Five Top-Shelf Whiskies Under 50 Dollars

For the seasoned whiskey drinker, experimentation matters more than extravagance. Given the vast realm of varieties to sip and sniff your way through, from caramel-noted bourbons to single malts distinguished by their sole provenance, the only way to expand your palate is to sip more. Luckily, top-shelf whiskeys (at least ones that belong there) are often less than 50 dollars. Here we offer a selection of value buys that come with all the smokiness, spice, and richness of big ticket bottles. They’ll cost about as much as that early morning Jim Beam that Jack Nicholson enjoys in "Easy Rider", but they’ll go down a lot smoother.

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky 100 Bottled in Bond, $25

Named “Best American Whisky” in 2010 by Whisky Magazine, this straight rye consoles while it enlivens like chili-infused hot cocoa. Having been kept under government lockdown for four years, its spiced tangerine character is engaging on its own, but given the price, you can feel okay about mixing it too. Just measure carefully.

Black Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky, $28.99

This is a blend that doesn’t overwhelm like many costly and overly peaty single malts do. This scotch glides pleasantly onto the palate with a subtle smokiness later balanced out by its raw sugar sweetness, awarding it 94 out of 100 points in Jim Murray’s noted Whisky Bible.

Bulleit Bourbon, $32

The hefty rye grain content in this Kentucky straight bourbon results in a robust and arresting heart belied by an enticing floral nose. Made from a 150-year-old family recipe and aged at least six years, this small-batch bourbon has gained an ever-growing base of devotees.

Laphroaig 10-year Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey, $44.06

The main characteristics of an Islay malt—depth of smokiness that smacks of sea salt—is pronounced from first whiff to delightful finish. 10 years has given this single malt a lot of vigor, expressed by 43% alcohol content. This is intensity you’ll want to sit down for.

Glenmorangie 12-year Quinta Ruban Scotch, $45.99

From a British distillery known for its bold new approaches to whiskey maturation, this is a well-traveled scotch, aged in American white oak casks for a decade, then in Portuguese ruby Port casks for two years. The scent and flavor of dried citrus and dark chocolate especially stand out.

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