Cocktails can’t get much easier to make than an Old Fashioned. Since it only contains three ingredients — bourbon, bitters, and sugar — the deliciousness of the drink depends on the type of whiskey you use. Sure, you can add other ingredients or garnishes, but we’re talking about the basics here. You could use a super expensive bourbon, but at the higher price points, do you really want to detract (even slightly) from the whiskey by drinking it any way other than neat (if you do, more power to you)?
But on the other hand, you don’t want to go too cheap. Cheap whiskey, while it may be easier on your wallet, will definitely not be easier on your gut. That’s where this list comes in. To make a good Old Fashioned, you need a good whiskey that isn’t too expensive nor is it too cheap.
Below, you’ll find our picks for the best whiskeys for an Old Fashioned that won’t break the bank.
Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky
Winner in the American Single Malt Whiskey category of The Manual Spirit Awards, this whiskey from Texas outfit Balcones is full and silky smooth, with loads of honey and sweet orange flavors at the beginning and woody smoky notes leading into the finish. While not a bourbon, we feel the smoky notes in this whiskey make for a wonderful Old Fashioned.
Belle Meade Bourbon
Belle Meade Bourbon blends the best caramel, oak, and vanilla flavors of oak aging with the baking spice of a high rye mash bill for a spirit with a backbone that stands up not only in an Old Fashioned but any number of other cocktails as well — which is why it was the winner of Bourbon category in The Manual Spirit Awards 2018.
At roughly $25 a bottle, Buffalo Trace is the bourbon to have on hand at all times. Regardless of what the bottle implies, we can assure you that there are absolutely no traces of buffalo used in the making of this fine liquor. (In fact, the name refers to an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River.) Though it is fantastic on the rocks, it provides an air of sophistication to a cocktail, especially an Old Fashioned. The balanced bourbon offers just enough complexity to keep the cocktail interesting.
Ancient Ancient Age
The more potent brother of Ancient Age – 90 proof instead of 80 proof – Ancient Ancient Age packs a little bit more of a bunch, and still at around $20. A perfect whiskey to add a bit more punch and spice. Ancient Age is one of two excellent budget bourbons produced by Buffalo Trace, this one leaning heavier on rye for a little added kick.
Wild Turkey 101
To add a boozy punch turn to the old stand-by, Wild Turkey 101. Aged in barrels with a deep char, the bourbon is full of vanilla and caramel. Wild Turkey’s full line of whiskies offer a solid choice for an Old Fashioned, including Wild Turkey 101 Rye.
Jim Beam Black
While the regular Jim Beam makes a damn good Old Fashioned, our pick is for Jim Beam Black. Aged longer than the original, Jim Beam Black has a smoother profile that is sweet and full of good char characteristics.
When Maker’s Mark was first introduced in the 1950s, it was a hit because it was easy to drink (thanks in part to the wheat, which imparts a creamy mouthfeel). It continues to be a hit for much the same reason. Maker’s will keep the Old Fashioned as an easy sipper.
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