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What are your favorite inexpensive but tasty American whiskies?

I have been trying a lot of inexpensive bourbons and some rye's lately to recommend to folks. Trying to see which work well in cocktails, or drunk neat/rocks. Also trying to get over my own outlook/semi-snobbery.

I've been trying products like Heaven Hill Bourbon, Old Crow, Early Times, Ancient Age and Ancient, Ancient Age, and my best bang for the buck regular Evan Williams.

What are your thoughts.

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  1. I have bottles of Early Times, Heaven Hill and AAA 10 star - though all are decent, the only one I honestly think doesn't have a somewhat watered down taste is the AAA.

    Which Evan Williams are you referring to? Around here the 1783 is only $2 more than the black label and I tend to grab that one. I haven't tried the green label.

    My favorite inexpensive Bourbon right now is Weller Special reserve, but I am not sure it qualifies because I have been getting it from the Atlanta area at a ridiculous price of $10, whereas its more normal price is $16-18.

    I have the remainder of a bottle of George Dickel Cascade Hollow (which I understand is not being made any more), and I like it better than JD No. 7 while it was substantially cheaper. Of course Dickel No 12 is in another league altogether.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ncyankee101

      We like the Evan Williams. Can't beat it for the price`in our area, around 20 bucks. Love the Bulleit too.

      1. re: chloebell

        I don't love Bulleit neat or on the rocks, basically because it is designed to be a bit rough with a bite. Flavor wise it is very good. Great in cocktails though.

        Evan Williams Black Label is one of my go to's when I am making cocktails or sipping and don't feel like a premium whiskey. It's $15 a liter, $24 a 1.75 in my area.

        1. re: JMF

          Agreed about Bulleit. I've never cared for it neat.

          1. re: The Big Crunch

            Same here, I don't drink it neat, and it's my favorite rye! It just goes really well in Manhattans, my cocktail of choice.

            The Bulleit 10 year bourbon does sip well, but it's way out of the price range for this discussion and still requires one rock to tame it.

            1. re: rcb4d

              I actually like the rye better than the Bulleit bourbon.

      2. re: ncyankee101

        James E. Pepper Rye 1776 sells for about $25 here in Massachusetts and really packs a wallop of taste for the dollar.

      3. JMF, how inexpensive are you going? My personal preference is that I wouldn't drink any of the American whiskies neat, even if we expand the search into the world of cheap(er) Canadian blendeds. Mixed with soda or soft drinks, Crown Royal works fine and Seagrams 7 and Jack are always popular.

        8 Replies
        1. re: pinehurst

          You may not be aware of this, but Seagrams 7 and Crown Royal only have about 20% whiskey in them and 80% neutral spirit/vodka. This is typical of all the blended American and Canadian whiskies.

          And I think JD is overpriced for the quality..

          1. re: JMF

            I've had a couple Canadian whiskeys and thought they tasted like whiskey-flavored vodka, so I guess that makes sense. Namely Crown and Canadian Club 6 yr.

            Agree on JD, Dickel No 12 puts it to shame IMHO. As I said in my other post, I even like Dickel cascade hollow, their lowest offering, better than JD No 7.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              I agree about the Dickel, although I feel it's a bit pricey, at least in my area.

            2. re: JMF

              Yes... very discerning scotch-drinking parents...and I continue to love the "whiskey flavored vodka" moniker that a lot of the taste-rating pages use. Whoever first coined it was spot on!

              I wouldn't drink any American whiskey neat, as I said. But the Crown Royal bag does make a spiffy golf tee holder. :-)

              1. re: pinehurst

                Wow, I wasn't aware "whiskey-flavored vodka" was a commonly used moniker, I came up with that all on my own.

                1. re: ncyankee101

                  It shows up more than once when these guys get around to whiskies...but I wouldn't doubt someone was reading Chow (or even your blog!) whenever you first posted. Nothin's sacred.


                  www.esquire.com › Features › Drinking

                2. re: pinehurst

                  You wouldn't drink any American whiskey neat? Maybe you just don't like bourbon, but still...there's a LOT of wonderful bourbons that are (IMO) best experienced neat.

                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                    I've opened the eyes of two Scotch-snob friends with a snort of Balcones single malt.

                    I think there's a huge gulf between whiskey-flavored vodka and some of the new American craft whiskey distillers. This is the same kind of misinformed snobbery that California wine makers came up against in the 70s.

            3. There are a lot of great cheap bourbons that are only sold in the Kentucky area: Very Old Barton, Heaven Hill BIB, Evan Williams BIB. Outside of there, I would echo George Dickel, also Pikesville Rye from Heaven Hill. Ten High Bourbon (not the blended whiskey) in another.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sku

                Sku - in a recent order from The Party Source I picked up a bottle of Very Old Barton 100 based on your reco, though I have yet to open it - do I remember you mentioning that Old Bardstown 101 was also a good bargain Bourbon, or is the similar name throwing me off? I saw it and was tempted but my case was full.

                1. re: ncyankee101

                  Not me, I don't think I've had Old Bardstown, but I'm generally not a fan of those KBD bourbon blends.

              2. There doesn't seem to be as much good, inexpensive rye out there, save for Rittenhouse BIB. My favorite rye - Bulleit - can be had for around $30 here, and we're a little more expensive than most. The best shortcut for a budget is to get a good, inexpensive high-rye bourbon. Old Grand Dad, both the BIB and the 114, are both quite good in the ~$20 range.

                  1. re: rcb4d

                    I should have just emailed Chuck. Thanks for the link.

                    1. re: JMF

                      I had been trying to stay in the price range of the ones you mention in your original post, around $10-12 here for a 750. If I had been considering the $20-25 price range Chuck has in his blog post, I would definitely have mentioned some of the ones he did, especially the Weller 12 year - I got a bottle of this recently, based on Sku's reco in another thread, and it is fantastic.

                      1. re: ncyankee101

                        Yes, I like all the Weller's. Good for when you want a smooth and full bodied Wheater.

                  2. I like the Evan Williams Black Label. Fortunately for me i can't taste a ton of difference in that and more expensive Bourbons. At least not enough difference to warrant paying more.

                    1. For rye, I don't think there's any big surprises. I actually like the Wild Turkey 101 Rye better than Rittenhouse 100. I am also a fan of the LDI rye, as I have enjoyed Redemption and Bulleit, and would like to try the Willett.

                      Looks like the bourbon front has been pretty well covered at Chuck's blog, but I will add my endorsements for Old Weller Antique and Jim Beam Black.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: nickls

                        Can you still find WT 101 rye? It vanished from stores here last fall. I'll second the nod for LDI ryes in general, although many fall at or above most folks cut-offs for "inexpensive". Bulleit seems to be the most affordable, and my house rye.

                        1. re: rcb4d

                          I haven't seen the WT 101 rye since more than a year ago when I bought a couple bottles in PA on sale for $18, had I known about the change I would have bought a case.

                          1. re: rcb4d

                            No, I can't find the WT 101 Rye at my usual shops anymore either. The Rittenhouse works in cocktails, but I don't like it as much as most people seem to.

                            The Redemption Rye is actually a relatively good bargain around here at around $24, so at a similar price point to Rittenhouse and even a bit cheaper than Bulleit Rye at around $29. Last time I saw the Willett I think it was around $35.

                            1. re: nickls

                              I also prefer the WT 101 to Ritt 100, though at a good price the Ritt is still an excellent deal. Unfortunately, a friend was supposed to bring me back a couple bottles from the Atlanta Total wine last week for $18 but they ran out just before he got there (within a day or three, based on last time I checked stock.)

                        2. I can relate to the semi-snobbery. My guy is having a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that our current favorite is the $19.99 a liter Old Grand dad BIB. He keeps wandering around with the more expensive brands in the cabinet like he wants it not to be true.

                          Since I see it everywhere here and it seems to have a good rep, I am going for the Wild Turkey 101 next.

                          1. I would echo some of the others:

                            1) OGD 100 BIB
                            2) OGD 114
                            3) Rittenhouse Rye 100
                            4) Wild Turkey Rye 101

                            All of the above are reasonably priced (less than $25 in my market). What is great about the above is that they are cheap enough you can mix them but they are good enough to stand on their own as a sipping Bourbon/Rye.