The Best Bottles of Whiskey You Can Buy For $20 or Less

best whiskey under 20
George Rudy/Getty Images

When you’re looking for a good bottle of whiskey — it doesn’t matter if it’s bourbon, Scotch whisky, rye, Canadian, or something else — there are usually a couple of factors that any drinker is going to look for. Among these, taste and price stick out as the two most important. If you had an unexpected vet bill or you’re just looking to stock up for a party and need a multiple bottles, your go-to whiskey can’t come in at a Benjamin is out of the question. You need to find a lower price tag. Much lower … like under 20 bucks lower.

We won’t kid you — there is a lot of whiskey under $20 that is utterly disgusting. The nose is like inhaling literal fire and the palate (if you can even call it that) is something close to industrial floor cleaner.

There are, though, a number of good, cheap whiskies out there, which we have conveniently listed below. While the majority are budget bourbons (being affordable and delicious seems to be as American as, well, bourbon), we worked to find other types of whiskies as well, for those that want a little variety on their liquor shelf.

Bourbon

Evan Williams – $14
evan williams

Evan shows up on lists like this all of the time, and deservedly so. At $14 for a bottle, you really can’t go wrong. Drop an ice cube or two in and you’re set. The flavor profile is what you expect in a bourbon — vanilla, caramel, oak — and you don’t need to add much (if anything) to make it drinkable.

Rebel Yell -$15
Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Not just for Billy Idol fans, this whiskey is made in the style of W.L Weller’s wheated bourbons. Full of honey and raisin flavors, Rebel Yell is a bargain, as it displays the flavor profile of something much more expensive. By buying Rebel Yell, though, you’ll be left with cash money in your pocket to either A) buy ingredients for some cocktails or B) buy another bottle. If you’re in this position, choose Option B.

Four Roses Bourbon – $19
four roses bourbon

For a long time (over 50 years), Four Roses didn’t make bourbon. Instead, they produced a blended whiskey that, if you ask someone who has had it (this writer included), they will tell you it’s pretty bad. Thankfully in 2002, Four Roses got back to their roots and began making bourbon again.

Rye

Old Overholt – $18
old

This is, according to most, the best budget rye you can find. Used in countless bars, Old Overholt is everything you want in a rye without having to shell out too much. Black pepper and other spice notes make for a flavorful, somewhat intense whiskey that goes perfectly in pretty much any rye cocktail you can think of.

Wild Turkey Rye – $20

 wild turkey

A bit rarer than Old Overholt, but well worth it if you happen upon it on the shelf, Wild Turkey’s 81 Rye is sweet on the front before displaying the characteristic rye spice notes. A little lower in alcohol than other spirits on this list (this 81 proof rye clocks in at 40.5 percent ABV), it still packs a flavorful punch, bolstered by Alligator Char in the barrels, which imparts a a little smokiness to the liquid.

And if you feel like dishing out a little bit more for a rye, here are the best options under $50.

Scotch Whisky

Speyburn Braden Orach Single Malt Scotch – $20
Speyburn Braden Orach Single Malt Scotch

Scotch is by far the hardest category to find a bottle under $10. They are there, but it’s like going to a buffet — just because the tray of chicken wings is there, doesn’t mean you need to eat forty of them. You get the point. Braden Orach means “Golden Salmon” (you can see why they went with what they did). This non-buffet-chicken-wing whisky is redolent of apples and honey with a palate that is vanilla and honey before a spicy finish.

Canadian Whisky

Canadian Club Reserve – $20
canadian-club

Because of Prohibition, it was only in the last few decades that bourbons overtook Canadian whiskies as the top seller in the United States. I kid you not. While Americans were cleaning out their bathtubs to cook up some gin and finding spots in the mountains to set up their stills, Canadian whisky makers were chugging away, growing with every year. CC Reserve is full of sweet toffee and oak notes, a result of a longer aging process than the brand’s other expressions. Better for cocktails than straight, it’s a formidable Canadian whisky for the price.

Article originally published February 5, 2016. Last updated April 30, 2018.

Food & Drink

5 Boozy Books to Read this Summer

Your next beach read doesn’t have to be some cheap murder mystery.
Food & Drink

The B-Line is What Brings Bourbon Lovers to Northern Kentucky

As you probably already know, Kentucky makes 95 percent of the world’s bourbon (if you didn’t, you do now).
Food & Drink

8 Ways to Keep Your Drinks Cold on a Hot Day

The summer sun has finally met its match in the form of these eight drink chillers.
Food & Drink

The Ultimate Guide to Day Drinking

Day drinking is the true sport of kings. Learn how to take the crown and keep it. All day long.
Culture

Beards, Booze, and Bacon: The Weird Amazon Episode

On this week's episode of The Manual podcast, we talk about all things Amazon. And it gets weird.
Living

Forget that Tiny House and Get a Tiny Houseboat Instead

Retire to a tiny life fishing on the big water.
Culture

Too Broke to Travel? Take a Virtual Vacation With This Summer Reading List.

These page-turners could be the inspiration for your next big vacation, but for now, settle into your couch.
Food & Drink

How to Cook Ribs in the Oven (Yes, They’ll Come Out Great)

Purists may cringe and haters may hate, but the answer to the age-old question, "Can you cook ribs in the oven?" Yes, you can. Now, the follow-up: Do ribs taste good when cooked in the oven? Yes, yes they do.
Fashion & Style

11 Best Men’s No-Show Socks to Keep Feet Happy and Stink-free

It’s the dog days of summer, and, in the ongoing effort to stay as cool as possible, one of the first layers we lose is our socks. It’s one less place to hold in heat, and most of us (even if our legs aren’t in the best shape) can…
Food & Drink

The Right Way to Make a Spice Blend with Lior Lev Sercarz

Yes, a properly cooked piece of chicken or steak is delicious on its own, but the flavors introduced by a spice blend can elevate a meal to new heights.
Auto

Singer Vehicle Design’s Reimagined Porsche 911 DLS is Perfection

For the uninitiated, Singer Vehicle Design isn't your average restoration house. In terms of a great whiskey, Singer makes not only the most delicious Scotch you've ever drunk but also the most expensive.
Food & Drink

The Best Cheap Beer Money Can Buy

Some cultures may value spirits or wine or something else entirely, but at the end of the day, chances are you’re going to be able to find a cheap beer no matter where you go.
Food & Drink

A Bitter Experiment: Why You Should Try Adding Bitters to an IPA

IPAs already have a strong reputation for being bitter, so why kick it up a notch and add cocktail bitters?
Culture

The Best Amazon Prime Day Deals on Watches, Tools, Outdoor Gear, and Other Cool Stuff

Amazon Prime Day is finally here and we're rounding up the best sales and discounts we can find.
Living

Easily Upgrade Any Space In Your Home With Stikwood

The best thing about our Stikwood project? It took a single afternoon.
Fashion & Style

This Line of $400 James Bond-Inspired Swim Trunks is Money(penny)

For the right price, you can earn a license to swim.
Food & Drink

This $550,000 Vacation Comes With Unlimited Tequila, Cigars, and the World’s Most Interesting Man

Hot air balloon ride? Heck yes. A sailing trip? Sure, skippy! Drinking tequila with a hand-rolled cigar in hand? Obviously.
Food & Drink

What is Kombucha: Fermented Tea 101 with Matt Thomas, Founder of Brew Dr. Kombucha

“Kombucha is another word for fermented tea,” says Thomas. “The word came from a doctor practicing in Japan in the 80s, Dr. Kombu. ‘Cha’ means tea.”
Food & Drink

Shaken, Not Stirred: The Manual’s Guide to Cocktail Shakers

Spirit-forward drinks like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned necessitate stirring, but by and large, if you're making a multi-ingredient cocktail, you're going to need to shake it up.