10 Best Whiskey’s Under $50 to Buy for the Holidays


While the Bourbon Bonanza craze that was happening just a few short years ago has started to slow down a bit, a lot of great distilleries have continued to produce some really exciting top-notch whiskey and bourbon options at reasonable prices.

This is great news for whiskey enthusiasts as it’s possible to get your hands on some top-tier options without having to spend a small fortune – and without having to reach for the “specialty” whiskeys that have Jim or Jack in the name.

Below we highlight 10 of the best options that you want to try the next time that you’re looking for something a little different.

Redbreast 12-Year Old Irish Whiskey

At first blush this stout little bottle of whiskey (Irish whiskey) looks like something that your grandpa or great grandpa probably had tucked away in the liquor cabinet somewhere – but you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the old-school look of this label and bottle means there’s an old-school flavor profile here.

This 12-year-old whiskey is super complex but buttery smooth, with a lot of grassy and smoky notes about the nose while you get a touch of cinnamon, grape, and honey towards the back end of the finish.

This is a rock solid Irish whiskey option at less than $50.

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Bourbon

The Kentucky bourbon in this bottle is said to be aged only eight years, making it some of the youngest “brown stuff” you’re going to find coming out of Kentucky outside of the mass-produced bourbon Jim and Jack are putting out like clockwork.

Pepper and spice with a little bit of honey on the back end make this a real treat. You aren’t ever going to want to use this as a mixer for fear of diluting its rock solid flavor profile.

W.L. Weller

Produced by the same folks behind Buffalo Trace whiskey (something we touch on in just a little bit), this is a super smooth 90 proof bourbon that stands head and shoulders apart from the rest of the pack, not only because of its soft and mellow flavor profile but also because of its ultra burnt orange color.

A lot more mild than you’d expect especially at 90 proof; it works well with cocktails but doesn’t sit uncomfortably in a glass neat or with ice either.

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

This small batch bourbon is a real sneaky favorite of whiskey enthusiasts that know great booze when they taste it. The fact that you can pick up this bourbon for about half of the $50 limit we established for this list seems almost criminal.

Small batch bourbon from top to bottom, it’s heavy on the caramel and vanilla flavors but has a little bit of a citrus finish towards the back end that makes it really nice. It definitely will burn a little bit sliding down but it has a smooth finish that won’t have you diluting it with a chaser or any ice.

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Considered by many to be one of the “best value” whiskeys money can buy at any price point, Eagle Rare has done something really special with this 10-year-old Kentucky bourbon. It’s spicy (but not too spicy), citrusy (but not too citrusy), and has just the right amount of honey and vanilla two round things out nicely. This tastes like a bourbon that costs two or three times as much as it does.

Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey

Made by the legends behind some of the best Kentucky bourbon ever produced, the Noe family knows a thing or two about putting out top-tier small batch whiskey – and this just might be the very best of the best available at any price point.

In 2015 this whiskey was given the third-place award in the right category but it’s possible that the judges there had had a little too much to drink when they rated this that low. It comes in at a whopping 100 proof (quite a bit higher than some of the other options on this list) which makes it ideal for cocktails but taking it straight up or neat is a pleasure, too.

Buffalo Trace

You will have an almost impossible time finding people that do not love everything Buffalo Trace has to offer, particularly at the sub $50 price point. This is a premium whiskey through and through, hot and spicy but with a smooth caramel kind of finish that is rounded off with just a little bit of orange towards the back end.

It doesn’t hurt that it comes in gorgeous bottles and just has that “old-school” kind of look to it that makes it sit so pretty when left out while you are entertaining guests.

Old Forester 100

The same age old recipe and mash bill that was created by founder George Garvin Brown continues to be used today, helping to set this 100 proof whiskey apart from the rest of the pack with a throwback kind of flavor profile that’s tough to find in some of the more modern and “tinkered with” options – including some on this list.

This is the kind of whiskey that folks drank in the middle of Prohibition (one of the few whiskeys available for sale back that as it was classified as “for medicinal purposes”) and enjoying a touch is a lot like climbing into a time machine.

Michter’s US #1 Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey

This rye whiskey is a celebration of America’s oldest whiskey type, made from carefully selected grain produced in America and then sheared to exacting specifications to produce the highest flavor extraction possible.

Coming in at 84.8 proof (and cooped up in fire charred, new oak barrels for a couple of years before being blended), this is a spicy, citrusy whiskey that has a butterscotch backbone. It’s a real treat for less than $50.

Monkey Shoulder

It’s almost impossible to recommend ANY scotch whisky for less than $50, because the very best options coming out of Scotland are easily three or four times that. However, Monkey Shoulder blended malt scotch whisky is something you have to try to believe.

The flavors here are totally unique thanks to the fact that this scotch whisky has been blended from barrels produced at three different space I distilleries. In the end you get something that is very creamy, very malty, and very upfront with its vanilla and spice flavors – but with just a little bit of back end heat that lets you know it’s still a legitimate scotch whisky.

The Conception of Wine

The Natural Wine Movement

natural wine movement harry dalian

The major difference between regular wine and natural wine is that natural wine are made with the least amount of interferences and interventions. Natural wines are all different from each other and can sometimes be quite quirky.

Some unique natural wine tastes and flavors include smoky leather, smoked meat, licorice, and tobacco. This strays far away from the usually berries and pepper that we’re all used to. Natural wine has it’s own character and the difference has created a large following for the alternative wine.

The natural wine movement started in France when a few vintners were unimpressed with their modern wines and wanted to bring it back to the basics of taste and quality. The idea is to stay faithful to the fruit of the vine without much intervention to create an unnatural taste or color.

Lee Campbell, the beverage director and reynard in Williamsburg says, “We are changing the concept of what yummy is.”

These innovative vintners are producing this untamed, unrefined, down-to-earth wines that are attracting a large crowd of eco-friendly, organic, and sustainable living advocates.

“There’s been this explosion of interest in our wines from people who are tired of homogenized wine styles that erase individuality,” says Jenny Lefcourt, a co-owner of Jenny & Francois, a Tribeca-based wine importer specializing in Natural wines.

Natural wine is a completely new take on the taste of wine. The funny thing is – this is what wine should taste like. Wine making is unnatural in itself, however, keeping the interventions as limited as possible is key to preserving the natural flavor of the wine.

Natural wine has taken off in NYC within the past few years, being featured in many popular wine bars and restaurants, as well as the best wine shops. Williamsburg has a huge selection of individual natural wines at The Natural Wine Company. gradually, this trendy alternative to wine is increasing in Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan.

Great Cocktail Recipe

5 Best Wine Pairing Rules

Pairing wine with food can be tricky, especially when you’re hosting guests who are big wine lovers.
Here are a few simple rules to breezing through pairing wines with foods!

1. Serve a very dry Rose with appetizers. A good Rose brings together fresh acidity and light body of white wines along with the fruity, hearty characteristics of reds. Rose is the perfect middle ground to pair with any foods.

2. Serve un-oaked white wine with any citrus-based foods. Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino wines have bright and citrusy accents that heightens other foods with lemony flavors.

3. Spicy foods call for low-alcohol wines. Alcohol accentuates spicy food to make it hotter. German Rieslings, with a touch of sweet flavor, help ease the spiciness.

4. Lighter meats’ sauce determines the wine pairing. The main protein in a dish isn’t the primary flavor. In most cases, the sauce determines the accompanying wine.

5. Lighter wine for desserts. Too much sweetness can be overwhelming, it’s best to choose a lighter wine that is a bit dryer help ease the sweetness factor. Moscato d’Asti is a great choice with fruity desserts.

Harry Dalian Wine

Napa Valley Viticulture

Situation on the northern end of the San Francisco Bay, 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean, is the most famous wine district int he United States. This small area valley has produced some of North America’s finest wine since the 1850s. Today, Napa Valley contains approximately 45,500 acres of vineyard property along the alley floor, int he foothills and in the mountains surrounding the main valley.

The unique aspects of the Napa Valley vineyard landscape has been determined mostly by the great richness and variety of its geology, soil types, topography, and microclimates. All of these factors greatly affect viticulture and are very sought-after conditions for grape farming. Napa Vally was recognized as an American viticultural establishment in 1981 and the subsequent establishments of 13 sub-appellations within Napa Valley are evidence of such diversity.

What’s remarkable about Napa Valley is that the area has survived and maintained a remarkable continuity int he face of market forces, vine pests, diseases, and American Prohibition. These cycles and challenges have provided opportunities for innovation and improvement within the American viticulture, particularly in Napa Valley.

The extreme diversity of the 33 district soil sections which have evolved from bedrock components as attributable to the complex interplay of the Valley’s varied topography, biological resources, and climate. The inherent small size of the Valley accentuates effects of its topography in relationship to the climate changes.

Due to the wide range of viticultural conditions and lack of governmental controls over grape varietal selection, Napa Valley is home to a wide range of grape varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

The Napa Valley wine industry strictly adheres and engages in sustainable and environmentally sound practices for their farming and wine production. The Code of Sustainable wine growing Workbook offers plenty of sustainable practices as well provides a slef-assessment tool that allows the farmers to review their practices and identify areas in which they can improve.

Napa Valley is a very interesting modern-day viticulture site with different variables affecting the conditions under which grapes are grown and processed. With the combination of Mediterranean climate and gvpography as well as the geology of the region, great tasting and great quality wine grapes are harvested to produce gorgeous wines.

Sparkling Red Wine

Sparkling wine is differentiated from others by the amount of carbon dioxide that is present in the wine. The method of infusing carbon dioxide into the wine is something that can be achieved by injection or by natural occurrence during fermentation. There are a few sparkling red wines that are available in certain areas, however, the market of sparkling wines is mostly populated by white wines.

The process of adding the bubbles to the bubbly is something that occurs in two stages. Firstly, fermentation follows the normal path and process of wine-making, but then is fermented a second round in order to add the carbon dioxide. The traditional method of creating sparking wine is called Methode Champenoise and is carried out in the bottle itself.

Famous Sparkling Wine

Being that there are many types of sparking wines that are created around the world, the taste will differ based on where the grapes are grown as well as the fermentation process used to make the wine sparking. Champagne is widely considered the best in the world and is created in the Champagne wine region of France. Here are a few more popular brands that are worth trying:

  • Andre
  • Bacchus
  • Ca’ del Bosco
  • Deutz
  • Espumante

All of these wines are made by different companies around the world. Different countries have their own best sellers. The most well known Italian brands are Franciacorta and Prosecco. The sweetness of all these differ from each other, however, this is something that is heavily dependent on the nature and length of the fermentation process.

Sparkling wines come with a rather extensive and interesting history as well as many variances. If you are a lover of sparking wines, it is beneficial to do some research and find out why you like a certain type of wine over the other.


Three Reasons to Drink Bordeaux

It’s time to give Bordeaux another chance!Harry Dalian

For centuries, Bordeaux is what the upper class drank. Bordeaux has been mentioned in many diaries from ages ago mentioning certain types of Bordeaux. Even Richard Nixon was known to enjoy a glass of Château Margaux. Recently, it’s been seen that Bordeaux has become the first choice of drink of internet moguls, hedge fund managers, and Chinese billionaires.

Simply stated, Bordeaux as a whole has never been better. The wines from the top 60 produces of red wine originally designated as classé in 1855 are representing a small fraction of the world’s largest wine region by volume.

The result after removing the classified growths from consideration is that most of these wines are actually to expensive for regular consumption. The vast sea of wine, some good, some not so good, and most lie somewhere in between. Recently, there is more good wine than bad.

Most of the wines that you’ll find in markets today are produced in the excellent supper-ripe 2009 vintage, the more structured but still-ripe 2010 or the charming 2011 vintage. Viticulture and winemaking have been improved throughout the region of Bordeaux. There are still however some challenging vintages -2012 and 2013- and for the most part, the days of thin, weedy, harshly tannic wines are over. The Bordeaux wines are surprisingly affordable. There are hundreds of wines from the 2009-2012 vintages that are rated ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’ for less than $40.

With the balanced use of oak and moderate alcohol levels and the generally refreshing acids, the Bordeaux wines are impressively versatile at any occasion. In a world of constantly improving on the latest and greatest, it is worth remembering that even a conservative region like Bordeaux changes over time and now is the time to rediscover it’s gifts.

1. Chateau Carignan (Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux): The 2009 is mostly suppleness and warmth, all while the 2010 shows more structure.

2. Chateau Maison Blanche (Médoc): This Merlot-based wine is round and ripe.

3. Chateau de Sours (Bordeaux): An approachable wine marked by ripe fruit and finely balanced oak tastes.


How to Taste Test Wine Like a Sommelier

Harry Dalian

The ability to recognize a wine by a blind taste is an extremely coveted practice and one of the most satisfying achievements of any oenophile.

Blind-Tasting is the elusive grail of the professional wine-tasting world, consisting of equal parts talent, training and luck for success.

This practice evolved from a professional need to identify fake wines as bottles did not come with a label in the old days. this type of tasting is considered to still be the best way to measure the true quality of a specific wine. The idea is that when a wine’s identity is unknown, a taster can reach an objective conclusion to the actual worth of the wine. The other type of blind-tasting is practiced by both professionals and amateurs, which is more of a social game rather than serious business.

Daniel Posner, owner of Grapes the Wine Company in White Plains, NY, says “One can follow specific steps to improve the odds of a correct guess,” in regards to blind taste-testing.

However, Sommeliers must be proficient in this skill. A variation of this theme is an important part of the exam that is administered by the Court of master Sommeliers, which is an accredited professional organization. Candidates of the Sommelier program just correctly identify at least four to six grape varieties to pass the rigorous test. The statistics of this test may be shocking, as something fewer than 10% of the candidates actually manage to pass the exam.

Raj Vaidya, head sommelier at Daniel restaurant in new York says, “You can expect certain things in a wine like Chablis—mineralogy, high acidity.” He says, if a wine seems oaky one might mistakingly think it is flawed.

Although sampling wines may seem like the best ways to become better at blind-tasting, one can follow a specific guideline f=of steps to improve the odds of a correct guess. The first step is a visual examination of the wine, something casual amateurs forget to do, as certain wines ar much lighter than others.

The second step involves tilting the glass to check the wines viscosity. A viscous wine means higher in alcohol and higher-alcohol content wines usually come from warmer climates.

Smelling and of course tasting are the third and fourth steps. The aromas will reveal almost everything you need to know to identify the wine.

Blind tasting prove that the professional version can definitely deliver an unbiased opinion as well as aid in the discovery of some very good deals. Casual blind tasting can help you remember and recognize wine sin the future, as well as potentially adding to your connoisseurship. Accurately indentifying wines in a blind tasting isn’t fully about knowledge, but a bit of beginner’s luck, too.