Whiskey on a Budget: Good Drinks at Great Prices
Got Pappy van Winkle taste on a Jim Beam budget? Then learning how to drink whiskey on a budget is going to be key to your happiness. If not you’re not doomed to a life of disappointing whiskey and mixed drinks. There are some great budget whiskeys out there that will do justice to your bar cart. Here are some tips for indulging your inner whiskey geek — without breaking the bank.
1. Is It Great — Or Does It Have Great Marketing?
Some bottles of whiskey are charging you more for fancy packaging and elaborate marketing than for a high-quality flavor profile. A bottle like Old Grand-Dad Bonded may look bottom shelf (and have the price point to match), but its rich cinnamon and oak notes taste solidly mid-tier.
So don’t get sucked in by the window dressing and end up overpaying for mediocre whiskey.
2. Sample Before You Commit
Before you lay down a stack of cash for the next big thing … will you even like it? Of course, the whiskey or bourbon collector wants to have a drool-worthy shelf of high-end bottles. But there’s no point if you don’t even like the stuff.
Getting a bourbon at a bar or tasting room is more expensive by the ounce, this is true. But it’s better to spend $15 to sample that new Japanese whiskey that everyone’s talking about rather than blowing your whole bourbon budget on a bottle and finding out you don’t like it. Plus, if you avoid the fancy whiskey bars and hit up the dives instead, you’ll find better prices.
3. Beautiful at Every Age
The older your spirits, the more expensive they may be. Many of the brands that produce beloved aged whiskeys also have younger versions that may be within your budget. Sazerac 18-Year-Old, for example, has a younger cousin in the six-year Sazerac Rye — considered an essential to any collection. Plus, the rye is less than half the price of the 18-year-old.
So if there’s something you have your eye on, see if there’s a “younger” version that’s more affordable.
4. Don’t Discount Blended Scotch
Single malt scotch gets all the press. And it’s great! But blended scotch can still bring you beautiful woody notes and layers of flavor. And you may find it at a price that’s better suited to your whiskey budget.
While some snobs will turn their noses up at a blend, you know better. In fact, the skills necessary to make a satisfactory blend are hard-earned. And it’s even harder to blend scotches consistently over batches. Blends can provide a huge range of flavors and profiles, so there’s bound to be something you like. Try a long-beloved scotch like the Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky.
5. Sip the Good Stuff, Mix the Cheap Stuff
You may love whiskey on the rocks, but sometimes a refreshing mixed drink is just what the doctor ordered. (Fire that doctor.)
Save the pricey stuff for sipping, and use up the cheap bourbon for your Old Fashioned. But remember that inexpensive doesn’t have to mean crummy! A respectable and affordable bottle of Bulleit Bourbon will make a delicious cocktail. And you can save the high-end whiskey for sipping neat or with a single perfect ice cube.
(Although TBH, Bulleit is great for sipping too.)
6. Enjoy the Journey
If you had an unlimited budget, you could buy everything on the market. But where’s the fun in that? Half the joy of being a whiskey nerd is the chase and the discovery.
The world of affordable whiskey is a great place to be. It means you have to budget for your hobby and get creative in the way you explore it. It’s a journey, not a destination. Also pairing a great strain like Mimosa or Gelato while you enjoy your whiskey will always elevate the experience regardless of your budget.
We’ll drink to that.