The Best Everyday Bourbons

Five under-the-radar bottles that will raise your home bar—but not your budget

Looking for a few new bottles for your bar? Stacie Stewart can help. The beverage manager at Whiskey Dry, chef Edward Lee’s soon-to-open Louisville, Kentucky, bourbon-and-burger bar, has spent her career honing her palate in the bourbon capital of the world—from Proof on Main, which puts its bar staff through annual bourbon intensives, to Lee’s MilkWood restaurant. We asked her to share her favorite everyday bottles, all of which cost less than $50.


“Beam has plenty of high-profile products—Jim Beam, Booker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden… Baker’s is the unsung hero. You never hear anybody going on about it, but it’s the smoothest product they make. It’s a little bit on the sweet side, but not a straight-up sugary, candy sweet. It’s rich like sorghum molasses, with a tiny bit of spice. It has this long finish that’s toasty, with a little coffee and earth.”


Henry McKenna Single Barrel

“What I like about this one is the bracing clove-and-mint spice. It catches you off guard, in a good way. There’s also just a little bit of bright, acidic bitter orange. The nose is fresh-cut grass. I don’t want to say it’s creamy, but it has a nice viscosity.”

Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Small Batch

“It’s a high rye whiskey, so you get that spicy rye up front, coupled with burnt sugar and caramel. It has a warm, chocolate roundness, and a nice, smoky finish. The rye and the chocolate together make it a good whiskey to drink at the end of a meal.”

Very Old Barton 90 Proof

“It’s very affordable, but also very well balanced, with a nice, tasty caramel roundness and just a little bit of burn. For an economy whiskey, it’s surprisingly not hot. Jim Murray, in his Whiskey Bible, calls it ‘one of the most dangerously drinkable whiskeys in the world.’”

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

“This is high proof whiskey, but you almost can’t tell. It’s smooth, with very little burn. It’s wheaty and bready like Champagne. The middle of the palate is big, round, and butterscotchy.”