Building Your Bar, One Bottle At A Time: Great Bottles For Under $40

If you are new to this series, we discuss different whiskeys that you can use to help make your home bar the number one destination of all your friends and family. Some of these will be by price point, some by proof point, and other by types. These won’t be the end all be all whiskeys in these categories, but they should help you find something to add to your ever-growing collection.

In the last installment, we talked about some great bottom shelf buys that you can pick to start building your bar and all of them were under $20. This week we will be stepping up our price point a little bit to bottles that should be easily available in the $20 – $40 price range.

To me, this price range has some of the best offerings in whiskey. I know a lot of you will be able to name a lot of other bottles that you like in this category, and I would love for you to put them in the comments. I will say that I did leave some great options out only because I plan on adding them to future articles in this series. So grab a seat and a little smoke and oak, and lets get into this list.

$20-$25 Range
Old Forrester 100
100 proof – $22.99 SRP

Created in 1870, Old Forester is one of the oldest whiskey brands in American bourbon and Whiskey history. They are the only bourbon continuously distilled before, during and after Prohibition by the same family. Old Forester says, “100 proof honors the legacy of founder George Garvin Brown, who put his signature on every bottle. And this bourbon is definitely one he would be proud to have his name on today.” 

For a bottle that can easily be found right at $20, its hard to go wrong with the flavors and complexity that Old Forester 100 can bring to your bar. On the nose I get a cinnamon, gram cracker, and a slight banana. On the palate I get cinnamon, cheery, oak, vanilla and a little banana and nutty notes on the finish.

A great runner-up at this price point would be: Wild Turkey 101

This is another great whiskey that is a staple on any bar around the world and can be found everywhere. Fantastic notes of caramel, vanilla frosting, cinnamon, and citrus peel.

If you are looking for a good cigar to pair with Old Forrester 100, let me recommend: Platinum Nova Batch Torpedo – Exclusively Made for PCA.

$25-$30 Range
Buffalo Trace
90 proof – $26.99 SRP

I don’t think there is a more recognized and hunted bottle of whiskey by new and seasoned drinkers than Buffalo Trace. Once a bottle that could be found everywhere for almost $20 a bottle, its now scarce in a lot of markets and even being priced two and three times higher than its suggested retail price. Some stores have even put it on its allocated shelves due to its high demand.  

As the story goes, In 1999 after opening the newly named and renovated Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort Kentucky, visitors to the distillery would go into the gift shop and ask to purchase a bottle of “that Buffalo Trace Bourbon”. The only problem was, there was no such thing as Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Hearing this, Amy Preske, the PR manager for Sazerac (the parent company of Buffalo Trace) convinced them to make a bourbon named after their distillery. After discussion with Elmer T. Lee, it was decided that he would go and search out the best floors of the best warehouses and find what he thought was the best barrels of older whiskey. What he was looking for was the barrels that contained what he thought a Kentucky bourbon whiskey should taste like. The rest as they say, is history.

On the nose I get lots of sweet notes of apple, oak, and brown sugar. The palate brings you flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak. All of the standard bourbon flavors that you would hope to find in a great bourbon whiskey.

A great runner-up at this price point would be: Old Grand-Dad 114

If you are looking for a great higher proof bourbon that wont break the bank, you should definitely give this one a try. Delicious notes of rye spice, caramel, toffy, and oak with a high proof Kentucky Hug.

If you are looking for a good cigar to pair with Buffalo Trace, let me recommend: Above And Beyond Heroes.

$30-$35 Range
1792 Small Batch
93.7 proof – $34.99 SRP

A product of the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown Kentucky, 1792 Small Batch is the flagship offing from their distillery. Barton says on their website, “1792 Small Batch Bourbon is sophisticated and complex. A distinctly different bourbon created with precise craftsmanship. Made from our signature “high rye” recipe and the marriage of select barrels carefully chosen by our Master Distiller.”

This high rye bourbon offers lots of rye spice, floral, and vanilla notes on the nose with a light alcohol burn.  One the palate you are met with heavy rye spice, black pepper, cinnamon, and a long rye spice on the back of the tongue on the finish. If you are a fan of rye whiskey or a high rye bourbon, this will be up your alley.

A great runner-up at this price point would be: Coopers Craft 100

Notes of citrus, chocolate, and oak, with a slight spice on the finish makes this a sweet offering from Brown Forman at a great price.

If you are looking for a good cigar to pair with 1792 Small Batch, let me recommend: Sancho Panza Double Maduro.

$35-$40 Range
Makers Mark 101
101 proof – $36.99 SRP

In a press release, Makers Mark stated “Maker’s Mark® 101 is a bolder interpretation of our classic wheated whisky, bottled at 50.5% abv. This unfiltered expression exhibits a rich and creamy mouthfeel, with a mellow, lingering midpalate finish that combines the smoothness of classic Maker’s Mark, with enhanced natural notes of caramel and spicy fruit. “ 

Released at special times of the year, this limited edition can still be readily found and is a great addition to your home bar. If you are a fan of the standard offering from Makers Mark, I suggest that you go out and give this one a try. You will find all the same notes that you love only deeper, richer, and more complex.

A great runner-up at this price point would be: Bulliet Bourbon

Sourced at one time from Four Roses, Bulliet offers a lot of sweetness and spice from its high rye mash bill. It’s a great bourbon to sip neat and hold up great in cocktails. 

If you are looking for a good cigar to pair with Makers Mark 101, let me recommend: CAO BX3

As I said when we started this article, there’s a lot of great whiskeys in this price range and I’m sure you have a few that you could add to this list. If so, please put it in the comments below. You know I love conversation and will reply to you. As always, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Until the next Whiskey Wednesday, if you’re going to enjoy a little smoke & oak just remember, “Life’s too short, enjoy the good stuff…” and do it responsibly!