The 5 Best Sipping Whiskeys You Can Actually Afford

From rich bourbons and spicy ryes to complex single malts and Japanese whiskies, these are our favorites that can be savored without going broke.

<p>Food & Wine / WhistlePig Whiskey / Westward Whiskey / Frey Ranch / Highland Park / THE NIKKA WHISKY DISTILLING Co., LTD</p>

Food & Wine / WhistlePig Whiskey / Westward Whiskey / Frey Ranch / Highland Park / THE NIKKA WHISKY DISTILLING Co., LTD

In February 2023, in honor of the distillery’s 225th anniversary, Highland Park released a 54-year-old expression that was priced at $54,000. No doubt, it was excellent. But far more expensive than most regular whiskey enthusiasts could afford.

When considering ideal “sipping whiskeys,” you’ll likely think of coveted, splurgy bottles that are reserved for special occasions or gifts. But with a category as vast and rich as whiskey, there are plenty of bottles to choose from that can be savored all year long, and are still affordable.

Related: Aged Whiskey Isn't Always Better — Here Are 5 Other Factors That Impact Quality

You can find great sipping bourbons, single-malts, and big bold ryes for way, way less than that 54-year-old—not least among them, the excellent Highland Park 12-year-old, listed below. Ultra-aged and ultra-expensive expressions have their place, but the following bottles are both stellar and affordable. — Ray Isle

Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon ($45)

<p>Food & Wine / Frey Ranch</p>

Food & Wine / Frey Ranch

The Frey family has been farming in Northern Nevada since 1854 but is a relative newcomer in the American craft distilling world. Since launching in 2020, however, they’ve positioned themselves as ones to watch, creating excellent grain-to-bottle whiskey, grown and distilled on their family farm.

This bourbon is their flagship bottling using a four-grain mashbill of sustainably grown non-GMO corn, winter cereal rye, winter wheat, and two-row barley (malted in-house). Though only aged for five years, the liquid belies its age, with mature notes of toasty oak, caramel, stone fruit and complex baking spices coming through. Sip this one neat or over a large cube of ice. — Prairie Rose

WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye ($41)

<p>Food & Wine / WhistlePig Whiskey</p>

Food & Wine / WhistlePig Whiskey

Looking for a rye whiskey to slowly sip and savor? WhistlePig’s PiggyBack has a 100% rye mash bill, is aged six years, and offers a hint of citrus and a lot of peppery spice without ever becoming aggressive. All of this is also at a significantly lower price point than previous WhistlePig rye expressions, that have been industry favorites.

The higher ABV (48.28%) makes this whiskey a perfect candidate for a large rock to sip over. If you prefer your whiskey neat, add a few drops of water to open it up, and discover the new flavors and spices that emerge like grapefruit zest and cardamom. — R.I.

Westward American Single Malt ($60)

<p>Food & Wine / Westward Whiskey</p>

Food & Wine / Westward Whiskey

This Portland, Oregon-made whiskey brand is a pioneer in the American single malt category.

Westward’s flagship expression, starts out like a Scotch whisky and is made with 100% malted barley, but uses Pacific Northwest two-row barley, which is then fermented with American ale yeast. The liquid is then double-pot distilled and aged like a bourbon, in new charred American oak barrels. The result is a distinctive profile of caramel, honey, candied orange peel, roasted nuts and cocoa — an ideal sipping whiskey year round. — P.R.

Highland Park 12-Year-Old Viking Honour ($60)

<p>Food & Wine / Highland Park</p>

Food & Wine / Highland Park

Scotch whisky is the ultimate sipping dram. For those not as familiar with the category or intimidated by smoke, Highland Park is a fantastic entry point. The peat influence is lighter, floral, and more aromatic than the acidic or chemical type of flavors that emerge from Islay scotch brands.

Part of this Orkney, Scotland–based distillery’s core line, Highland Park 12-Year-Old, has long been one of the great overachievers in the single malt world, an exquisitely balanced mix of heather-honey, subtle peat smoke, and sherry cask notes. — R.I.

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky ($75)



Japanese whiskies can be profound, and their prices have risen accordingly. (Yamazaki 18, a steal back in 2012 at about $130, now runs around $1,000 a bottle.)

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky is not only much more affordable than its single malt counterparts, it has proven to be versatile enough to work in cocktails as well as sipped on its own. This blended Japanese whisky is made primarily from corn and aged in ex-American oak, making this bottling an excellent choice for the American bourbon fan. — R.I.

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