The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (2024)

When it comes to bourbon over $100, the bottle better freaking bring it in the flavor department. Branding, bottle design, and hokey stories about grandpappy’s secret recipe don’t mean sh*t if the bourbon is over $100 and tastes mid (cough, cough, current Kentucky Owl, cough, cough).

Asking you to spend serious money on what’s probably going to be a special gift means that the whiskey in the bottle should be stellar. Period.

To that end, I’m calling out 15 bottles of bourbon that are stellar — all in their own ways. The bottles listed below are between $100 and $125. Each one is unique with a throughline of excellence. That standard doesn’t mean that I didn’t rank these bourbons though. Not all created equal — some are crowd-pleasers and some are acquired tastes.

My advice is to read my tasting notes and find the ones that speak to you, hit those price links, and go from there!

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15. Barrell Armida

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (1)

ABV: 56.05%

Average Price: $109

The Whiskey:

Barrell puts out a lot of whiskeys every year. We forgive you if you can’t keep up (we barely can!). This edition is a mix of whiskeys finished in pear brandy, Jamaican rum, and Sicilian Amaro casks that are then batched. The juice then goes into the bottle uncut to help highlight the disparate yet similarly cozy flavors given by each of the barrels.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Pear drives the nose with a pear compote or pear butter made with plenty of dark spice and just a hint of dark chocolate and tobacco.

Palate: The taste is warm but slightly rummy with a clear eggnog note acting as a driving force, leading towards hints of black licorice next to creamy toffee next to hefty chocolate bars filled with nougat and walnuts.

Finish: A slight black tea bitterness takes over at the end as the nuttiness, spiciness, and sweetness all come together for a big finish with plenty of warmth and boldness.

Bottom Line:

This has become a mainstay of the Barrell Bourbon line. It’s deep, cutting, and delicious. The best part is that the proof doesn’t overwhelm the overall profile. There’s a silkiness here that makes this a great slow sipper. In the end, this feels like a gateway pour to bigger and more unique flavor notes, so treat it as a palate expander.

14. 291 Bad Guy Colorado Bourbon Whiskey 10th Anniversary

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (2)

ABV: 61.6%

Average Price: $107

The Whiskey:

This Colorado whiskey is made from a mix of local corn, malted wheat, malted rye, and beech-smoked malted barley. As per 291’s classic aging methods, the whiskey is aged for about two years with aspen wood staves in the barrel to accelerate the aging process. Finally, this is batched and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose on this is a wonderful medley of winter spices — clove, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon — rolled into a leathery tobacco pouch with a deep sense of green tea leaves marmalade, and buttery salted toffee.

Palate: The taste leans into stewed apple and pear candy while the spice really starts to kick up with a deep heat of the ABVs buzzing on all of your senses as old leather, oak, and tobacco sneak in under the heat.

Finish: Dried peach and apricot tie to the tobacco and oak as the spice starts to burn and numb your tongue on the finish with a dark sense of old marmalade tobacco and winter spice barks.

Bottom Line:

This one is big — big flavor notes, big ABVs, big buzzing on that finish. So if you’re looking for something bold, this is the play.

13. Penelope Straight Bourbon Whiskey Double Cask Finish Rio

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (3)

ABV: 49%

Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

This is damn near a classic now. This year’s Rio is still Penelope’s batch of four-grain bourbon (the blends of barrels work out to 74% corn, 14% wheat, 9% rye, and 3% malted barley). The ripple is that once batched the whiskey is re-barrelled into American honey and Brazilian Amburana oak casks. Those casks are then batched, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The honey is super creamy on the nose with a hint of pine forest next to hot cinnamon sticky buns with melting buttercream frosting and plenty of winter spice next to a hint of pecan.

Palate: The spiced rolls drive the palate toward a darker gingerbread with fresh and orange-infused honey adding a sharp contrast before the barkier elements of the spices and nuts roll back in.

Finish: The end leans into almost savory figs and date leather with a sense of winter spice barks, burnt orange rinds, and singed vanilla pods next to a hint of marzipan tobacco and soft fresh honeycomb.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those “acquired taste” bourbons I mentioned in the opening. There’s a lot of that’s classic here, but then this goes into new feeling territory with that cask finish. It’s savory and kind of funky in all the right ways. Take your time nosing and tasting this one and it’ll repay you in palate-expanding brilliance.

12. 2XO The Phoenix Blend Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (4)

ABV: 52%

Average Price: $104

The Whiskey:

This is the new whiskey from famed blender Dixon Dedman (former head of Kentucky Owl). The whiskey is sourced and highlights the best of the best barrels that Dedman was able to get his hands on.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose draws you in with a deep sense of creme brûlée drizzled with salted caramel and cut with a woody tart apple and light yet sweet oak.

Palate: Red berries and vanilla pods lead to warming winter spices with a woody edge next to apple pies and orange chocolate candies.

Finish: The end has a deep pepperiness that leads back to the winter spices before descending toward that creamy vanilla and soft apple pie filling with a touch of brown butter.

Bottom Line:

This is an excellent essential yet fruity bourbon. It’s almost light but not in the sense that it’s thin. It’s approachable while offering depth and balance. This is the bottle you buy for someone who likes their bourbon without the side of homework.

11. Baker’s Single Barrel 13 Years Minimum Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (5)

ABV: 53.5%

Average Price: $114

The Whiskey:

This brand-new re-release of Beam’s Limited Edition “Minimum 13 Year” Baker’s just dropped. The whiskey in the barrel is from single barrels that hit just the right mark for something special. Beyond that, there’s not much else to know besides this is Baker’s at a high age that shines bright.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a nice sense of dried sweetgrass, salted ballpark peanuts, and old vanilla pods that leads to softer notes of marzipan, vanilla sheet cake, and mild cherry.

Palate: Soft winter spices and minty tobacco drive the palate toward smudging sage and roasting herbs with a sense of marzipan slowly building on the mid-palate with a minor key of orange and cherry.

Finish: The vanilla sneaks in on the finish with more roasting herbs and dry grassiness with a hint of menthol, peanut shell, and distant oak.

Bottom Line:

Baker’s has always been the rye lover’s bourbon. The whiskey is so funky and fresh and this expression takes that up a huge notch. This is a great sipper that’s sure to expand your palate and enjoyment of Kentucky bourbon as something more than just a sweet cherry bomb.

10. BLACKENED x Wes Henderson Master of Whiskey Series Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (6)

ABV: 58.1%

Average Price: $109

The Whiskey:

This new collaboration from Metallica’s whiskey finds Master Distillers Rob Dietrich of BLACKENED working with Wes Henderson, Co-Founder of Angel’s Envy, to create a new expression. The whiskey is a classic Kentucky bourbon aged for six years. Those barrels are vatted and then refilled into white port wine casks for a final rest. Finally, the port barrels are batched and the whiskey is bottled at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a good bit of fruit on the nose with pear skins, rum-raisin, and burnt orange next to dried-up old cinnamon sticks and tobacco leaves.

Palate: The palate stews the pear with honey and wintry spices while a hint of dried chili flake leads to walnut cake and a very mild echo of old wet straw.

Finish: The end is lush and full of oranges studded with cloves and allspice next to pear tobacco and old cedar humidors.

Bottom Line:

You don’t have to be a fan of Metallica to enjoy this whiskey. It’s so succinct and runs truly deep. It’s also an easy sipper that works for the everyday pour or something you share before you finally see the band live. This one also makes a killer old fashioned.

9. Peerless Double Oak Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (7)

ABV: 53.55%

Average Price: $114

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from Kentucky Peerless is around five to six years old and comes from one barrel that lets the grains shine through before it goes into another new oak barrel for a final maturation to let the oak shine through. That final barrel is bottled at cask strength, allowing all that beautiful bourbon and oak aging to shine brightly.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This opens with a nose full of salted butter next to hints of very soft leather, light notes of vanilla bean, a touch of toffee sweetness, and freshly cracked walnuts with a dry edge.

Palate: The taste leans into that oak barrel with dashes of woody spices (think allspice berries, star anise, and cinnamon sticks), dry cherry tobacco leaves, salted caramel, and more of that super soft leather.

Finish: That leads towards a mid-palate of dark red fruits stewed in mulled wine spices and cut with a dollop of fresh honey before the (long) finish dries out towards an old wicker chair, a very distinct hint of a cellar funk, and a touch of dried mint.

Bottom Line:

I know this is a cliche, but if you only buy one bottle of Peerless, this is the one.

8. Michter’s US*1 Limited Release Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (8)

ABV: 55.3%

Average Price: $109

The Whiskey:

Michter’s fills their barrels with 103-proof hot juice off the stills. After a handful of years spent aging, that proof inches upwards as the angels take their share. Usually, the whiskey is cut with that soft Kentucky limestone water before bottling but not in this case. This is pulled from single honey barrels that were too good to cut and bottled at the Fort Nelson Distillery on Louisville’s Whiskey Row.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose draws you deep into the classic bourbon ecosystem of rich buttery toffees next to salted dark chocolate-covered cherries, a touch of smoked stone fruits, and a minor note of spicy tobacco leaf.

Palate: The palate delivers on those notes as the tobacco spice amps up before being smoothed out by rich and creamy vanilla, salted caramel, and apricot stone dryness.

Finish: That dryness drives the mid-palate towards the finish with a pecan shell vibe next to slightly bitter singed cedar bark.

Bottom Line:

Michter’s at cask strength is a mighty fine pour of whiskey. This is quintessential Kentucky bourbon that runs deep but never overwhelms the senses. There’s a soft warmth that accents the flavor profile, leaving you with that iconic Kentucky hug at the very end.

7. Chestnut Farms From Barton 1792 Master Distillers Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bottled In Bond

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (9)

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $119

The Whiskey:

This particular release is part of Total Wine’s Spirits Direct (their barrel pick program). The whiskey in the bottle is a six-year-old high-rye bourbon made at the famed Barton 1792 Distillery (Sazerac’s other famed distillery in Kentkcy — besides Buffalo Trace). The batch of whiskey is bottled with a touch of limestone water to bring it down to 100-proof and bottled otherwise as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This whiskey is a vanilla bomb from the jump with a deep sense of vanilla malts layered into a white cake with white vanilla frosting cut with a rush of sharp and fresh mint.

Palate: Soft vanilla pudding drives the taste as hints of winter spices via eggnog creaminess mingle with a touch of ripe peaches and pears next to a whisper of mint syrup and orange oil.

Finish: The end leans toward rich and salted buttercream with a nice layer of dark fruit leather, sharp winter spice barks, dried red berries, and a hint of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Bottom Line:

This is the biggest sleeper hit on the list. This bourbon quietly wins big awards (Double Gold in San Francisco) and then quietly goes along sitting on shelves in the best whiskey shops and bars. This is fantastic Kentucky bourbon that’ll stir your emotional nostalgic core like Egon tasting Remy’s ratatouille for the first time.

6. Nelson Bros. Whiskey Black Brier A Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys Finished in Imperial Stout Casks

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (10)

ABV: 54.9%

Average Price: $125

The Whiskey:

This whiskey takes Nelson Brother’s bourbon (sourced from Indiana and Tennessee) and re-loads it into beer casks for a special finish. The bourbon is re-filled into freshly emptied imperial stout casks from Blackstone Brewing Company for a final maturation before batching and bottling as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a fascinating balance of mocha lattes made with cream counterpointed by orange creamsicles on the nose with a deep and most vanilla white cake frosted with a whisper of Almond Joy icing.

Palate: Almost waxy cacao comes through on the palate before the almond and toasted coconut drive the taste toward Nutella-smeared croissants and a flutter of cinnamon-heavy mulled wine with a nice sweetness and a whisper of dried red berries.

Finish: Cinnamon bark and dark chocolate-covered espresso beans come through late with a creamy sense of that Nutella and mocha latte layering into a faint burnt orange tobacco vibe.

Bottom Line:

If you love a good stout, then this is a no-brainer. But it’s so much more than just a good stout-finished bourbon. This is a deep and delicious whiskey that rewards you for patience and time. It also makes one hell of a Manhattan.

5. Booker’s Bourbon “Apprentice Batch” 2023-02 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (11)

ABV: 62.75%

Average Price: $109

The Whiskey:

The second batch of Booker’s 2023 releases was a banger. This batch is named after the relationship between Booker Noe (who helped define Beam in the 20th century) and his mentor, Carl Beam, back in the 1950s. The whiskey in the bottle is a blend of a lot of barrels from prime spots in several warehouses across the Beam campus. The end blend ended up being 7+-year-old bourbon that’s bottled completely as-is without proofing or filtering.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens with a brandy-soaked holiday cake with a deep layer of rich vanilla, candied orange, candied cherry, stewed pear, and deeply sharp winter spices.

Palate: The taste is winter nut bread forward and spiced with real clove, allspice, and nutmeg next to apple-cider-soaked cinnamon sticks, eggnog creaminess, and floral honey.

Finish: The end really amps up those spices with a very barky vibe as the orange turns to marmalade and just keeps going and going until the heat overtakes everything and then crashes down, leaving your tongue buzzing.

Bottom Line:

This is a spicy and warming bourbon. It’s going to be hot neat — which some people seek out. So I’d recommend pouring this one over a big ol’ rock and taking it slowly as a sipper. It’s a fine example of spicy and creamy Kentucky bourbon with a huge Kentucky bear hug at the end.

4. Nashville Barrel Company Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel 6 Years Old UPROXX January 2023 Barrel

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (12)

ABV: 59.08%

Buy Here: $119

The Whiskey:

The barrel was chosen and bottled at the tail end of 2022 on a visit to Nashville Barrel Company. The whiskey in the bottle is a 6-year-and-two-month-old bourbon from MGP of Indiana. The high rye mash bourbon (75/21/4 corn/rye/malted barley) aged for five years in Indiana before moving to Nashville for an additional 14 months of resting. The bourbon went in the bottle at cask strength straight from the barrel.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens with toffee, mild leather, orchard barks, blood orange, soft sweet grains, cinnamon sticks, cherry tobacco, plum, and a whisper of old pine accented by a touch of thyme.

Palate: The taste meanders through salted caramel, dates, cinnamon bark, cardamon pods, clove buds, and soft vanilla cake before leaning slowly into a spiced warmth.

Finish: The end arrives with sweet and chewy pipe tobacco, orange bitters, rock candy, and very light yet creamy cacao lushness next to hazelnut Manner Neapolitan Wafers and dry oak.

Bottom Line:

This barrel pick from last year is still one of the best whiskeys that you can get at this price point. Only a scant few bottles are left. So act fast for one of the best cask-strength bourbons money can buy.

3. Fortuna Rare Character Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (13)

ABV: 59.41%

Average Price: $119

The Whiskey:

Last year’s Fortuna release was an instant classic. This year the Rare Character team has upped the ante with a cask-strength version and, ho boy, they hit it out of the park. The whiskey in the bottle is a small batch of minimum seven-year-old barrels that were expertly batched and bottled 100% as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens with a sense of deeply roasted walnuts, almonds, and chestnuts dipped in salted toffee with a sense of darkly charred old oak staves countered by a lush vanilla cream cut with winter spices.

Palate: The nuttiness drives the palate toward vanilla buttercream next to winter spice cakes filled with rum raisin, candied orange rind, and brandy-soaked cherries before a hint of sticky toffee pudding arrives with a whisper of roasting herbs and sweetgrass.

Finish: Nutshells and dried pipe tobacco round out the finish with a deep winter spice bark vibe before the luscious vanilla creates a creamy landing for the pour that’s part eggnog and part malted vanilla shake cut with peppermint, clove, and sasparilla.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the most solid whiskeys on the list. There’s a deep sense of iconic flavor notes that run so deep that you’ll need two or three sipping sessions to get it all. Start neat, add water, pour over ice, and try it in your favorite co*cktails — have fun with it!

2. Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 1924 10-Year-Old

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (14)

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $115

The Whiskey:

This brand-new release from Old Forester is new in more ways than one. The whiskey is their first age-statement whiskey at 10 years old. It’s also a new mash bill for the heritage brand with a recipe of 79% corn, 11% rye, and 10% malted barley. The whiskey aged in the Brown-Forman warehouse until just right for batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Freshly fried cinnamon doughnuts, soft chocolate shavings, and buttery salted caramel drive the nose toward dry nutshells, a hint of apple fritter, and dark brandy cherries dipped in creamy dark chocolate.

Palate: That chocolate is just kissed with Graham Cracker and marshmallow on the palate with a good dose of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice leading toward a dark brandy cherry tobacco on the mid-palate.

Finish: The dark cherry tobacco and S’mores drive the finish with a sense of dark stewed red fruit, stone fruit, and pear/apple before the oak arrives with a sense of an old cellar on a warm day.

Bottom Line:

This is going to be on a lot of “best of” lists at the end of 2024. This is one of the best Old Forester releases and is highly coveted. That aside, this sips like a dream.

1. Bomberger’s Declaration Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2023 Release

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (15)

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $119

The Whiskey:

This whiskey heralds back to Michter’s historical roots in the 19th century before the brand was even called “Michter’s.” The old Bomberger’s Distillery in Pennsylvania is where the brand started way back in the day (1753). The whiskey in the bottle is rendered from a very small batch of bourbons that were aged in Chinquapin oak. The staves for that barrel were air-dried for three years before coppering, charring, and filling. The Kentucky bourbon is then bottled in an extremely small batch that yields around 2,000 bottles per year.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Sweet mashed grains — think a bowl of Cream of Wheat cut with butter and molasses — mix with sticky toffee pudding, old saddle leather, old cellar beams, and sweet cinnamon with a hint of candied orange and dark chocolate next to luscious eggnog with a flake of salt.

Palate: The palate is super creamy with a crème brûlée feel that leads to soft winter spices, dry cedar, and orange chocolates with a hint of pear-brandy-soaked marzipan in the background.

Finish: The end has a creamed honey vibe next to brandy-soaked figs and rum-soaked prunes with fresh chewing tobacco and salted dark chocolate leading back to dark chocolate and old cellar floors with a touch of smoldering orchard bark.

Bottom Line:

This is the best all-around sipper (and amazing co*cktail base) at this price point. Every time that I do a tasting, this whiskey wins — and then the bottle is killed by excited whiskey drinkers.

The 15 Best Bourbons Under $125, Ranked (2024)
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