View Full Version : lower cost, better quality

08-09-2001, 12:19
Since No one has posted any real tasting notes or comments since the middle of July...here goes. While this forum has perhaps exhausted the subject of 'what's your favorite?' it seems like it has been awhile since anyone discussed lower cost bourbon. Certainly there have been new folks join since then.

In the old days I'd my 'well' was something like Old Crow (which shall never more touch my lips ... well, maybe if ther is a party and thats what they have) and my 'shelf bourbon' was Jim Beam White lavel but none of those make it to my cabinet now. (I have to say cabinet because the space for my future bar is still otherwise occupied in my living quarters.

While I have a number of fine products that cost $30 and up per 750ml bottle, when I don't want to drink up that supply there are certain bourbons I reach for. My overall favorite (I'd say 'well bourbon' but it is far too good for that) is a product most of you can't get called Old Commonwealth. It is from VanWinkle and Julian himself tipped me to the fact that it is always in my local store. My number two but slightly more (yet under $20) would be Knob Creek.

Another choice that I frequently go back to in bars and find priced less than the Small Batch is Old Grand Dad BIB (I'll even drink the 86 proof). For some reason I don't keep Jim Beam Black label around (so maybe it costs a bit more locally yet it is only about $19 at alcoholreviews.com) but it is fine bourbon as well for the price.

Those of you who don't know me won't know that I just don't like Makers Mark so that is not included.

Okay, now I've started it. Maybe some of the newer members would like to share.

I can say that for awhile I found myself always trying the higher end product and almost forgot about the decent product at reasonable prices.


08-09-2001, 14:35
Two years ago, I was given a 1.75L plastic bottle of Ten High.
It was a leftover from Kentucky Derby party. I still have it.
It's okay. Nothing special.

Sometimes I buy the little glass hip-pocket sized bottles of
Evan Williams black label, in order to fill them with something else.
I drink the EW. It's okay. Nothing special.

My "low cost, high quality" bourbon: Wild Turkey Rare Breed.
A steal at $22. Much cheaper than, say, the Laphroaig 15 year
old single malt scotch, which weighs in at around $75, and is
worth every penny in my book.

(Low price is a relative thing...)

08-09-2001, 15:57
Tim may the Saints preserve us all! I wouldn't pay 7 & 1/2 cents a gallon for the very best spayside much less the lowley laphroaig.

Really now -- toss that [censored] down the drain and chase with liquid plumber! Ten High is a far better whiskey at $7 a bottle than anything from scotland at $400 a bottle.

Now repeat after me -- scotch sucks; scotch sucks; scotch sucks; scotch sucks!

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

08-09-2001, 16:43

I'll disagree with you here and now about ALL Scotch sucking. And that's the first time I've ever heard Laphroiag described as "lowly". The problem with Scotch, IMHO, is that it's weak, despite the proof, because the miserly souls there are using used barrels. It seems to me that even the fine old Islay distillers have taken recently to trying to intensify flavor by going to cask strength (good) and using port and sherry barrels for whisky finishing (bad, achhhh, ptui!) - the sherry or port notes are so cloying, and they collide in a horrifying way with the defiantly maritime iodiney twang of the best Islay malts. Thank God Talisker has not tried that. Now what might be a serious dram would be an Islay malt of good character at cask strength out of new charred oak barrels. Aberlour's A'bunadh is an excellent example of something that's half right - kind of like mixing Rare Breed with bad sweet vermouth.

Ralph Wilps

08-09-2001, 19:47
I am fairly new to this forum and have spent the past few months reading a lot of posts and buying a lot of different Bourbons in all price ranges. The prices in my area are a bit higher than those you refered to.

Some of my favorite $20-30 bourbons are:
Elijah Craig 12 yr. $17 (Under $20 but deserves to be in this group)
Evan Williams Single Barrel 1990 and 1991 (quite different but both good) $22
Elmer T. Lee $22
Knob Creek $22
Old Grand Dad BIB
The Knob Creek tends to be my everyday bourbon. I usually have at least 1 unopened backup bottle. It's also the first better than average bourbon I ever tried. Gone are the days of Jim Beam (white) and Makers Mark (yuck). I do however currently have backup bottles of everything I've listed.

Some of the $20-$30 bourbons that I have not liked as much are:
Russels Reserve $20
Eagle Rare 10 year $20
Makers Mark

I enjoy all other Wild Turkey products but for the money I'd rather have Knob Creek or andy of the other above ones than Russels Reserve. The Eagle Rare is something that I kep trying thinking that I might eventually like it but it's not happening

I'm reserving judgement on Buffalo Trace. I have a few bottles of it and like it because it is so different that anything else I've tried but I'm not sure how much I like it beyond the novelty of a different taste. I'd of listed Rare breed as one I liked but unfortunately it's just over $30 round here.

High Desert Whiskey Fan

08-10-2001, 05:06
Sorry fellas! I can never resist yanking on a scotch drinkers chain. I know it's mean, but THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT! http://www.straightbourbon.com/images/icons/wink.gif

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

Ken Weber
08-10-2001, 08:51
Being a thin skinned brand manager, I am intrigued by your comment regarding the taste of Buffalo Trace. When we introduced Buffalo Trace, our goal was to offer the finest bourbon we had available. With a few awards in our back pocket, we searched for a taste profile that we felt was outstanding and somewhat different from the masses. Uniqueness was not the driving factor, but rather an attempt to provide the best we were capable of.

Everyone will not like every whiskey and I respect this difference of opinion. My goal is to hear consumer feedback and give it careful consideration. That is why I would like to hear more about your observations.


08-10-2001, 10:55
Feel free to yank my chain any day. I'm a scotch fan and proud of it!

I'll yank you back:

The Purfect Bourbon Tasting by Linn

"Rye Dynamite 8WO Bourbon" (TNT Distillers)

1) Pop the cork. A large well-muscled arm with a honkin' I LUV MOM tattoo
comes out with a big ol' wooden mallet an' beats you over the head.
Repeatedly. As you pick yourself up off the ground, you see your
reflection in the chrome fender of your motorcycle. The word RYE
has been imprinted on your forehead.

2) The pour: You freeze cold in your boots. You recognize that deep
rumble, that heavy breathing sound, that snort, that smell. You're
about to be a nice little snack for the biggest bear in Hazzard County.
You slowly turn your head. There's no bear to be seen, but there's
a bottle in your hand, and it's shakin' like a California lemonade stand
during an earthquake party.

3) The nose: Hooooooooo dooogie! You breathe in a big whiff, and
when you breathe it out, rye flames rocket out of your nostrils. Your
belt buckle glows red hot, and pat your chest to put the fire out.

4) At this point, you realize that ice is a neccessity. The ice goes in
like hot rivets. Steam rises high, and billows so bad you worry that
the neighbors'll call the fire department.

5) The sip: You're immediately kicked in the gluteous maximus. Repeatedly.
The big boot must be a size 12. Yowza! No, a size 16. Yowza! No,
a size 25! You feel a cool breeze blowin' in from the south and realize
that your buttocks are exposed for all to see. That boot wore its way
through thee pairs of pants and just did away with your finest pair
of double-starched and ironed tighty-whities!

6) The palate/mouthfeel: Sweet dog on a fence! Corn never tasted this
sweet! Your mouth waters like a hot radiator that just lost its lid! Sell
your NutraSweet stock before the word gets out.

7) Finish: When I was 9 years old, I drunk vanilla extract on a bet. When I
was 11 years old, I chewed a vanilla bean 'cuz I wasn't old enough for
tobacco. If there's one person that knows how intense vanilla can be,
that's me. The finish had me on the way to Vanilla Heaven. I was
25 feet in the air by the time that finish started to fade, and I'll tell you
now, I'm lucky a grabbed a tree branch when I opened my eyes, or
else I'd uv broke my legs when I hit the ground.

8) Overall: This is the purfect bourbon. It beats you up and rubs salt in
your eyes. It's gonna kick your butt through THREE PAIRS OF PANTS
and leave your sweet cheeks blowin' in the wind. If you ever see a
case of this bourbon, then take out another mortgage on your doghouse,
and call the hospital to warn 'em you'll be on your way. Highly


08-10-2001, 11:56
I did want to add (and forgot yesterday) that Ken has absolutely convinced me to buy Benchmark. I picked up a piece of old Benchmark signage a year ago and wanted a bottle just to go with it. I'd always hesitated because I knew for awhile it had a bad reputation. I'm pleased that Ken has convinced me that I should try some. I don't buy anything in August (no teaching, no income) but will pick up a bottle this fall. As for Buffalo Trace, I've weighed in on that one before and it's just not for me.

08-10-2001, 11:59
Those that you mention as over $20 are over $20 here too so not in my set of 'low cost." I don't have any Elijah Craig so willl have to look at my notes about what I thought of it. Since I can get Old Commonwealth it along with Knob Creek would be my regulars.

Drank a little Old Forrester last night since the bottle was so full. I usually don't like it but with nothing else before or after it I found it drinkable.

08-10-2001, 12:02
My God! Linn is really Tim Delling with a multiple personality disorder! He has a Scotch identity and a bourbon identity...

Ralph Wilps

08-10-2001, 13:19
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Thanks for the flowers Tim!

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

08-10-2001, 19:38

I do like Buffalo Trace and I probably over stated it a bit that The novelty of the taste is most of the reason why. Over the past four months I've purchased 25-30 different Bourbons and tried all but one. I have definitely decided on some that I don't like and some that I love. Buffalo Trace is one that I like, I'm just not certain where to rank it. I am currently drinking some and what stands out to me is a kind of grassy / earthy taste that then kind of warms up and takes on a vanilla and slightly sweet addition. I really don't know how to describe what I taste very well but that's where I'll start. I will say that the more i keep going back and trying it the more i like it. I own a few bottles of it and I have been unwilling to part with any to my fellow local bourbon friends since I cannot get it in this part of the country( I will pour it for them just won't part with a whole bottle). All of these things said I guess i could safely say it's growing on me. The taste is however quite different than most any I've tried and I for one cosider that a very good thing. It's nice to try something different enough that it really stands out and gives you something new to consider.


High Desert Whiskey Fan

08-17-2001, 07:28
I spent the better portion of last week out in the woods with my son. I took my sole bottle of OGD BIB with me and consumed about half. That's some extremely competent bourbon, particularly when one considers it's price.
Me and my brother used to drink it regularly some years back, but I havent seen it here in northern CA in several years. The bottle I have I picked up at a liquor store in Annapolis MD. Too damn far to drive for me, particularly after I've been drinking!


Jim Butler

08-17-2001, 16:42
That was right on ! couldn't be better and almost pissed in my pants laughing so hard!!!
Life is good --Den

09-07-2001, 19:24
Knob Creek for $20? Man, that would be heaven! It is my top favorite and, here in Alabama, it is $32 for 750 ml.

While I am at it, my second favorite is Woodford Reserve (both are excellent, but I prefer the deeper, darker flavors of the Knob Creek) and third (so far) is Wild Turkey 101. In fourth, I have Elijah Craig 12-YO.

But, there are lots of bourbons I haven't gotten to, yet. Tops on my wish list are Blanton, Baker's, and Booker's.

Cheers, Tim

09-08-2001, 10:20
Add to your wish list the Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage. It keeps good company with the products you already have mentioned.

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

09-08-2001, 12:34
Tim, Your choices are good ones. The nice thing about Booker's is the planned inconsistency -- always good but always slightly different. Yet, those bourbons are more expensive than the $20. I was saddened that Knob Creek 750 ml here went up from $19.95 to $21.95 but still a bargain compared to your prices.

If you can get any VanWinkle product I highly recommend them all.


09-08-2001, 17:40
Thank you. I will try to find that, but I live in an ABC store state and sometimes certain items just can't be found. And I do not believe I have seen that one, here.

But I will certainly keep an eye out for it.

PS - I have enjoyed several of your articles very much. I have seen them in several locations, mostly via links at about.com, but in other places, too. Keep up the good work!

09-08-2001, 17:47
Thanks. Yes, several people have steered me to the van Winkle bourbons and some of them are available in my area, but they are quite expensive. Since the Blanton is at the top of my list and it is $45, here, it may be a while before I can get to the van Winkle.

Also, I am confused as to the relationship between van Winkle and the old Weller distillery. I believe that Julian van Winkle was the master distiller at the defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery, but it seems that the current Weller and van Winkle brands come from different companies. I don't suppose this should be surprising, but it is.

09-09-2001, 07:11
You are on the right track. Pappy VanWinkle, Julian's father, was the 'head man' at Stitzel-Weller. To make a very long story short the distillery was closed, the brands sold, and Julian now owns his own small distillery. To make the story long and memorable buy a really interesting book, "But Always Fine Bourbon," by Julian's sister, Sally VanWinkle Campbell (available at amazon.com).

09-09-2001, 07:28
Sorry Greg, but Pappy is Julian's Grandfather.
Mike Veach

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1>Edited by bourbonv on Sun Sep 9 07:30:01 2001 (server time).</FONT></P>

09-09-2001, 14:03
AND Julian operates a rackhouse and a bottling line, but not a distillery. He ages, bottles and sells bourbon that he acquires from distillers. Most of what he sells is bourbon made at Stitzel-Weller using his family's recipe.

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

09-10-2001, 14:29
I stand corrected and did know both points (See postings from Mike and Chuck) -- haste leads to distribution of misinformation. I believe Julian calls his operation "distillery" on his label (though I must admit I should look) and thus used the term. I'm not sure why I stated "father" instead of "grandfather. "

Lest I mislead the S-W operation was sold first and then eventually closed.


09-10-2001, 17:09
Now I'm confused! I thought that J. van Winkle III opperated the Old Commonwealth Distillery and held a DSP number even though he has never distilled any whiskey there, or anywhere to my limited knowledge. Jullian is much like Even Kulsveen's Willit's non-distilling distillery. A licensed distillery according to the BATF yet they distill nothing. A comical confusion of factual coincidence.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

09-11-2001, 14:34
I suspect you are correct but I don't have the facts.


09-11-2001, 16:40
He may well have a DSP number, but he doesn't have a distillery, i.e., there is no still at the site.

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

Ken Weber
09-12-2001, 14:02
Thanks for the information. I must agree that BT has an earthy taste to it. We did some blind taste-testing with several consumers and found out that 5% of the testers did not like the taste because it was too earthy. While this indicates that most folks liked the product, those 5% hated it! This taste attribute apparently is one you really like or really dislike.


09-23-2001, 12:41
Being new to straightbourbon.com, I have chosen to join in your discussion regarding low cost, good quality bourbon. I am relatively new to the real appreciation of bourbon. I believe it was in 1998 that I started to realize that not all bourbons are the same. Prior to then whiskey, either bourbon or blended, was for drinking in a shot glass then chaseing it with a glass of beer.
After trial and error over the last three years, I have chose three low cost, good quality bourbons that I always have in our cabinet: Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey (101), and Jim Beam Black Label. All three of these are quality bourbons in the $14.00 - $22.00 range.
Of the three I would say that Maker's Mark is my favorite. It has a such a warm smooth finish. I know from some of are discussions at this year's bourbon festival and reading through different postings that many people do not care for this bourbon. However, after the festival I still come to the conclusion that in my opinion this is a great bourbon. Originally recommeded from a friend, this is the first bourbon that I really distinquished from the very average to poor well bourbons sold at the local tavern.
Wild Turkey 101 is a more full bodied bourbon. It has a nice, yet not to harsh, kick to it. It is my bourbon of choice when our family goes on camping trips.
Jim Black Label is just a suprisingly good bourbon for its cost. I first tried it after visiting the Jim Beam distillary in Clermont, Kentucky. They actually were giving samples of their small batch bourbons, Baker's and Knobb Creek. It impressed me, however, that the lady from Jim Beams let us know that the Jim Beam product she drank the most was the Black Label. When we got home from that trip I tried it, really liked it, and it has been a regular at our house ever since.
From time to time, I will give myself a treat with some Old Charter Proprietor's Reserve or Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, but for day to day enjoyment I feel these three bourbons are excellent choices.


09-23-2001, 13:55
While I have been a big fan of Maker's Mark for many years, I enjoy it less and less as I have been tasting a larger variety of bourbons. It has a bland taste that pales in comparison to some other, even less expensive whiskeys.

My current two favorites in the inexpensive category are Elijah Craig 12 year-old and Old Forester 100 proof.

To me, the Elijah Craig has a big, bold taste that I can't really compare directly to anything else I've tried - a tasting expert I have read says that this flavor is rye, but I'm not yet educated enough to know. I just know that I like it. CAUTION - this whiskey is NOT among the smoothest bourbons, it definitely gives quite a bit of alcohol "burn". But, the maple and caramel flavors and aromas are wonderful.

The Old Forester 100 proof is quite smooth and gives a big, classic bourbon flavor. I would easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys good bourbon.

I hate to come down so hard on Maker's, but this is my experience. Of course, beautiful bourbon flavor is on the tongue of the beholder, so "your milage may vary".

Cheers, Tim

09-23-2001, 14:21
I would say that you have three very good bourbons for everyday pours to friends and family. While I would say that Maker's Mark is overpriced, I do think it is a good bourbon - not my favorite, but good. If you like Maker's, you should try W L Weller Special Reserve. Like Maker's it is a 90 proof wheat recipe but unlike Maker's it has a 7 year old age statement which means you are getting an older whiskey than Maker's and it is about $3.00 to $5.00 a bottle cheaper.

Mike Veach

09-23-2001, 15:30
Hi Todd,

If you can find it in your area, you might also want to give Ancient Ancient Age 10-year-old a try. Be sure it says "Full Ten Years Old" on the label, in some states you can only get "Number 10" which is not the same bourbon at all. This brand, affectionately known as Triple-A, has long had a reputation among bourbon fans for being a high-quality whiskey whose value is not widely touted and which sells for less than it's true worth. It doesn't have the strong character that most of my other favorite bourbons do, but I enjoy it very much. And of course Maker's Mark doesn't have that strong character, either. I think you'd find it comparable. Many of us who don't care that much for Maker's enjoy AAA a lot, so if Maker's is one of your favorites it'd be fun to read your comparison of the two.

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey>http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey</A>

09-24-2001, 15:07
I find it interesting that what you consider "low cost, good quality bourbons" are all actually positioned as premiums, though not "super" premiums. I think it says a lot about how perceptions are changing. A decade ago, those three were just about the best, and most expensive, bourbons on the market.

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

09-30-2001, 22:21
The Talisker Distiller's Edition is finished in Amoroso casks. I happen to like it though (as well as the standard bottling).

10-13-2001, 18:55
I went VERY low-priced on my purchase today and I am quite happy with the result. My Alabama ABC is running a special on Evan Williams Black Label (90 proof) at only $10.99 for 1.0 liter.

I am sipping it now. The flavor is very similar to its Heaven Hill stablemate, Elijah Craig, but a bit thinner. Not quite as smooth, but not harsh, either. A long finish that is very pleasant.

It is certainly satisfying and quite a bargain at this price. Even though it is cheap, I wouldn't call it a cheap bourbon.


03-02-2003, 16:53
This bump is solely because the post I'm replying to gave me a good laugh on an afternoon when I needed one. I hope it has the same salutatory effect on others.

Tim, that's an effing masterpiece. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif

It makes no nevermind that I still haven't found a post on the topic I was actually looking for.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

10-02-2004, 11:59
I am somewhat new to the this wonderful board but not a bourbon novice. Here are my three favorite under $20 bourbons.
OGD BIB (A favorite at any price)
Elija Craig (So unique that I keep buying, trying to figure out the taste)
Wild Turkey 101 (Two fingers and two large cubes)
I must also throw in Buffalo Trace and Old Weller 107
Over $20
Knob Creek
Old Rip Van Winkle 15
WT Rare Breed

10-04-2004, 10:58
My "cheap" everyday pours are:

WT 101 and WT Rye - $20.95
Weller Antique 107 - $19.40
Exceptional whiskies for the $$.

For higher end drinking occasions, or when the mood strikes:
WT Rare Breed
Knob Creek

I am quite satisfied with that rotation for now.

I have on hand the following for exploration:
OGD 114
JD Single Barrel



10-08-2004, 10:55
Greg - Can you still get Old Commonwealth in Bloomington?


10-08-2004, 17:41
nope -- it's been gone for a long time now. After Julian joined forces with BT he had no cash-flow reason to bottle such brands.

10-08-2004, 17:42
if you like the Weller try Weller 12. I love it.


Ken Weber
10-11-2004, 06:36
How are you doing! I must agree that Weller 12 year old is one of the those brands that flys below most people's radar screens. Paul Pacult has rated it as a top 20 spirit brand for the last two years, yet most folks don't even know that it exists.

Being a wheated bourbon, it is a bit softer and sweeter. Spending 12 years in the barrel adds a level of complexity that few other bourbons possess.

I will now take my salesman's hat off.


10-12-2004, 13:13
I must add another to my less than $20 list.
I just tried my first Old Weller 107 @ $14.99.
Oh, very tasty. It could be my new everyday pour.

10-18-2004, 22:11
My vote stays with Wild Turkey Rare Breed. For the taste at that price, I say Rare Breed! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/drink.gif

10-19-2004, 00:20
Oh, ye fortunate men and women of bourbonland... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif In Sweden, a bottle of Jim Beam Black Label sells for $37, and my new favorite, Buffalo Trace, is at a whopping $44!


10-19-2004, 05:04
My number two but slightly more (yet under $20) would be Knob Creek.


I wish I could find Knob Creek for less than $20 a bottle. Here in PA KC runs $26 per bottle.

10-19-2004, 18:20
Don't feel too bad, here in Alabama it is $32! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif


10-26-2004, 16:00
I agree! Weller 12 year is superb.. On another note, I made my first trip to the Maker's Mark Lounge on 4th street last night. I tried the Four Roses single barrel and Old Charter Reserve. The Four Roses was delicious. The Old Charter left something to be desired. (Falls City is $0.99 if you are into that!) The Lounge itself is pretty swanky, however I am still partial to the Flagship at the Galt House. Good bourbon to all....