Whiskey (as it’s spelled in the U.S. and Ireland) or whisky (as it’s rendered in Scotland, Canada, and Japan) has become a big business. The size of the market is estimated to be $91.14 billion in 2022, according to Statista – a more than 14% increase from the previous year.
Whiskey, by either spelling, is a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash, and usually aged in wooden casks for varying amounts of time. It’s one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world. Scotland (for Scotch) and the U.S. (for Bourbon and rye) are the world’s main important exporters of the beverage, while Irish whiskey sales have been growing exponentially, to the point that some industry experts predict it will overtake Scotch in the American market by 2030. Japan and India have also become major producers of the product, and overall, at least 25 countries now distill it. (These are the 25 best bourbons in the U.S. right now.)
Whiskey’s growth is buoyed by various factors, such as increasing disposable income and shifting consumer preferences. The millennial generation’s tastes gravitate toward mixed drinks, often involving whiskey of one kind or another, and they are key consumers of the product. (These are the world’s 25 most popular cocktails.)
Even though it is considered a premium beverage, there are plenty of moderately priced and well-regarded whiskeys on the market. To determine the best whiskeys under $50 in 2022, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the results of the 2021 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a weeks-long multi-part event covering a wide range of spirits, judged by panels including spirits writers, bartenders, consultants, and other experts in the field.
Our list includes all the whiskeys rated from 93 to 97 points (the highest score given) that were priced under $50 for a 750 ml bottle. (Prices were suggested retail prices as of mid-2021, and may have changed since the judging and may vary from state to state and in some cases from store to store.)
A number of the whiskeys listed are small productions from artisanal producers and may be hard to find – but they’re worth looking for. The list also includes some easy-to-find mass-produced examples that nonetheless score highly, including Jameson, Dewar’s, and Maker’s Mark.
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