My Favorite Bourbons Under $30

Bourbon und $30 2

Well, I know there are innumerable lists like this out there, so I don’t expect to be blazing any trails here. Hopefully, you’ll find something here that you haven’t tried before and give it a shot. If nothing else, let this simply be a reminder that you don’t need to be a Rockefeller in order to enjoy a world-class bourbon.

My list, in no particular order:

Weller Antique

  • W.L. Weller Antique – I’m honestly surprised I don’t see this on more of these type of lists. It can be a bit tricky to find, but I managed to score a couple of bottles again this year, without too much work. In my area, this is still a ~$25 bottle, even given the ridiculous surge in popularity for all things Weller/Van Winkle. It has wonderful notes of cherry, cinnamon, brown sugar and barrel. The palate is much the same – pepper, orange, cinnamon and smoke. It’s a wonderful bourbon, if you can find it, and would be worthy of double the price tag.

Evan Williams Single

  • Evan Williams Single Barrel – 10 year old bourbon for sub-$25? Sign me up! This year’s bottle (2006 vintage) is just as deserving as the previous years. It’s got lots of fruit (orange and pineapple), plus honey, vanilla and cinnamon. Another example of a wonderfully complex whiskey at a bargain price. Challenging enough for seasoned tasters, but approachable enough for novices.

Elijah 3

  • Elijah Craig – What’s better than a 10 year old bourbon? Well, a 12 year old one, of course! Thankfully this bottle is still easy to find, unlike it’s older brother the 18yr. The nose on this bourbon is STRONG, much bigger than you’d expect from 94 proof. If you allow it to settle you’ll get great honey and vanilla, however. The alcohol is always up front, but the heavy, buttery mouthfeel is great and leads you to lovely citrus and rum butter flavors. The syrupy finish is in a class of its own. This one is probably not the best choice for beginners.

Four Roses Small Batch

  • Four Roses Small Batch – I like this bourbon more than it deserves, probably. Four Roses was one of my very first forays into anything that wasn’t Maker’s or Jim Beam. This bottle is a wonderful bourbon, IMO. Lots of caramel and rye spice with a little bit of floral note at the end of the nose. Caramel and rye dominate the palate, as well, but are accompanied by some very nice pepper, nutmeg and oak. It finishes long with flavors of toffee and caramel. You could drink this whiskey all night and keep picking up different things in the nose and palate. A very underrated bourbon, IMO.

Pure Kentucky

  • Pure Kentucky – I bought a bottle of this at the suggestion of my “bourbon guy” at my local liquor store. I was not disappointed, to say the least. This one has everything you have come to expect from a good bourbon – rye spice, oak and toffee are the major players and this whiskey is incredibly smooth in spite of the 107proof. The finish is long, sweet and slightly floral.


  • Woodford Reserve – OK, so not exactly out on a limb with this one. It’s just so good! Oak and rye on the nose, with unexpected notes of green apple and pear. The palate is all spice and fruit with a light finish that doesn’t linger. This is a great bourbon to use as an introduction for folks trying bourbon for the first time.


Well, kids, there it is. Far from earth shattering, but hopefully there’s something in there that you haven’t had, or haven’t had in a while. Maybe this little post will spur you to try one of the above for the first time, or again.

Feel free to add your thoughts below.


Whiskey Vinyl Vibe #7: Blood & Sand

Blood and Sand2

Given my age, I was a bit late to the party on a number of musical discoveries, but I clearly recall when The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry entered my life. It was the summer of 1988, I was just about to enter high school and this album hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was funky, a bit tinny, twangy, and had a punk vibe that I didn’t understand at all. It shocked me a little with Killing An Arab, Subway Song gave me the creeps, and I couldn’t get enough of F-I-R-E-I-N-C-A-I-R-O! Although the album had been out for over 8 years, it was unlike anything I had really been exposed to at that point and I wore that cassette out.  I still love it today, which is why it made its way onto my vinyl quest list. This album takes the 1980 position, given the year of its release, and it is my first find on the quest list. Thank you to the seller in the Netherlands for this near mint beauty!

As for the cocktail selection, given that I’m solo this evening, I opted to do my own pairing. When I unwrapped the package containing this beautiful vinyl today, the first thing that came to mind was a Blood & Sand, which likely had to do with the album cover and the various tracks that bring the desert to mind, even if inappropriately so. I couldn’t deny myself the treat, and having never made one before, I had to hunt down some Heering Cherry Liqueur – which is something quite different than the Luxardo we recently added to the bar, and apparently isn’t always so readily available here in NC. Fortunate for me, we happen to have one of the best liquor stores in the area nearby and they did not disappoint. Blood oranges are not a requirement for this cocktail, but given that we had one left, I decided to squeeze the life out of it – which was a beautiful decision. The standard recipe calls for equal parts of the ingredients, but I went a little heavier on the scotch as I prefer a bit more peat and felt that the sweetness needed to be toned down just a bit.  This one is definitely a keeper, and I imagine my husband is going to be a tad jealous that he missed out. Cheers!

Blood & Sand

3/4 oz Orange Juice (Blood orange, if you have it)

3/4 oz Heering Cherry Liqueur

3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth

1-1/4 oz Blended Scotch Whisky (I used Johnnie Walker Black)

Add all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, strain and pour into your glass of choice.

Garnish with orange zest or a cherry – my preference is the zest.


Whiskey Vinyl Vibe #6 – Valentine’s Day Edition

Electric Wire2I spent some time updating my Discogs inventory this afternoon,and while sifting through my collection considering what might be nice for a spin on this Valentine’s Day (trying to avoid disco for the sake of my husband’s sanity), I found myself face to face with this pink album cover titled “Love Can Prevail” and the choice seemed obvious.

This album by Electric Wire Hustle was one of the three selections hand curated for me by the fine folks at VNYL during my first shipment, which arrived just a couple of weeks ago.  I’m almost ashamed to admit that I had yet to give this one a listen, but given the outstanding job they did with the other two albums, I thought it might be fun to give this one a shot tonight. Now, I won’t say it was a bad choice on my part, but perhaps not the right choice for this particular occasion. In fact, the word that kept popping up in my vocabulary as the record played was “interesting”, Simply Red 2which doesn’t exactly lend itself to a romantic evening.  A little funk,  perplexing beats and a heavy dose of experimental electronic jazz wound their way through the tracks, some of which were fantastic,  but in general the album left me with a case of vertigo, and dizzy isn’t exactly what I was looking for tonight unless it was compliments of the whiskey. Given the comments from my husband it wasn’t going to be his first choice to accompany his cocktail, either, so I reverted back to my original choice, Simply Red’s Picture Book. Quite a change from where I started, but the smooth, jazzy vocals definitely set a more appropriate tone for the evening, although I suspect my husband was hoping I would have selected Run The Jewels 2 – Close Your Eyes and Count to F*ck.  Maybe for our anniversary.

In all honesty, the Simply Red album was a perfect follow up to a great dinner at home with the love of my life, and his romantic cocktail concoction rounded out the occasion nicely. Who needs a special holiday to celebrate love when you can have this every day?



Well, we’ve had this bottle of Luxardo in the bar for a while now, and I was itching for an excuse to use it. Valentine’s Day seemed to be just what the doctor ordered, in this case. Tonight’s cocktail is nothing more than a riff on the Perfect Manhattan, except I used Luxardo instead of dry vermouth and used chocolate bitters.

It turned out really nicely, you could do a chocolate syrup drizzle in a martini glass for service, if you wanted more sweetness and more chocolate. We decided on simply serving them in rocks glasses, sans the chocolate syrup. The chocolate and cherry notes work really well in a Manhattan, give it a try on your next “date night” or if you’re simply looking to replace a dessert course with a cocktail.

WVV6 Drink2

Chocolate Covered Cherry Manhattan:

2 oz of bourbon (we used Old Weller Antique)

.75 oz of Luxardo (or any maraschino liqueur)

.25 oz of sweet vermouth

5-6 dashes of chocolate bitters

Bourbon soaked maraschino cherries (we really need to get around to making some homemade brandied cherries…)

Add the bourbon, Luxardo and vermouth to a cocktail pitcher full of ice and stir well. Then strain into a glass with the bitters and cherry. Serve and enjoy! Cheers.





I’ve Got a Fever, and the Only Prescription is Blood Orange (AKA Whiskey Vinyl Vibe #5)

Blood Orange Flip

Blood Orange Flip


This time of year, I love to use blood oranges in my cocktails. I love the citrus and sweetness, but with less acid as compared to regular oranges.

Tonight we did two cocktails, a pre-dinner and a post-dinner offering.


Bourbon Sunrise

4 oz of blood orange juice

2 oz of bourbon

1 tsp of maple syrup (or honey, or simple syrup, or….)

I like to use maple syrup in the winter, that flavor profile just seems to fit the season a little better than other sweeteners. Not to mention that maple and bourbon are a dynamite combination. This one is pretty easy. Put all the ingredients in a shaker full of ice. Shake well, and strain into a lowball/rocks glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with a blood orange wedge. You could go a little heavier on the bourbon, the sweetness of the juice and the maple syrup hide the spirit pretty well, and I like to taste my bourbon when I make cocktails.

Bourbon Sunrise

Bourbon Sunrise



Blood Orange Flip (Pictured at Top)

1 oz of blood orange juice

1.5 oz of rye whiskey (or bourbon)

.5 oz of simple syrup

3 dashes orange bitters

1/2 of an egg white from a large egg

Start by whisking the egg white in a small bowl for 10-15 seconds, or until it starts to froth. Then add all the ingredients to a shaker full of ice and shake very well. Double strain into a coupe or martini glass and garnish with a blood orange slice.

I used rye for this because I wanted the spice of the rye whiskey to offset the sweetness of the juice, as well as the creaminess of the egg white. They turned out great and drank far too easily.

Give one, or both, of these recipes a try now that blood oranges are in season and let me know what you think!



Tonight was all about the blood oranges…and my current obsession, disco. I cannot seem to get enough of it these days, it’s been my background music at the office all week, and Studio 54 has been in regular rotation on my morning and evening drives. Given the recent disco fever, tonight felt like a perfect time to give one of the latest additions in my collection a spin. While the blood oranges will be short lived, disco will never die.