Referred to as whiskey in the U.S. and Ireland and whisky in Scotland, Canada, and Japan, whiskey can set you back thousands of dollars (via Loving Whiskey). A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, for example, can cost more than $4,000 on the secondary market (via Cool Material). Luckily, not all good whiskey is expensive. There’re plenty of approachable whiskeys on the market that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
From popular whiskeys such as the Jack Daniel’s Black Label to lesser known pours such as The Busker Triple Cask Irish Whiskey, there’s little doubt that budget-friendly whiskey can be good. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit while maneuvering your way around the duds. Whether you enjoy bourbon, wheated whiskey, or rye, with a little know-how you can find a perfectly decent bottle of the stuff without breaking the bank.
With this in mind, here’s our selection of the best cheap whiskey to drink in 2022 for the frugal connoisseur.
How we selected products
When it comes to whiskey, many people think the more expensive the pour, the better. This, however, isn’t always the case. Whiskey is usually pricey due to its long aging time and limited production — two variables that don’t necessarily make good whiskey. And this is great news for whiskey enthusiasts looking for a spirit that’s the right fit for both the taste buds and the pocket.
There’re many different types of whiskey — each with its own unique flavor profile. Since each pour’s classification depends on where it was produced, its mash bill or grain, and the production process, we have kept our list within these parameters. We have also scoured the internet for expert reviews to make sure that our selection is on point with those in the know.
Ready to sample some of the best bottom-shelf whiskey around? Here’s our list of the best cheap whiskeys to drink in 2022.
Best overall cheap whiskey
There is a good reason why so many bartenders stock Old Grand-Dad Bourbon Whiskey — it’s not just affordable but also works well in cocktails and on the rocks. And while today Old Grand-Dad is distilled by Jim Beam, this wasn’t always the case. The pour was once distilled by Basil Hayden Sr. who chose to infuse his bourbon with a high percentage of rye. First bottled in 1882, the whiskey was given its current name by third-generation distiller Basil Hayden Sr.’s grandson, Colonel R.B. Hayden, in honor of his grandfather.
According to the Jim Beam website, the Old Grand-Dad Bourbon Whiskey recipe has changed little over the years, still exhibiting the complex flavors and spiciness of the original recipe. At 80 proof, the whiskey has a mash bill composed of 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. While the high-rye bourbon doesn’t come with an age statement, it’s probably aged for at least two years in new charred American oak barrels, as required of all Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (via Gentlemen Ranters).
Purchase the Old Grand-Dad Bourbon Whiskey from Drizly starting at $19.79 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap Irish whiskey
The Busker Triple Cask Irish Whiskey is a blend of single grain, single malt, and pot still whiskeys. And just as its name suggests, the pour is matured and finished in three different barrels — bourbon, marsala, and sherry. Crafted by the Royal Oak Distillery, the yellow gold-colored whiskey comes with a bold yet smooth body. More specifically, the spirit exudes the aromas of tropical fruit and vanilla and features a flavor profile that’s rich in malt and dark chocolate with hints of toffee, cinnamon, and fudge. The mellow finish is sweet and well-balanced (via Drizly).
The 80-proof whiskey has received an overwhelmingly positive reception, receiving a 94 rating from The Wine Enthusiast. The bottle has also won gold at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (via LWS). The reviewer for Whiskey Fellow has compared The Busker favorably to its similarly-priced competitors, commenting, "I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it, especially since this is an off-the-radar distillery […] It is delicious, anyone can afford it, and I can’t wait to see what else comes out of this distillery."
Purchase The Busker Triple Cask Irish Whiskey from Drizly starting at $26.99 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap Canadian whisky
Crafted from 91% Canadian rye, 8% Old Grand-Dad bourbon, and 1% sherry, the Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch Whisky has been called both unique and exciting. Father John Rayls, who gave the pour an A- for the Whiskey Reviewer, has said that it’s even more complicated than the convoluted recipe suggests — all in a good way. "This stuff has the darkest coloring for a whisky I’ve ever seen," he writes. "On the palate, the sherry announces its presence immediately, despite the mere 1/100 presence."
The brainchild of the Alberta Distillery — the number one rye producer in North America — the 90-proof whiskey features a light to medium nose that exudes hints of vanilla, allspice, and sweet oak. On the palate, the drop is creamy and silky smooth with flavors of honey, oak, dried fruit, cinnamon, and pepper. Finally, the medium finish features rye spice, rye spice, dried dark fruit, and raisiny sweetness (via Whiskey Jug).
Perhaps the reviewer for Adventures in Whiskey, who rated the Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch at 8 out of 10, sums up the experience best, saying, "In the couple of days between the initial tasting and the writing of this post (along with a second tasting), I’ve thought about this whisky and the words ‘interesting’ and ‘different’ keep popping up. An easy recommendation, especially at the [price]".
Purchase the Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch Whisky from Drizly starting at $29.99 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap scotch whisky
Billed as "Scotland’s favorite whisky for over 40 years," The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky is both a great sipper and ideal for cocktails. After all, there’s a good reason why the brand sells 43 million bottles of the stuff in over 90 markets around the globe each year. Blending malt and grain whisky, The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch exudes the aromas of buttery shortbread, candied fruits, and citrus peel. The palate, meanwhile, highlights dried fruit and soft spices with a hint of oak. The pour concludes with a smooth and well-balanced finish.
The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky has received mostly positive reviews, with many scotch enthusiasts highlighting that it’s a great deal for the price. OdysseusUnbound, who reviewed the spirit for Connosr, rated it at 74 out of 100, saying, "The Famous Grouse won’t change your life, but it is a solid introduction to scotch whisky." Meanwhile, Tony Sachs from Liquor.com has commented that "this bottle’s reasonable price renders it perfect for everyday drinking and mixing. And it’s a nice change of pace from its more-common competing blends, such as Johnnie Walker and Dewar’s."
Purchase The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky from Drizly starting at $23.99 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap Tennessee whiskey
Also often referred to as simply Jack Daniel’s Black Label, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey needs little introduction. Produced at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, which dates back to 1866, this bottle is one of the world’s most recognizable whiskeys. Interestingly, Lynchburg is a dry county so while JD can be distilled there, consuming it is prohibited (via Whiskey Jug).
With a mash bill of 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye, Jack Daniel’s Black Label is similar to a bourbon. However, an additional step in the pour’s distillation process makes it unique. During the Lincoln County Process, the whiskey gets filtered through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal, which contributes to its slightly smoky finish (via Breaking Bourbon).
So how does Jack Daniel’s Black Label measure up? According to Eric from Breaking Bourbon, the whiskey holds up well against its competitors in a similar price range such as Elijah Craig Small Batch and Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. "When looking for a budget whiskey one of the best things a brand can offer are memorable characteristics. Thankfully that is something the standard Jack Daniel’s offers in spades," he writes.
Purchase the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey from Drizly starting at $26.39 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap Japanese whisky
It’s no secret that Japanese whisky isn’t cheap. One of the reasons for the elevated prices is high demand and low supply, particularly as Japanese whisky grows in popularity. Many distilleries stopped production in the ’80s when whisky consumption was overshadowed by the popularity of shochu and beer. And today we are all paying the price (via Havana House).
One of the more affordable Japanese whisky options is the Suntory Whisky Toki. Blending Hakushu single malt and Chita grain whisky from Suntory’s three distilleries — Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita — the Suntory is perfect for Japanese Whiskey Highball (via Master of Malt). In terms of characteristics, the 43-proof blended pour delivers a nose dominated by green apples, basil, and honey. The flavor highlights green grapes, peppermint, grapefruit, and thyme. The finale is subtly sweet and spicy with notes of white pepper, ginger, and vanilla.
Mark from Malt Review has compared the Suntory Whisky Toki to scotch because of its light, grassy flavor notes — we are not exactly sure which scotch he’s referencing here. "We’re used to eye-watering prices from Japanese whiskies. This costs next to nothing," he writes. A reviewer for Scotch Noob agrees, saying, "If you’re like me and enjoy a refreshing highball on a hot summer day but can’t afford to dump Hibiki [whisky that starts at $98] in them, this is your answer." (via Luxe Digital).
Purchase the Suntory Whisky Toki from Drizly starting at $40.24 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap wheated whiskey
With a mash bill of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley, the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky is one of the most recognizable wheated whiskeys around. For those uninitiated, wheated whiskeys are made with wheat instead of rye, which gives them a somewhat sweeter and softer profile (via American Bourbon Association). When crafting the 90-proof pour, the founder of Maker’s Mark, Bill Samuels, Sr., was trying to create a whisky that suited his personal tastes.
With a distinct bottle hand-dipped in the brand’s signature red wax, the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky features a nose that highlights the scents of vanilla, sweet oak, bright fruit, and wheat. On the palate, it exudes the flavors of vanilla, oak, and fruity essence. And the finish is smooth and creamy with hints of spice.
Whiskey enthusiasts have praised the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky as a great all-rounder. Josh Peters who reviewed the whiskey for Whiskey Jug has given it 87 out of 100, saying, "I like Maker’s Mark. It doesn’t have quite the depth and complex character that you can get with some bourbons, but it’s well balanced, delicious, and easy to sip." Eric from Breaking Bourbon agrees, commenting, "It may not have an incredibly deep or unique palate, but it has some decent flavors that mingle well and finish with a nice burst."
Purchase Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky from Drizly starting at $31.99 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap rye whiskey
Crafted by Heaven Hill Distillery, which set up shop in Kentucky in 1935, Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey is made with a mash bill that contains 51% rye, 37% corn, and 12% malted barley (via Breaking Bourbon). This explains the fact that this whiskey features a slightly spicier flavor profile than bourbon, which is predominantly made from corn. Aside from the gentle kick, the mahogany-colored spirit leads with the aromas of toffee, dried fruit, and sweet peppers. Its flavor highlights the tastes of cocoa, vanilla, citrus, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The whiskey concludes with a lingering maple-like spiciness.
One of the only two bottled in bond ryes (the other is E.H. Taylor Straight Rye), Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey distinguishes itself by its fruit-forward flavor profile that’s relatively low on spice for a rye. According to Jordan from Breaking Bourbon, this is precisely what makes this 50-proof whiskey perfect for bourbon drinkers looking to explore rye. Tony Sachs, who reviewed the spirit for Liquor.com, has praised the Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey for its wide appeal, saying, "Beginners will enjoy its sweet flavor and relatively gentle spice, but it’s sophisticated and complex enough for rye connoisseurs."
Purchase the Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey from Drizly starting at $28.99 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap whiskey for sipping
Don’t be confused if you see the Rebel Kentucky Straight Bourbon sitting right alongside the Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Rebel Bourbon has recently rebranded the pour, which means that both versions of the bottle are still available on the shelves. You can rest assured, however, that the content remains exactly the same (via Gentlemen Ranters).
While it’s made with undisclosed amounts of wheat, corn, and malted barley, according to Gentlemen Ranters, it’s Rebel Kentucky Straight Bourbon’s high wheat-to-rye ratio that makes it such a hit as a sipper. Eric from Breaking Bourbon has called the 80-proof pour "an extremely approachable bourbon that sports the classic vanilla, oak, and leather notes, that leans a touch towards the sweeter side." All in all, it’s little wonder that the whiskey has won the Platinum Medal at the SIP Awards, 2018, and the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition, 2016.
Purchase the Rebel Kentucky Straight Bourbon from Drizly starting at $17.99 for 750 milliliters.
Best flavored cheap whiskey
From cinnamon to maple, flavored whiskey is usually relatively affordable. And the Select Club Pecan Praline Canadian Whisky is no exception. Priced at around $25 per bottle, the pour is smooth enough to be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails. Crafted with natural pecan flavors, the 70-proof spirit is buttery and caramelly without being overly sweet (via Select Club).
Jeff Schwartz, who reviewed Select Club Pecan Praline Canadian Whisky for Whiskeyfellow, has given the spirit a favorable review, emphasizing that it has an incredibly thick mouthful and is almost like drinking cream. And there’s nothing wrong with this, provided that you know what you’re buying. "I can see sipping this with many non-whiskey drinking friends and having them enjoy the hell out of it. It would make a nice campfire drink," Jeff writes, adding that the bottle went down a treat with Mrs. Whiskeyfellow.
Purchase the Select Club Pecan Praline Canadian Whisky from Drizly starting at $25.88 for 750 milliliters.
Best cheap whiskey for cocktails
Also sometimes referred to as Yellow Label, the Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey blends up to 10 different bourbon recipes, each with unique characteristics. The result is a highly versatile pour that is perfect in cocktails. Aged for a minimum of five years, the 80-proof bourbon comes with a nose that’s rich in floral notes, fruit, gentle spice, and honey. The crisp and smooth flavor, meanwhile, highlights fruit with hints of apples and pear. The pour concludes with a mellow and long finish (via Drizly).
Josh Peters from The Whiskey Jug has said that Four Roses Yellow is a surprisingly budget-friendly bourbon considering how refined it is. "It has all of the spicy rye and sweet bourbon notes that we’ve come to expect from Four Roses and is a much higher quality bourbon than almost all of the ‘bottom shelf’ bourbons you’re going to run across," he writes. Nick from Breaking Bourbon adds that the balanced flavor of Four Roses Yellow makes it perfect for mixing into cocktails. "Combined with its low proof, Yellow is very easy to sip and integrates well into cocktails without overtaking the other ingredients," he concludes.
Purchase the Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Drizly starting at $24.63 for 750 milliliters.