In a world dominated by lists, here is another one. What if I told you, dear reader, that you could enjoy a sublime Bourbon drinking experience for not $60, not $50, but $40 or less? It's all true! I have compiled a list of 15 bourbons, some of which you may have heard of before, some maybe are a little more obscure, but all of these bottles I have enjoyed myself and come strongly recommended. So, in no particular order, here is my top 15 bourbons under $40.

Note: All of these products are priced for 750ml bottles.

Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Versailles, KY

Proof: 86.4


This is the flagship bottle of the Woodford Reserve distillery and my personal favorite Whiskey on the market. I often refer to this as my "Desert Island Whiskey", suggesting that if I was abandoned on a desert island a la Captain Jack Sparrow and this was the only whiskey I could ever drink again - perhaps abandoned by very very lost bootleggers - I would be completely content with that reality. W.R. is an unbeatably smooth, incredibly consistent, high vanilla and toasted wheat flavor, if I could pick a single bourbon to be the exemplar of the spirit in question, this would be it.

Wild Turkey Longbranch straight bourbon whiskey

Lawrenceburg, KY

Proof: 86


You can look all over the country and probably never find a better deal on an 8 year old expression from an underrated distillery with an excellent pedigree. Originally launched in 2018, crafted by Master Distiller Eddie Russell (i.e. Russell's Reserve), this small batch bourbon is worthy of every slogan burned into the sides of its one of a kind bottle. Expertly crafted, expect a solid vanilla character with a complex smokey, spicey after taste introduced by the Texas Mesquite charcoal filtering. I can't recommend this enough and at the time of writing this, it is still just under $40.

High west american prairie bourbon whiskey

Park City, UT

Proof: 92


Whoever said the best bourbon comes from Kentucky clearly never tried any of the offerings from High West. This distillery is gaining a lot of favor in recent years with their array of unique and flavorful whiskeys that really capture the essence of the high plains. Every time I drink a High West product I feel like a frontiersman, a pioneer, far from my home in Kentucky, bringing with me the art of making my home town spirit so I can bring it to the west. Call me romantic, but you cannot go wrong with this spirit. Not only is it delicious, but 10% of all profits from this bottle go to the American Prairie Foundation, which helps protect one of our Nation's natural wonders.

elijah craig small batch bourbon whiskey

Bardstown, KY

Proof: 94


Named for the "Father of Bourbon" Elijah Craig, credited with being the first person to mature whiskey in charred oak casks. Elijach Craig Small Batch is a decorated, celebrated and delicious bourbon that cannot be beat by any other offering in this price range. Expect notes of dry oak and cinnamon, with a sweet, full mouth feel and easy drinkability. A lot of people tend to pass this one over because of how common it is on store shelves. But I implore you, it is well worth a try, especially when lesser whiskeys can go for often twice the cost of this fantastic spirit.

old forester 100 proof kentucky straight bourbon whisky

Louisville, KY

Proof: 100


Perhaps the most classical bourbon on this list, this 100 proof spirit packs a punch but does not come up short in flavor, sporting flavors of caramel, cherry, spices like nutmeg, pepper and clove. With a rich, dark chocolate and coffee finish. You can tell just by looking at the deep red color of this bourbon that it is going to leave an impression on your tongue. It also has a bottle embellished with the signature of George Garvin Brown, who founded Old Forester in 1870. This is truly a classic expression of the style. Don't let the screw top cap deter you from giving this bottle a try, it is one of my favorite quick picks when I'm looking for something a little off the beaten path.

James E. pepper 1776 straight bourbon whiskey

Lexington, KY

Proof: 100


Another classical style bourbon whiskey, James E. Pepper is a truly unique offering steeped in old world charm. Supposedly preferred by Daniel Webster, a statesman from Massachusetts and namesake for one of my favorite hotels to dine at in Cape Cod. And a favorite of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant, both hard asses, this spirit definitely packs a punch, but has the common decency to wear a silk glove while doling out the blows. It is slightly harder to come by depending on your region, but if you find a bottle you should definitely pick one up, if for nothing else to taste a bit of history in your glass. Expect subtle hints of vanilla, toffee and caramel, with a gentle spice from the high rye bill.

balcones texas pot still bourbon whiskey

Waco, TX

Proof: 92


So the saying goes, that everything is bigger in Texas, well I can personally attest that the flavors of this Straight Bourbon Whiskey are some of the biggest I've ever had the luxury of enjoying. If you're growing tired of the same old tasting notes of the usual suspects, perhaps it's time you give Texas Bourbon a try. Made using blue corn and Golden Promise barley, this small change to the mash bill makes a huge difference in the final product. Chewy and full, aromatic and rustic, like the best piece of corn bread you've ever had, topped with honey and a little spice. Passion and care is taken in every stage of the bourbon making process at Balcones, because they don't have the region's history to grasp onto, they blazed their own trail and it was worth every step taken. Don't miss an opportunity to try it for yourself.

1792 small batch kentucky straight bourbon whiskey

Bardstown, KY

Proof: 93.7


A lot of people I know take this bottle for granted, but it is easily one of my favorite bourbons on the market today. How the price has remained so low is a mystery to me, but for the sake of my own enjoyment and soon, yours as well, I am glad it has maintained such an outstanding price point. 1792 has won a lot of accolades in the years since it was first introduced to the market, but perhaps the best and most famous is that it tied Pappy Van Winkle's 23 Year Old Bourbon at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in 2012. One year prior, it took Double Gold Medals at the San Francisco Wine and Spirits Competition. But what does that matter to you? You only care how it tastes and if it's worthy of your glass despite the low price. I'm here to tell you that it is. Expect a buttery, biscuity flavor that will fill your mouth with warmth, a low heat, easy drinking yet complex dram that many will enjoy and keep coming back to.

Buffalo trace kentucky straight bourbon whiskey

Frankfort, KY

Proof: 90


You know it wouldn't be a complete list without this one. Typically this spirit occupies the top of the list or the last item mentioned, I decided to defy norms and sneak it in somewhere in the middle. What can I say about Buffalo Trace that hasn't already been said? I intend to do a proper review of this bourbon down the road, but for right now, let me simply say this. There are few products as synonymous with quality and lineage like Buffalo Trace. It is the backbone of all other offerings from the Franklin County distillery. It stands apart from their other more expensive products, as a simple, clean, consistent and affordable option, for those wishing to break into the scene. A true staple. Hard to find at times, but still maintaining a reasonable price point, especially for an eight year aged spirit. You cannot go wrong with Buffalo Trace.

HIRSCH THE HORIZON straight bourbon whiskey

Bardstown, KY

Proof: 92


And now for something completely different. Hirsch is unlike any other bottle on this list. Not just because of the cute dimples in the side of the glass and the atypical Sea Foam Blue label design. But also because Hirsch is not an ordinary bourbon, it is a blended bourbon. Blended from a variety of different bourbon whiskeys, each with different mash bills, the ingredients of each bottle vary from batch to batch, which makes this product a lot more exciting for the habitual drinker. You could buy a bottle each year and have a totally unique drinking experience each time. There are certain pitfalls to this philosophy of course, such as a lack of consistency and the inevitability of finding a batch you truly love, only to never again experience it. But I think this bottle is worth the risk of having your heart broken. It is a solid entry in this list and if you see one, you should grab it up, because it may be a once in a lifetime experience.

Rough Rider Straight bourbon whiskey

Long Island, NY

Proof: 90


If I were a gambling man, I would wager few of those reading this list have heard of this spirit from Long Island. That being said, you should really get acquainted. Rough Rider, despite its name, is actually a pretty smooth drinking experience. It is a classical style bourbon, with a unique aging process. Similar to Scotch whisky, after exiting the new oak barrels, Rough Rider is then finished in casks that were used to mature Merlot and Chardonnay. Denoting a very unique round and earthy flavor profile that is seldom found elsewhere. I have only ever seen it in NY State, but I wouldn't be surprised if it starts to make moves south. In the meanwhile, if you're looking for a bargain bourbon with a big personality, you can always order a bottle from Caskers and give it a whirl.

Jefferson's very small batch bourbon whiskey

Crestwood, KY

Proof: 82.3 (ABV may vary bottle to bottle)


Jefferson's gets a bad rap around the bourbon world because they are part of the liquor empire, Diageo, but don't let that deter you from giving it a go for yourself. I personally really enjoy this spirit and the other offerings in the series, especially the Cabernet Cask finished and the Aged at Sea varieties. But it all starts right here with their small batch offering. It is a simple, clean and drinkable whiskey with a unique profile that varies from bottle to bottle. So it is always fun to grab one now and again and see what that crazy corn is dreaming up in the barrel. Not to be overlooked.

Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskey

Lebanon, KY

Proof: 93


Contrary to what you may think upon seeing this bottle for the first time, this bourbon does not hail from Wyoming, it actually comes from Kentucky. All of that aside, this is a fantastic spirit for a reasonable price that makes you feel like a cattle rancher every time you pop a cork on a new bottle. From the vintage old world design of the label, to the wine bottle shape, it really has a cool vibe to it. Above all that, it's actually a remarkable bourbon to boot. I highly recommend you grab a bottle of this if you see it, the price seems to go up each year since it came on the market, so it may no longer belong on this list in a couple years time, but so long as it remains under $40, it is well worth it.

Redwoord Empire Pipe Dream bourbon whiskey

Russian River Valley, CA

Proof: 90


Maybe the most obscure bottle on this list, but definitely worth a look is Redwood Empire's Blended Bourbon, Pipe Dream. Made from a mix of 4 to 12 year old expressions, this bourbon packs a big corn flavor with a balanced and complex palate. Redwood Empire is new to the scene but making a lot of big moves lately, winning awards and spreading across the country. This bottle probably will gain value in the market in the years to come, so snag one up before it shoots up to $50-60 a bottle. Also check out their Lost Monarch blended straight whiskey, which is my personal favorite from their line up.

That's all folks

There are a lot of amazing bourbons out there in the world today, and you don't have to break the bank to get a high quality spirit these days. More and more new products are being barreled and drained every day as we experience a second renaissance for America's oldest spirit. So get out there and try something, don't let a low price prevent you from enjoying an outstanding whiskey.

Cheers, your Humble Barkeep, The Bourbon Bender

Written on 5/27/23

My Top 15 Bourbons Under $40

Everyone else is doing it. Here's my favorite Bourbon Whiskeys under $40.


Jonny Haines aka The Bourbon Bender

5/27/202310 min read