Whiskey Review: Jay Cutler, Marty Smith & Outsider Staff Pick Their Favorite Whiskeys Under $30

by Jim Casey

You don’t have to break your bank to find next-level bourbon. There are plenty of whiskeys under $30 that are masquerading as top-shelf selections. And we have the proof (pun intended) with a tasty review of six of our favorite whiskeys under $30.

After Outsider tasked its panel of whiskey lovers to pick their favorite whiskeys under $70, we rounded up our motley crew for another taste test. But this time, we cut the MSRP to $30.

Take a look at Outsider’s 6 favorite whiskeys and bourbons under $30.

Jay Cutler, Chief Design Officer

Weller Special Reserve

  • Buffalo Trace Distillery
  • Frankfort, KY
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 90 Proof
  • MSRP: $25

Jay says: Weller is arguably the most popular wheated bourbon right now—and for good reason. It’s as clean a sipper as you will ever find for under $30. But that’s the hard part. Finding it. Not to mention finding it at a reasonable price. The fact that Weller routinely sells (and sells fast) for double its MSRP is a case study in supply and demand. Of course, the allure of Pappy (which is made by Weller’s Buffalo Trace parent company with the same mash bill) has helped drive the Weller market. But that market would have crashed if Weller wasn’t so damn good with its caramel, vanilla, and honey explosion.

Marty Smith, Talent

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7

  • Jack Daniel Distillery
  • Lynchburg, TN
  • Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey
  • 80 Proof
  • MSRP: $25

Marty says: You can’t beat the tried and true, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. It’s America’s number one whiskey for a reason: easy to find, easy to sip, easy to mix. It’s easy to drink, with notes of caramel and oak. But the main thing is this: you’ll find Jack wherever you go. It’s the trusty sidekick to Coca-Cola and the perfect shot after a bad day. For something so convenient, Jack Daniel’s knows what’s up.

Brandon Chesbro, Producer

Old Bardstown

  • The Willett Distillery
  • Bardstown, KY
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 90 Proof
  • MSRP: $22

Brandon says: This bourbon is a game changer. On our last review, I saw a lot of comments laughing at how rare our selections were. If you have trouble finding Old Bardstown, give me a few days in your town and I’ll find you one myself. I see this bottle in almost every store I go to, and boy oh boy, it’s Willett’s best kept secret. I’m a BIG caramel guy when it comes to my bourbon and Old Bardstown is like drinking a See’s Candies toffee. It’s 90 proof, which makes it a great sipper or an excellent mixer for an Old Fashioned. Did I mention it’s $22? Yup, and I’ve found it for $14. If you find this one in your store, BIN (buy it now).

Caroline Bynum, Executive Editor

Old Forester Signature

  • Old Forester Distilling Co.
  • Louisville, KY
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
  • 100 Proof
  • $28

Caroline says: You can’t argue with a brand that has been around for 145 years. The new stories in the whiskey world are fun, and they have a lot to bring to the table, but there is something to be said for a bourbon that has stayed strong that long. With hints of toffee and vanilla, a slight spice, but a light finish, Old Forester is a solid option in any liquor store (and a favorite among bartenders). This was one of my first whiskey purchases because it’s a great bang for your buck: an easy way to find out if dark liquor is your thing without breaking the bank.

Jim Casey, Content Creator

1792 Small Batch

  • Barton 1792 Distillery
  • Bardstown, KY
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 93.7 Proof
  • MSRP: $25

Jim says: I’m not saying 1792 Small Batch is the best-tasting whiskey under $30, but it is one of the best-tasting/most accessible. Eagle Rare and Weller Special Reserve are fantastic whiskeys, but good luck finding them at MSRP. In fact, I just drove through west Kentucky, stopping at 20 liquor stores along the way. Only one place had Weller ($39.99—and you had to buy an additional $30 bottle, which, of course, I did). So 1792 Small Batch is now my de facto recommendation because you can find it almost everywhere at a reasonable price ($25-$30). I love the nuance of 1792—a bit of spicy burn (cinnamon and chilies) from the high-rye mash bill, coupled with a lingering of caramel and apple. Drink it neat. Thank me later.

Shannon Terry, Co-Founder

Eagle Rare

  • Buffalo Trace Distillery
  • Frankfort, KY
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 90 Proof
  • MSRP: $30

Shannon says: Eagle Rare is one of my absolute favorite bourbons. For what it is, the price should be much higher than the $30 suggest retail price. And it usually is. 90 proof. 10 years old. Amazing flavors of honey, fruit, and caramel (the signature of a solid Buffalo Trace mash bill), but a light, dry mouth that’s got you begging for more. Eagle Rare is amazing because it can sit up on the shelf with the best, but you don’t feel guilty for drinking it because it’s an excellent bourbon that is easy on the wallet.