of Thrones-themed Johnnie Walker, right? Not necessarily — though in this particular situation, Old Rip Van Winkle always wins. Whether you’re an amateur enthusiast or a seasoned connoisseur, these are the bottles of bourbon anyone can appreciate.
Hailing from all over the country these bourbons defy the odds with their reasonable price tag and can turn a nightcap into a night you’ll (hopefully) never forget. Here are the seven best bottles of bourbon under $100.
1. The Best Double-Oaked American Bourbon Whiskey: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Twice-barreled in white oak and matured to absolute perfection in handcrafted barrels, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is a sweet and aromatic spirit that transports drinkers to a warm log cabin in winter with its robust — and distinctly sweet — flavor. Finished at Woodford Reserve’s own cooperage, the notes of honey, cream, and vanilla are a result of its second custom barreling. Mix it into an old-fashioned or sip it neat from a tumbler — just don’t waste this bad boy with a shot.
2. The Best Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Sustainably grown, malted, distilled, matured, aged, and bottled on the Frey Ranch property in Fallon, Nevada,Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey’s consistency speaks to the quality of this delightful 90-proof bourbon. The first thing you’ll notice about Frey is its smooth and fruity aroma; citrus and oak emanates from the bottle followed by flavors of vanilla, caramel, banana chips, and dried hay on the palate. This is one of those bourbons just begging to be sipped over ice or with a dash of seltzer to bring out those bold, complex flavors. Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey is available in Nevada and Northern California and can be purchased online for shipping to all 50 states just in time for the 4th of July.
3. The Best Blended Bourbon Whiskey: Hirsch the Horizon Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Lovingly produced by the Indiana-based distillery, Hirsch, The Horizon Straight Bourbon Whiskey celebrates “ “The Spirit of the Journey” by reflecting upon “a philosophy of curating the best in American whiskey.” This new release is actually a combination of two straight bourbons distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN, giving this 92 proof bottle a unique flavor makeup second to none. A whopping 94% of the blend comes from a traditional mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley (aged 5 years and 4 months) while the remaining 6% is distilled from a high-rye mash that’s aged for just over 6 years. It’s a sharp and memorable taste that’s best enjoyed on special occasions… or just nice summer nights.
4. The Best Small-Batch Bourbon Whiskey: Michter's Kentucky Straight Bourbon
A fan favorite from this particular Grooming Lounge employee, we’ll wager you’ve never had a whiskey like Michter's Kentucky Straight Bourbon. A nuanced, mellow, and earthy flavor paired with rich caramel notes with vanilla, stone fruit, and oak, this 91.4 proof whiskey bites back. There’s a reason Kentucky is one of the best places to get your whiskey and Michter’s exemplifies the dedication to the practice of getting bourbon just right.
5. The Best Limited-Release Bourbon Whiskey: Pinhook’s Bourbon War 4Y Vertical Series
The history of bourbon and horseracing goes back even before the first Derby days. Pinhook pays homage to the legendary relationship with the limited-release Bourbon War 4Y Vertical Series. Every year, Pinhook chooses a promising young thoroughbred as inspiration, blending, and proofing each bottle to be as unique as the horse they feature on the label. At 98%, this high-proof straight bourbon whiskey hits you on the nose with tropical fruit, butterscotch, and cedar before diving into a rich and vibrant palate consistently of dried fig, cocoa, roasted peanut, and clove.
6. The Best Texas Bourbon: Garrison Brother Texas Straight Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
Everything’s bigger in Texas — especially when it comes to flavor. Located in Texas Hill Country, Garrison Brothers is new on the scene, introducing its first bourbon whiskey in 2010. The extreme Texas heat creates multiple aging seasons in a year, making each expression darker, richer, and robust as ever. Handcrafted from a sweet mash of premium, food-grade corn, Garrison Brother Texas Straight Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey keeps it local with soft winter wheat from the farm next door. The taste is about as complex as it gets: sweet floral verbena, fresh-cut grass, saddle leather, cinnamon, and honey with a long finish of caramel apple with walnut and cinnamon. makes for a gloriously unique taste that’s worth every penny.
7. The Best Overall Bourbon Whiskey: Bulleit Bourbon Blenders' Select No. 001
The latest innovation from Bulleit Distilling Co., Bulleit Bourbon Blenders' Select No. 001 is a delicious mingling of three out of the 10 whiskey types used to make the original Bulleit Bourbon. Aged for a minimum of 9 years, this 100-proof blend includes distinct notes of vanilla bean, honey, dried fruit, and toasted oak, as well as a smooth finish with a lingering of sweet cream and fruit wine. Whether it’s their rye or bourbon, Bulleit is one of the best in the biz, offering up mouth-watering flavors that simply need to be sipped straight.