12 Best Small-Batch Bourbons Under $40

The bourbon industry is experiencing something of a heyday at the moment, but understanding characteristics such as mash bill, cask strength, and bottled-in-bond can be overwhelming to newcomers to the spirit. There is one commonly heard attribute, however, that seems to evoke a certain level of status. The words "small-batch" on a label are a pleasant sight for bourbon connoisseurs, but what does it even mean, and does it really matter?

Well, according to New Riff Distilling, most bourbons fall under the category of "standard barrel," meaning the whiskey follows the universal guidelines of bourbon making. Another classification is "single barrel." These whiskeys are bottled from one individual barrel, as opposed to being blended with other bourbons to achieve consistency, which is what takes place to make a standard barrel bourbon.

Small-batch bourbons combine the best of both worlds. New Riff also says there is no legal definition of small-batch bourbons, but they are typically made through a blend of select few single-barrel bourbons. This reaches the consistency desired in standard barrels while also retaining the richness and robustness of single barrels.

Despite what you may assume, small-batch bourbons are not automatically expensive. Because there is no concrete requirement to be classified as a small-batch bourbon, exorbitant price tags are not necessarily justified. There are plenty of small-batch bourbons that are more than affordable, so here are a few to keep an eye out for to help you broaden your bourbon IQ.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace is a powerhouse of the bourbon world. Not only is this bourbon produced at the oldest continuously running bourbon distillery in the world, but it also stakes claim to other legendary bourbon brands including Blanton's, E.H. Taylor, and Van Winkle. Buffalo Trace got its name from the reverence of the origins of the American pioneers who expanded westward, following the tracks left behind by the buffalo herds moving in the same direction. Buffalo Trace works to encapsulate that independent spirit and every bottle of their flagship bourbon accomplishes just that.

Buffalo Trace is not only a great-tasting small-batch bourbon with a finish that Wine Enthusiast Magazine describes as lush and long, but it has also earned many accolades, including Gold at the 2022 Las Vegas Global Spirits Award as well as Gold from the American Whiskey Masters in 2021 (per the brand). You would think a whiskey with such acclaim would come at a hefty price, but the average price of a bottle of Buffalo Trace Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey is just $36, per Wine-Searcher.

Old Grand Dad

Speaking of iconic bourbons, Old Grand Dad is as well-established a brand as they come. This brand is now owned and produced by the James Beam Distilling Co. but was founded by Basil Hayden Sr., another name synonymous with quality bourbon. What makes Old Grand Dad different from most others is its high percentage of rye grain in the mash bill. This contributes a more spice-forward flavor profile that helps to balance out the sweetness from the corn.

The brand was named "Old Grand Dad" by Hayden's grandson Colonel R.R. Hayden, who was keen to keep his grandfather's original 1882 recipe as unaltered as possible. One superb quality of this small-batch bourbon is that it is bottled in bond. This designation was enacted in Federal Law in the late 1800s as one of the first consumer protection laws, according to Wine Enthusiast. Bourbons aged for at least four years, bottled at exactly 100 proof, and made by one distiller in one distillery in one season can be classified as bottled-in-bond.

This higher proof makes Old Grand Dad one of the best bourbons for cocktails, as its high alcohol content allows it to stand up strong to the other ingredients instead of being overpowered. The best part about Ol Grand Dad, however, is its price point. Although this bourbon is historic, has a higher proof, and is a small batch, it remains just $17 a bottle on average (via Wine-Searcher).

Elijah Craig

Elijah Craig is another widely accessible, high-quality small-batch bourbon that can be found in just about any liquor store or bar. Elijah Craig himself was a Baptist preacher and is credited with being the first bourbon distiller to age whiskey in freshly charred oak barrels, a practice that is now the standard of bourbon-making. This was first done all the way back in 1789, and 250 years later, Elijah Craig is still regarded as the "father of bourbon."

250 years is a long time for anything to remain in production, let alone popular. Elijah Craig's small batch is the brand's flagship bourbon and is now owned by the legendary Heaven Hill Distilleries. Elijah Craig has been awarded the Best Small-Batch Bourbon by the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2018 and is actually the official house bourbon of the acclaimed Milk and Honey bar in New York City, per Punch. This bourbon gives you everything you want in a classic bourbon. Its taste, texture, and versatility make it great, but its accessibility at below $40 makes it a can't-miss (via Wine-Searcher).

Four Roses Small-Batch

Four Roses' original bourbon is an excellent and straightforward bottle of whiskey, but their small-batch bourbon takes their craft and quality to another level. This small-batch is made through a blend of four different bourbons, all of which with their own original recipe. Each whiskey is selected by the Master Distiller at the peak of its maturation and blended together in a harmonious balance. Four Roses' small-batch is aged between six and seven years and is bottled at an approachable, but robust 90 proof.

Four Roses Small-Batch has been awarded a variety of accolades, including Silver Kentucky Small-Batch Bourbon at the 2022 World Whiskies Awards as well as an overall rating of 94 points in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in 2021. This rating takes into account every aspect of each bourbon, and Four Roses Small-Batch's rating was broken down into Excellent, Highly Recommended, Finalist, and Great Value. This is a wonderfully tasty bourbon, but it's the "great value" factor that really makes Four Roses Small-Batch well worth a try. According to Wine-Searcher, the average price of a bottle will only cost you $38.

Heaven Hill 6 Year Green Label

This next small-batch bourbon is one you may have trouble finding in stores. If you do come across a bottle, however, take advantage. It will only cost you about $15 (via Gear Patrol).

Heaven Hill Distillery was founded in the 1930s and has since earned a spot on the Mount Rushmore of bourbon distillers. Not only does the distillery produce excellent bourbon under the Heaven Hill brand, but it also claims ownership of brands such as Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Rittenhouse Rye, and Old Fitzgerald. Their old-style bourbon, however, is their namesake small-batch, but there is some interesting lore surrounding it.

If you scroll through the brands and bottles Heaven Hill has to offer on its website, there is no spot reserved for this one, known as the Heaven Hill 6-Year-Old Green Label. According to Bourbon Obsessed, there was another small-batch bottle by Heaven Hill called "White Label," which was sold only in Kentucky and discontinued after a short period on the market. There is concern that the Green Label will be discontinued as well, but, as of now, it is still available for purchase in the Bluegrass State.

Heaven Hill Green Label is made using the same mash bill as their Henry McKenna bottled-in-bond, so the recipe is testament enough to its quality. As for its shockingly low price point, the White Label was also released only in-state as a gift to Kentucky, so the same can be said about the Green Label.

Evan Williams 1783

Evan Williams is the very first commercially distilled bourbon in the state of Kentucky, and although their small-batch is not their original bourbon, it is just as classic, delicious, and inexpensive. The name "1783" is a reference to the year Evan Williams opened Kentucky's first distillery. Since then, the brand has become a titan of the industry, now owned by Heaven Hill Distilleries.

This small-batch bourbon is pulled from less than 200 barrels, and is aged for longer than Evan William's other bourbons, but uses the same mash bill. The many barrels that go into each bottle of 1783 combine for a more balanced bourbon than others. Bourbon is often recognized as a sweeter spirit, but Evan Williams's small-batch is semi-sweet with more of a spice presence on the nose and in flavor. The finish is not as elongated as other small-batch bourbons on this list, described as "lean" and "off-dry." It's definitely a unique small batch that brings something new while remaining classic and familiar, so it's well worth a try and a place in any collection.

This small batch has been awarded countless accolades, including Double Gold at the 2020 SIP Awards as well as "Tried & True" in the 2022 Ultimate Spirits Challenge. The best part is, Evan Williams 1783 only costs $18 a bottle on average, according to Wine-Searcher.

Bowman Brothers Small Batch

Bourbon purists will claim that the spirit can only be considered a bourbon if it is made in the state of Kentucky. Bowman Brothers Small-Batch is made in Virginia, but for any bourbon snob, its quality will surely outweigh its geography.

Bowman Brothers was founded by A. Smith Bowman in 1934 when he built a distillery on his dairy and granary farm. His grain was so successful, he used his abundant supply toward distilling whiskey and the distillery remained Virginia's only bourbon producer until the 1950s. Since its beginning, the distillery has relocated to Fredericksburg and is still family-owned.

Bowman Brothers Small-Batch most recently won a Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2020 and first place in the International Whiskey Competition in the same year. Bowman Brothers Small-Batch is an excellent whiskey distilled three times to achieve a uniquely silky-smoothness. For bourbon collectors, it's a must-try not only because of its caliber, but because it may be the best bourbon outside of Kentucky. The average price of a bottle of Bowman Brothers Small-Batch is just $36 (via Wine-Searcher).

Wyoming Whiskey

Here is another excellent small-batch bourbon that does not call the Bluegrass State its home. Wyoming Whiskey is one of the youngest bourbon brands on this list, only established in 2006 by Brad and Kate Mead. The Meads are ranchers in Wyoming and decided they wanted to start making bourbon, so they turned to David Defazio and he's been making whiskey ever since. Wyoming Whiskey Small-Batch has been given a 95 rating by the Whiskey Cast as well as Four Stars by the Spirits Journal.

Wyoming Small-Batch is different from most other bourbons not only because of the location it is made, but because the natural resources in that location create different flavors and textures. Of course, the mash bill of Wyoming Small-Batch still has a majority of corn (68%), but the corn and other grain supply in Wyoming as well as the water is taken from the limestone aquifer that is millions of years old and hasn't been touched by sunlight for over 6,000 years. In a trade as simplistic and straightforward as bourbon making, every ingredient counts and Wyoming Small-Batch is putting together the best that its state has to offer.

You would think the specificity of the resources used to make Wyoming Whiskey Small-Batch would cause its price tag to be inflated, but a bottle can still cost you less than $40, per Wine-Searcher.

1792 Small Batch

1792 Small-Batch is made with a high rye mash bill that brings a delicate balance between spice and sweetness. This split in flavor profile is distinct but perfectly proportionate. The barrels used to blend this small batch are hand selected by the Master Distiller and are done so carefully to create this wonderful whiskey that is bold and expressive as well as soft and elegant. 1792 Small-Batch was given a 92.5 point rating in Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible, described with words like attitude and adorable (via 1792 Bourbon).

This bourbon is made at the Barton 1792 Distillery, which still stands and operates as the oldest continually operating bourbon distillery in all of Bardstown, Kentucky, which is one of the hot spots and most historic towns on the Bourbon Trail. There are limited edition releases of 1792 Small-Batch, but you really cannot beat the original, especially at just $31 a bottle (via Wine-Searcher).

Penelope Four Grain

Penelope Bourbon is even newer than Wyoming Whiskey, founded just four years ago in 2018 by Michael Paladini. The origin of the brand came when Paladini's wife, Kerry, learned they were expecting their first child. Paladini wanted to make a spirit that embodied life's simple milestones, so he set off to create one. As for naming the company, Maldini's daughter, Penelope, was the instant inspiration for the brand. Now, Penelope Bourbon is available in half the United States and in four countries.

Technically, Penelope Bourbon is produced in Bardstown, Kentucky, but the brand is headquartered in Roselle, New Jersey, one of the only widely available bourbons to call the Garden State its home. The brand's small-batch bourbon is part of its Four Grain series, the name meaning each bottle contains a blend of three different mash bills each consisting of corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley. These three whiskeys come together to create a trinity of taste and texture, evoking the classic notes you love in a quality bourbon. This small batch is so classic-tasting, Penelope even recommends it be used in your favorite bourbon cocktails.

Since 2018, Penelope Bourbon has been quick to make a name for itself, being named "Best Buy" by Wine Enthusiast" in addition to the Sip Awards' Consumer's Choice Award in 2020. Although Penelope Four Grain is only sold in 26 states, finding a bottle will only cost an average of $37 (via Wine-Searcher).

Russell's Reserve 10-Year

This small-batch is courtesy of Wild Turkey and is named after father and son Jimmy and Eddie Russell whose lineage has been at Wild Turkey for over a century, according to Breaking Bourbon. This small batch is made with the same mash bill as the distillery's flagship bourbon, but every barrel selected to go into the Russell's Reserve blend is aged for a minimum of 10 years, and some even more. With those double-digit years of maturation, the aromas and flavor notes of the bourbon begin to take on those earthy, leather-like qualities. Slight tobacco qualities can be detected underneath the robust caramel and oak found is all quality bourbons. That familiar palate is brought to a spicy, rye-forward, warming finish.

Reserve 10-Year small-batch bourbon takes all of the iconic characteristics of the spirit and brings them to new heights in every regard except price. It may be the best bang-for-your-buck bourbon on this list. For a small batch that is aged for a full decade, the average cost of just $40 is really something to behold, per Wine-Searcher.

Jefferson's Very Small Batch

Jefferson's Bourbon was founded in 1997 by Trey Zoeller, an eighth-generation whisker distiller whose ancestral grandmother was actually arrested in 1799 for illegal production of the spirit. For the past 25 years, Jefferson's Bourbon has been making exceptional whiskey at a fair price in a variety of forms, including their Very Small Batch.

This whiskey is blended from the brand's base bourbon as well as three selected bourbons of all different mash bills and ages. This blend creates a whiskey that will satisfy both bourbon novices and connoisseurs. It is straightforward, consistent, bold, and smooth and is suitable to fulfill any of your bourbon needs.

Not only is Jefferson's Very Small Batch a great whiskey at a very affordable price of $37, per Wine-Searcher, but this brand is also well worth supporting because of its partnership with OCEARCH that started in 2012. This non-profit works to study and track marine wildlife such as great white sharks, tiger sharks, sea turtles, and more in order to monitor the health status of their ecosystems. Jefferson's Very Small Batch is certainly a bargain at its price, no doubt, but it's always a bonus to support a great cause simultaneously.