What makes a bourbon a bourbon? First, bourbon is a type of whiskey that has to be made in the United States. Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, but it can come from other places in the country and still be considered bourbon.
While it can be made with different types of grains like rye, wheat, or barley, at least 51% of the grain has to be corn. And it needs to be at least 80 proof, which means 40% of it is alcohol.
While we often like to provide tips on how to save money on whiskey, here are some great bottles that are actually worth splurging on.
Widow Jane 10-Year-Old Bourbon
Price: $73 at Reserve Bar
The Widow Jane 10-Year-Old Bourbon is made from mixing five-barrel batches to give it a rich taste. It’s also one of the few bourbons on the list that isn’t from Kentucky. Instead, this one comes from a distillery in New York City.
Jim Beam Signature Craft Soft Red Wheat Bourbon Whiskey
Price: $49.99 at Minibar
One of the best-known makers of bourbon is Jim Beam, which has bottles at a range of price points for bourbon drinkers. This signature bottle is on the higher end, but the extra wheat kick in the mix may be favorable for some drinkers.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon Whiskey
Price: $113 at Reserve Bar
One thing that makes Elijah Craig’s barrel proof bourbon so special is that each bottle is unique. The bottles are hand-labeled and include the batch number and proof for that specific bottle, meaning each bottle may vary depending on the bourbon’s characteristics at bottling.
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Price: $44.99 at Total Wine
Widely available, Four Roses has a smooth vanilla taste with hints of plum and cherry for bourbon drinkers. This bourbon is delicious served straight or on the rocks.
Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon
Price: $44.99 at Total Wine
Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon is another one of those rare bourbons made outside of Kentucky. This Wyoming bourbon has a crisp feel and a smooth finish for drinkers.
Early Times Bottled In Bond Bourbon
Price: $22.99 at Total Wine
This Kentucky bourbon is an old-style treat with a mash that’s almost 80% corn. It’s 100 proof bourbon — which entitles it to the “bottled in bond” designation — and has a sweetness with lingering notes of cookies and chocolate.
Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Price: $39.99 at Total Wine
Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a collaboration between legendary distillers from Kentucky and Japan. Their special approach includes finishing the bourbon in red wine and sherry casks to give it a bold, fruity flavor.
Kirkland Signature Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Prices: Varies by state but generally less than $25
Kirkland Signature’s small batch bourbon has notes of vanilla and caramel that help to give it a smooth finish. And if you’re on a budget, store brands like Costco’s Kirkland Signature may be a good option. They might be as good as a name brand but at a lower cost to help you save some cash.
Pro tip: You can save even more money by using these genius Costco shopping hacks.
Breckenridge Reserve Blend Bourbon Whiskey
Price: $47.00 at Reserve Bar
The Rocky Mountains of Colorado are home to the Breckenridge Distillery. Its basic bourbon includes notes of dried orange peel, vanilla, and rye spice in each glass.
Neversink Select Bourbon Whiskey
Price: $99.99 at Craftshack
Aged in barrels that were previously used for a brandy/cider mix by Neversink, this bourbon has strong notes of apple that really boost it to a different level.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight
Price: $43.99 at Whiskey’s Finest
This bourbon from Kentucky includes some sweet notes of candy that may give it a more approachable taste than some more traditional bourbons.
Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Price: $52.00 at Reserve Bar
The name of Heaven’s Door comes from Bob Dylan, who is a partner in this bourbon venture. The bottle includes an iron gate design that Dylan himself created in his metal-work studio.
Noah’s Mill Bourbon
Price: $64.99 at Drizly
Made in small batches in Kentucky, Noah’s Mill Bourbon features notes of walnut with spice, lavender, and caramel flavors. It also works well with mixed drinks like mint juleps and old fashioneds.
Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon
Price: $99.99 at Drizly
Eagle Rare is aged for at least 10 years, but patience is rewarded with a smooth taste. Drink it on the rocks or use it for cocktails like a whiskey sour or Manhattan.
Maker's Mark Cask Strength Bourbon Whisky
Price: $29.99 at Total Wine
Maker’s Mark may be a household name when it comes to bourbon, but this version has an extra kick that you can’t get from the typical bottle at your local liquor store. The Cask Strength means that it has a higher alcohol content than other bourbons.
Pinhook Bourbon Heist
Price: $42.99 at Whiskey’s Finest
This bottle, which features a racing Thoroughbred in honor of its Kentucky roots, includes notes of toasted coconut and caramel to give it a smooth finish.
Watershed Distillery Blended Straight Bourbon
Price: $39.99 at Wine-Searcher
Ohio is home to the Watershed Distillery, which combines two of its own bourbons for this blended straight bourbon. It also gets some extra flavor from apple-brandy casks to finish the bottle.
Hirsch Selected Whiskeys: The Horizon
Price: $36.99 at Whiskey’s Finest
From a distillery in Indiana, The Horizon combines two bourbons aged for different lengths of time to make one tasty bourbon.
Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. California Oak Bourbon
Price: $31.99 at Caskers
Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. presents this bourbon with hints of berries that’s aged in California Cabernet wine cask staves to give it a distinctive taste.
Russell's Reserve 10 Years Old
Price: $39.99 at Total Wine
This fruity bourbon includes a taste of dried orange peel and a bit of a woodsy aroma. It’s another bourbon that may be just as good in cocktails as it is on the rocks.
Bourbon is a $9 billion industry in Kentucky alone, so there’s plenty of the good stuff to go around. Whether you’re new to bourbon and want to try something different or are well versed in your favorite types of bourbons, there are bourbons at all price points.
When you’re investing in a bottle, think about what you like in a bourbon as well as how you like to drink it: with or without ice or as a mixer for a delicious bourbon cocktail to end the day.