The 12 Best Low-Proof Bourbons To Buy

In the world of bourbon, many enthusiasts have long waxed lyrical about the delights of high-proof or cask-strength bourbon expressions. But in this quest for intense and bold bourbons, low-proof options often get overlooked, which we think is a great shame. Low-proof bourbons may not possess the robust qualities of their high-proof counterparts, but they are perfect for those who appreciate a mellower type of bourbon. They are also ideal for those new to whiskey who haven't overcome the burning sensation that some drinkers can struggle with.

There is no strict definition of what makes a low-strength bourbon. Some would say it's anything below 100 proof, but we don't think this is what you'll be looking for, which is why we've opted for offerings in the 80- to 89-proof region for an exploration of lower-strength bourbon. At this level, you'll find plenty of spirits that have subtlety and nuance, which may be a little more suited to your palate and experience. 

The following collection of low-proof bourbons were selected based on personal sipping experience, with the distiller's dedication to quality and popular opinion in mind. Whether you're new to the world of spirits or just looking for something more laid back, these bourbons prove that sometimes, less is more.

Old Grand-Dad

Old Grand-Dad is one of the best low-shelf offerings you can buy and is perfect for those who prefer a high-rye bourbon. If you don't know, bourbon must be made from a minimum of 51% corn, with the rest being various grains such as rye, barley, and wheat. Here, rye makes up 27% of the mash bill, which is quite high, and corn is 63%. The rest of the mix comes from barley, giving it a gentle and well-rounded flavor. Due to its relatively low cost and being an 80-proof bourbon, this is often seen as a great entry point to the spirit.

The first thing you'll notice with Old Grand-Dad is its beautiful amber-gold color, which invites you into its aroma and flavor. The smell holds hints of pepper and more subtle notes of vanilla, fruity sweetness, and oak. The high rye content puts a spiciness on the palate without being overwhelming. Once you get past it, you'll be hit with flavors of toffee.

With this being a low-proof, budget whiskey, there isn't a lot of complexity or depth, but that's to be expected. However, it's surprisingly well-balanced and ideal for those taking their first steps into the world of bourbon. 

Old Fitzgerald

Here, we have another 80-proof bourbon, but one that has a significantly different mash bill from that of Old Grand-Dad. The corn content is similar at 68%, but the rest comprises 20% wheat and 12% malted barley. Produced by the Heaven Hill Distillery, it's a highly approachable bourbon, and Old Fitzgerald is known for its smoother and lighter drinking experience. In the glass, it has quite a dark color, which isn't too dissimilar to honey. On the nose, the lack of rye means you don't get much spiciness, but instead, you receive warm, sweet aromas of caramel and honey with a slight hint of oak.

Many love the palate of this whiskey for its smoothness and velvety mouthfeel. Beyond its texture, tastes of caramel and a touch of toffee and butterscotch come through. There is some spice there, but it's only very subtle, which is ideal for those seeking a milder whiskey. The finish is quite clean, too, adding to its appeal. For those who aren't sure whether they'll like bourbon or not, Old Fitzgerald is a good acid test because of its mild palate. Due to that versatility, it's a great bourbon to use as a mixer or in cocktails.

Four Roses

The exact mash bill of Four Roses's 80-proof bourbon isn't known, as the company combines two different blends into its expressions. We know it's high-rye whiskey at around 20 to 35%, with 5% of barley making up the rest of the mix. Four Roses bourbon bottles have proven popular with new bourbon drinkers and whiskey enthusiasts alike. The whiskey is gentle on the nose, and you'll get a lovely array of fruit notes. It can also be quite herbal in its smell, and there is also a touch of spice and oak. The beauty of low-proof bourbons is that they allow you to truly appreciate the aroma without being overwhelmed. The nose is quite complex, and that continues to the palate.

The spice that hits you can be slightly surprising, considering it's only subtle on the nose. Beyond that, you get some beautiful floral flavors before finding the delicious honey and caramel. It doesn't have the smoothest mouthfeel, but there's little to complain about here. The finish isn't quite as long as Four Roses would have you believe, but neither is it short. For an affordable low-proof bourbon, Four Roses has a lovely balance of sweetness and spice, giving it a slightly different taste profile than many other offerings.

Old Crow

Old Crow has a few similarities with Old Grand-Dad. The two are 80-proof whiskeys made by the Jim Beam Distillery. Another similarity is its use of rye in the mash bill, but the makeup is much different, with 75% corn along with 13% rye and 12% malted barley. Old Crow is known for being a budget-friendly whiskey, but there's nothing wrong with that, as it proves cheap doesn't automatically mean low quality.

Old Crow has a storied history, but production problems in the late 20th century led to a decline in quality and eventual takeover by Jim Beam. The whiskey made under its name today is still highly enjoyable, even if it is a little light on the nose. The aromas are quite tame, but you get some nice citrus smells along with corn, honey, and oak. The flavor profile is straightforward, with some mild sweetness from the corn and nice hints of vanilla, toffee, and oak. Relatively short and surprisingly spicy, the finish will creep up on you. Is this the nicest bourbon you've ever going to taste? No, it's not, but we still think it's good value for money, given its budget price tag. While it may not be the Old Crow of, well, old, it's the perfect whiskey for anyone looking to pick up a cheap bourbon with an enjoyable taste profile.

Benchmark No.8

This offering from the Buffalo Trace distillery is another that comes in at the 80-proof mark. It's the distillery's budget-friendly offering but doesn't compromise on flavor. Corn makes up the huge majority of this whiskey, with the rest of the mash bill being rye and barley. Despite its lack of aging, Benchmark No.8 has a lovely light amber hue. You get a pleasant combination of many aromas on the nose, with corn, vanilla, and caramel being three of the most notable. There is also a slight oak taste along with grain and nuts. It doesn't have the most beautiful aroma ever, but it's still quite impressive.

Once you get to taste this bourbon, you'll appreciate Benchmark for a well-balanced flavor profile. Those smells of corn, vanilla, and caramel strongly carry through to the palate. While the taste is a little muted, those sweeter notes are counterbalanced by some hints of pungency and oak. A surprisingly long finish carries a gentle warmth throughout, along with some earthy and vanilla notes. Overall, Benchmark is enjoyable and ranks among the underrated bourbons you need to buy, but whiskey enthusiasts will be left hoping for a bit more depth.

Jim Beam White Label

Jim Beam White Label, also simply known as Jim Beam bourbon, ranks as the most well-known bourbon on this list. It's an iconic whiskey that is not only popular in America but also around the world. It's a great representation of Kentucky straight bourbon and will be the first whiskey that passed the lips of many enthusiasts. Part of the reason for its popularity is just how approachable it is, with this being an 80-proof expression. It has the same mash bill as the Old Crow above, but differences in its maturation and storage help to impart a higher level of quality.

On the nose, you get some inviting vanilla and caramel aromas along with toasted oak. The stage is set for a classic bourbon experience with a golden amber color that sits pretty in any glass you pour. On the palate, the White Label offers a well-balanced combination of flavors. The sweetness of the corn comes through initially, followed by caramel. Deeper in, you get some subtle spiciness and nutty notes. There's nothing deeply complex here, but that's the beauty of it. While there are nicer low-proof bourbons out there, the history of Jim Beam with White Label, its affordability, and its quality means this is a must-buy for anyone starting their whiskey journey. It has stood the test of time and is a great gateway whiskey to higher-strength expressions.

Wild Turkey 81

Here we go above the legal minimum of 80-proof for bourbons, but as you can guess by the name, not by much. This Wild Turkey expression is an 81-proof bourbon and another from one of the best American whiskey brands. More known for its 101, this Wild Turkey is another that is approachable and gives you high quality without breaking the bank. As with all Wild Turkey bourbons, the 81-proof is made from a high-rye mash bill, and that helps to give it some tingling on the nose. Along with that, there are beautiful threads of caramel and vanilla that'll get you excited about what's to come. 

It has the mellowness you can expect from an 81-proof bourbon but still prevents a harmonious blend of flavors. Despite being low-proof, Wild Turkey 81 boasts a smoothness that comes with lower-proof spirits and the complexity you'd associate with traditional bourbons. You could happily sip this neat without adding it to mixers or cocktails, making it a great bourbon for those looking for something that isn't overly intense but still has plenty of flavor. It caters to a wide range of palates and is a strong choice for anyone looking for an everyday bourbon.

Brother's Bond

Created by actors Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley, most commonly known for their roles in "The Vampire Diaries," this is a relatively new player in the bourbon scene. Its celebrity backing would have meant little if this whiskey didn't deliver, but instead, it stands on its own and has gained a host of admirers. The mash bill here is quite interesting, as four grains are used. The level of corn is 65%, with rye at 22%. The rest comprises wheat and barley, but exact percentages aren't given. High wheat and high rye bourbons have varying characteristics, leading to a blend of the two developing an interesting, unique taste profile.

The nose gives you familiar caramel, vanilla, and spice notes before you get on to the complex flavor. What's impressive with Brother's Bond is that you get that depth of flavor that some think only high-proof bourbons are capable of. Toasted sugar hits the palate before tasting some oak and an impressive undercurrent of cinnamon and nutmeg. It's an impressive combination but one that doesn't overwhelm, especially considering this is an 80-proof bourbon. A little more expensive than a few other offerings in this list, it's easy to see why. Brother's Bond certainly holds its own and is more than just a celebrity-backed spirit.

Basil Hayden's

Basil Hayden's 80-proof Bourbon is the highest entry from the Jim Beam distillery. The plan was to make a lighter and more approachable bourbon, and that's exactly what it delivered. This 80-proof whiskey is one of the mildest expressions you can get, and if you don't like Basil Hayden, then it's unlikely you'll want to delve much further into the world of bourbon. The first thing you'll notice is its beautiful amber color; then, on the nose, you'll be graced with a nice variety of aromas. The high rye content of 27% gives the smell plenty of herbal spice and pepper notes.

The taste profile is understandably gentle but with a pleasant spice that dominates the flavor. Beyond that are some accents of vanilla, honey, and some citrus. This creates a harmonious balance of sweetness and spice. Basil Hayden's has a clean taste and is surprisingly smooth, though the finish is short. You can't go wrong looking for a lighter and more subtle whisky. It's one of the most versatile bourbons out there today, which is equally suited to sipping neat or adding to a cocktail. Additionally, the bottle is one of the most attractive in the world of bourbon, increasing its appeal as a great gift.

Tincup Fourteener

We found Tincup Fourteener the hardest to place on the list, as it's a newcomer to the world of whiskey and also quite expensive. However, this 84-proof Colorado bourbon has quickly gained attention due to its fine taste and unique story. The bourbon's name is a double entendre as it not only references the age of the whiskey but also the 58 peaks in Colorado above 14,000 feet, commonly referred to as Fourteeners. 

Of course, the uniqueness of a Colorado whiskey means little if it falls short of a taste test. Starting in the glass, you not only notice the deep amber hue of the whiskey but also the rich legs it has. It has an intriguing mix of vanilla and toasted oak on the nose, with a hint of citrus. It is made with a rye composition of 32%, and you get the warmth that is provided in both the nose and on your first taste.

The profile of Tincup Fourteener is well-balanced in honeyed sweetness harmonizing with the rye minerality. The more subtle influences come from dried fruit and baking spices, like cinnamon. The finish is long and lingering, leaving you with a great first impression. For those looking for something different, a bourbon made with Rocky Mountain water and matured at high altitude ticks all the right boxes.

Evan Williams Black Label

Officially called Evan Williams Bourbon, the Black Label expression is a timeless classic and the go-to everyday whiskey for many enthusiasts. You can never go wrong with a bottle of Evan Williams, especially with its affordable price tag. Produced by the same Heaven Hill Distillery that makes Old Fitzgerald, this 86-proof bourbon has a wide appeal that has helped to make it extremely popular. Once poured, you'll enjoy its amber color before getting aromas of caramel and vanilla, with a subtle hint of toasted oak.

Upon tasting, those caramel and vanilla smells carry on to the palate, but those sweeter notes are beautifully balanced out by quite strong notes of oak and some spice you'd expect from a 12% rye content. There is a surprising level of complexity here, but without overwhelming the palate. The finish is warm, long, and smooth, which belies its budget price tag. It adds up to an excellent choice for those looking for an everyday bourbon that won't break the bank. Is it the best bourbon in the world? No, it's not, but the Black Label is impressive and versatile. If you've never bought a whiskey and are wondering what the perfect starter bourbon would be, you can't go wrong with a bottle of Evan Williams.

Old Forester 86

Not quite as cheap as the Evan Williams but still highly affordable, Old Forester 86 is our number one pick. This 86-proof whiskey comes from the renowned Brown-Forman distillery, known for its rich history of producing quality whiskey, including Jack Daniel's. The brand also has a fascinating history, as we can thank Old Forester's founder for first bottling bourbon. The 86 is its most accessible entry, and if you like this, you'll enjoy sampling all of its other offerings.

The mash bill here is 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley, which gives you a nose of caramel and vanilla with more subtle hints of oak. It sets the scene for an enjoyable drinking experience. You'll get some initial sweetness of caramel and butterscotch before this is complemented by gentle spice from the rye. There is an oak influence that adds depth to the whiskey but without overpowering the overall taste. It's a bourbon that perfectly balances sweetness and spice that many other expressions struggle with.

At 86-proof, it provides a mellow experience but still offers some of the heat you get with high-proof whiskeys. It does that without being overwhelming, making it perfect for whiskey novices. All the bourbons in this list are approachable for those looking for a less intense sip. However, with its affordable price tag and well-balanced palate, the Old Forester 86 claims our top spot on the best low-proof bourbons you can buy.


In addition to our own enjoyable memories of savoring low-proof bourbons, this selection was based on the dedication to quality exhibited by every product's distillery in creating these particular tipples. The featured mash-bill contents played a significant role in deciding what determines an excellent low-proof bourbon, while the reputation earned by each of the featured products was a factor in deciding their inclusion as well. Finally, cost and accessibility were considerations that deserved attention when specifying which bourbons were worthy of this list.