Best American Craft Whiskey Under $50By Jake Emen
In the early years of the craft whiskey revolution, consumers were faced with a difficult choice. To branch out and try a product made by a small or upstart distillery, you had to be willing to pay a premium. At the same time, that premium price often came alongside an under-aged whiskey. As you forked over a wad of cash to try something new, something undoubtedly cheaper and perhaps better from a legacy producer was staring back at you on the shelf.
However, those investments into craft distilleries have been bearing fruit more recently. Maturing stock has been reaching greater ages, and with increases to production, prices have come down. For many craft distilleries, they’re now able to release better whiskey at a lower price than what they were doing previously. Now, that same choice at the liquor store isn’t always as difficult.
While you might never find your local craft producer in the bargain bin — nor should you, necessarily — you can find any number of deals on craft whiskey under $50. Prices vary, so only bottles reliably found at or under that price point were included.
American Craft Whiskey Under $50
Castle & Key bided its time, not releasing any whiskey until it reached a minimum four years of age. With a huge scale of production, the distillery has been able to hit the ground running with loads of supply at affordable prices. Restoration Rye is released in batches, with a total of three different releases thus far coming in around $40 apiece. The rye fits in wonderfully alongside what the big boys can release in the same price range.
Catoctin Creek has made a steady march forward over the years in terms of both the quality and quantity of what it’s able to release. With another recent expansion under its belt, there’s no sign of slowing down, either. The signature Roundstone Rye is priced at $40 and you can now count on finding it pretty widely around the country. The 92-proof single-barrel Distiller’s Edition is worth snagging if you see it, and sits at the $50 boundary.
Cedar Ridge is a great example of all of the aforementioned points: older stock, increases in production and lower prices. A bottled-in-bond whiskey always signifies a craft distillery reaching a certain mark of legitimacy in its evolution. This year marked the first time that Cedar Ridge’s Bottled-in-Bond was released outside of home state Iowa. It comes in at $50. Meanwhile, the distillery’s flagship Iowa Bourbon, which is more widely available, comes in around $35 or $40. Consider that in Iowa, it’s a bottle that outsells Jim Beam Original and Maker’s Mark.
Dry Fly may be better known for its Wheat Whiskey, as it makes one of the finer examples you’ll find on shelves anywhere in the country. But its 101 Washington Bourbon is no slouch, and its age has continued to be bumped up. Bottled at 50.5% ABV, this wheated bourbon is a worthy change of pace and a solid value around $45.
FEW was among the early wave of craft distilleries to make its presence felt nationally. While its experiments and collaborations have made waves as of late — such as bourbon proofed with cold brew coffee — the distillery’s staple lineup remains strong. FEW Bourbon is a reliable craft whiskey choice you can find widely available, and a good way to spend $40 or $45.
As the years have gone on, High West has incorporated more and more of its self-distilled juice into its whiskeys. The current Double Rye expression is a blend of 95% rye (up to nine years of age from MGP), and its own 80% rye, 20% malted rye, with a minimum two years of age. With a price tag around $35, you can use this as a go-to in cocktails calling for a spicy rye without fretting one bit over the value.
For many early craft whiskey drinkers, Hudson Whiskey’s Baby Bourbon, might have been among your first dabbles into the category. But that 100% corn bourbon is gone baby, gone. In its place is Bright Lights, Big Bourbon. At $40, it’s a 750ml bottle filled with more mature whiskey replacing the brand’s former younger and more expensive 375ml release. The exact proposition we mentioned at the top.
New Riff is another distillery which is reaping the rewards of some serious early on patience. The brand didn’t release a drop of whiskey until it was bonded. As a result, everything they do is aged a minimum of four years. Notably the whiskey is either 50% ABV or is released at cask strength. However, the flagship bourbon shouldn’t set you back more than $40 or $45. In fact, you might even be able to score a Single Barrel Cask Strength edition hovering around $50.
NY Distilling is at the forefront of New York’s producer-led Empire Rye category. The distillery took its time with Ragtime Rye, not releasing the craft whiskey until it was aged for a minimum of three years in full-size barrels. While a Bottled in Bond edition is also now available, just over our price limit, the core Ragtime Rye sets you back just $40.
Sonoma Distilling puts a signature spin on its bourbon, as well as its rye, with cherrywood smoke. The Cherrywood Smoked Bourbon is made from a mash bill of 67% corn, 20% rye, and 13% cherrywood-smoked barley. Aged for a minimum of two years, it’s bottled at 47.8% ABV. The cherry profile and hit of spice from the rye in the mash bill give the whiskey a bit of a ready-made Old Fashioned quality. It’s a fine craft whiskey under $50.
Still Austin uses all Texas grain in its mash bill, with 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley. The distillery wields a powerful column still and practices slow proofing, a surefire way to help coax a spirit to its finest point and smooth away rough edges. Expect much more from the distillery in the near future as stock comes of age rapidly in Texas’s climate. But in the meantime, enjoy the flagship at just $40.
You’ll love spotting the brand’s recognizable rectangular bottles on the shelf once you know how good the liquid is inside. Aged for a minimum of five years in 53-gallon barrels, Woodinville’s bourbon has brought home a number of awards in recent years. For just $40 or so, you can find out for yourself.
This wheated bourbon from Wyoming has long been a go-to among the best bourbons made outside of Kentucky. It’s aged for a minimum of five years in full-size barrels, and at just $35, you can put it up alongside your similarly priced wheaters from Kentucky for both quality and value and it holds its own.
Ready to grab a bottle or two of craft whiskey under $50?
Want to enjoy Distiller ad-free? Join Distiller Pro today to support the Distiller platform and keep ads off of your screen.