Five Fantastic Bourbons Under $40

Events / Travel
Eclipse Sportswire

When I moved to Kentucky in 2005, I was more of a rum and beer guy than a bourbon fan, but when in Kentucky, you quickly learn to savor the nectar of the Bluegrass state. Now, it’s the only liquor I drink. I’m officially a bourbon guy, and living in Lexington, I have access to so many amazing distilleries.

At some point, I’d love to complete the rounds on the bourbon trail, but I still have a long way to go. For now, with the Triple Crown approaching, I thought I’d pass along my favorites so far, all under $40, that might be a perfect addition for your Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes festivities.

I don’t profess to be a bourbon authority by any stretch, but I think I’ve developed a taste for a good one with an eye on exceptional value.

1. Eagle Rare

1. Eagle Rare

This bourbon just swamps your palate with flavor, but in the best way possible. It’s incredibly robust but somehow smooth like honey. The list of awards is pretty astounding for a bourbon that retails for $29.99. As I said before, I don’t fancy myself a bourbon expert, but it seems like I taste something different every time I pour myself an Eagle Rare.
2. Rowan’s Creek

2. Rowan’s Creek

This has become my go-to bourbon. Just incredibly smooth, a little bit spicy and definitely a ton of character from the charred oak barrel. It’s a two-time winner of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Because there are hints of mint, too, it makes for a terrific mint julep, but I prefer mine over just a little bit of crushed ice. Considering it sells for $35 a bottle, you have to taste this one to believe it.
3. Four Roses Small Batch

3. Four Roses Small Batch

Four Roses offers three great choices for under $40. You can get a big, old bottle of the “Yellow” bourbon for less than $40 if you’re planning on making mint juleps for the masses at a party and you’ll be very pleased with the quality of the bourbon. If you want to take it up a notch, try the small batch ($27.99), which, when taking a tour of the distillery, the guide pointed out that this one has strong vanilla and caramel flavor. My wife loves it. The tour guide also showed my dad and I how to get the full aroma with all of the subtleties by inhaling through the nose and then opening you mouth just a bit in mid-breath. Definitely worth trying when you open a new bottle of bourbon. But if you’re going to spring for a nice bottle for the Derby from the American Whisky Distiller of the Year for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, go with the single barrel. The Four Roses website mentions hints of ripe plum and cherries, and I definitely enjoy the fruity finish of this one. Four Roses also has an extremely unique history, and the tour is well worth the trip if you are in Lexington for a visit to Keeneland.
4. Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old

4. Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old

The label drew me in with a promise of “rich, spicy vanilla flavors” and boy did this one deliver. It was so flavorful there was almost a syrupy quality to it, but it’s not a heavy taste in anyway … very smooth with a bit of spice at the end. The Master Distiller is Jimmy Russell and this one won the Silver Medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2012 and 2014 and was a Double Gold Medla winner at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Championship. You get a terrific bourbon for about $30.
5. Elijah Craig Small Batch 12-Year-Old Bourbon

5. Elijah Craig Small Batch 12-Year-Old Bourbon

Usually, I know right away whether I’m a fan of a bourbon or not, but this one really grew on me after initially I wasn’t entirely impressed. I gave it a second chance and I’m really glad I did. It feels really complex, maybe because it’s aged 12 years, and I felt like I tasted something different each time I went back to it.

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