Liquor Laboratory

Worst Cheap Whiskey Brands: 12 Listed (2024 Updated)

Worst Cheap Whiskey Brands 

We all cheer to a fine whiskey. Unfortunately, when you go out in search of gold, you’ll also find a lot of mediocrity along the way. In some cases, when it’s cheap, it’s also bad – and that applies to whiskeys as well. 

In this article, we compiled the top worst cheap whiskey brands you should exclude from your list.

12 Worst Cheap Whiskey Brands To Watch Out For

1. Ole Smoky Salty Caramel Whiskey

Ole Smoky Tennessee Salty Caramel Whiskey bottle

ABV: 30% alc/vol.

Average Price: around $18 per 750ml (Drizly) 

Why We Don’t Like It: In essence, this is just sugary caramel syrup with a splash of liquor. Yes, you’ve found the right place if that’s what you were hoping for.

You’ve got the sweetness here with Ole Smoky Salty Caramel Whiskey. It literally just embodied its name. This whiskey is better off mixing cocktails like these Ole Smoky Salted Caramel recipes.

2. Irish Diamonds 2005 AC Small Batch No. 03

ABV: 59% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $63 (€66) per 700ml (Whisky Base)

Why We Don’t Like It: Unless you have so much appreciation for liquors, you won’t like this one. This whiskey is like a disaster.

It’s like drinking grapefruit juice with a herbal touch and a splash of bitter and sour taste. It has the aroma of a terrible gin and is far from the whiskey we all love. 

3. Clan McGregor

Clan McGregor bottle with glass on a wooden table

ABV: 40% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $13.88 per 1L (Drizly)

Why We Don’t Like It: The nose has vegetal notes combined with alcohol and sulfur, creating a strong aroma. Yes, the chocolate and caramel flavors on the palate are pleasant but are quickly overpowered by an unpleasant sulfuric aftertaste.

Then, a warm, rough, peppery, and slightly smoky finish follows. Generally, this is the type of whiskey we imagined being served somewhere else.

4. Canadian Mist

Canadian Mist bottle on top of red table with shelf of liqour bottle on the background

ABV: 40% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $14.99 per 1L (Drizly)

Why We Don’t Like It: In just a single sip, you’ll start to wonder why this spirit won medals from world spirits competitions and ultimate spirits challenges. It tastes like rancid bourbon mixed with artificial flavors.

Everything has a fresh, raw, bleached-out, and artificial aroma and flavor. In short, the quality is just low.  

5. Santis Malt Single Cask

bottle of Santis Malt Single Cask with two glasses

ABV: 52% alc/vol.

Average Price: around $83 per 750ml (Wine-researcher)

Why We Don’t Like It: Santis Malt Single Cask is not a bad whiskey at some point. Perhaps the length of the Orange Finish was excessive.

The palate is somewhat thin, given its ABV. Besides, the taste of (like) rubber ball, crab apple, oak, body lotion, sawdust, etc., mixes together – which is too complicated and unpleasant.  

6. Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey

close up shot of Nelson's Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey bottle

ABV: 45.5% alc/vol.

Average Price: around $28.99 per 750ml (Totalwine)

Why We Don’t Like It: Like most drinkers’ reviews, you get the aroma of Crayola crayons and Play-Doh here. This is something very unusual for a drink, right? It’s aged for at least 2 years – which we’re not fond of.

This whiskey needs more aging to achieve the “whiskey standard” in terms of taste. For whiskey enthusiasts, you would totally not be impressed with this spirit. 

7. Proper Twelve

proper twelve irish whisky bottles

ABV: 40% alc/vol.

Average Price: around $28 per 750 ml (Totalwine)

Why We Don’t Like It: If you’re very particular about the aroma, this whiskey will not meet your expectation. This smells very young – providing a sharp aroma like it didn’t age in the barrels for enough time.

We believe it should be aged more. With its price point, you can still find more whiskies in the same range – but with a more promising palate, nose, and finish. 

Read: Proper 12 vs Jameson Irish Whiskey

8. Hudson Baby Bourbon

Hudson Baby Bourbon bottle

ABV: 46% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $41 per 375ml (Drizly)

Why We Don’t Like It: This whiskey is young, unpleasant, ethanol-forward, and astringent. There’s nothing much to like about this spirit.

The nose is not really caramel-ly or sugary, and the palate is sweet but acidic. The finish is dry and short. It’s not the type of whiskey you would want more after some sips.  

9. Town Branch

bottle of Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey on a white background

ABV: 40% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $34 per 750ml (Totalwine)

Why We Don’t Like It: Town Branch whiskey is plain – no distinctness. It’s very simple, bitter, and hot. Sadly, the taste wasn’t as good as the aroma.

Not that a mismatch is necessarily bad, but there seemed to be more on the nose than the palate. No sweetness. No flavor. Dry mouthfeel. Not satisfying. Not worth it. 

10. Glen Stag

ABV: 40% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $21 (£20) per 1L (Grand Whisky Auction)

Why We Don’t Like It: This is not a versatile spirit – only best served neat [1]. You can’t feel the elegance (as the brand claims), and the tones are smooth and pleasing.

Besides, the caramel notes on the nose lack character. It actually has a long-lasting finish, but you can’t get the full refined aftertaste. 

11. Saint Liberty Bertie’s Bear Gulch Bourbon

Saint Liberty Bertie's Bear Gulch Bourbon bottle on top of a wooden table

ABV: 43.5% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $36 per 750ml (Drizly)

Why We Don’t Like It: Saint Liberty’s bourbon is one of the worst, as the nose, taste, and finish are so disappointing. It smells like it was cut with brake fluid or industrial alcohol and has a strangely artificial or chemical aroma.

Additionally, the taste is overwhelmingly complex and confusing, with lots going on. If you’re curious, buy at your own risk.

12. Long Road whiskey

ABV: 47% alc/vol. 

Average Price: around $44 per 750ml (Totalwine)

Why We Don’t Like It: It has unappealing flavors, probably due to its short fermentation process and insufficiently long maturation. It would surely turn off whiskey enthusiasts after one sip.

Synthetic versions of the fruity aromas reappear as a jumble of astringent and sickly sweet flavors that will test your tongue in unpleasant ways.


How can you make the worst cheap whiskey taste better?

To make your worst cheap whiskey taste better, add some mixers, like ginger ale or bitter agents, and garnish it with mint, cinnamon, lemon, olives, etc. You can enjoy it with ice (or whiskey stones [2]) and little water. 

Can you drink the worst cheap whiskey neat? 

Drinking the worst cheap whiskey neat depends on your preference. You can drink it neat but expect a lot of unexpected (or unpleasant) palate, nose, and finish. We suggest drinking it with liquor mixers.  

What are some examples of cheap whiskey brands to avoid?

While tastes vary, some cheap whiskey brands that receive negative reviews or are commonly perceived as low-quality include Ten High, Popov, Kentucky Gentleman, and Clan MacGregor.

Why are these whiskey brands considered among the worst?

These brands are often criticized for their harsh taste, lack of complexity, and unpleasant aftertaste, leading many whiskey enthusiasts to avoid them in favor of higher-quality options.

Can I find decent whiskey on a budget?

Yes! While some cheap whiskey brands may disappoint, there are plenty of budget-friendly options that offer good quality and value. Look for well-known brands with positive reviews and consider trying different expressions to find one that suits your taste.

What factors contribute to the poor quality of cheap whiskey brands? 

Cheap whiskey brands may cut corners in production, using lower-quality grains, less aging time, or bulk processing methods that result in inferior taste and overall experience.

How can I avoid purchasing a bad cheap whiskey brand? 

Researching reviews and recommendations from trusted sources can help you avoid purchasing a disappointing bottle. Additionally, sampling smaller sizes or asking for recommendations from liquor store staff can provide insight into better options.

Are there any warning signs to look out for when buying cheap whiskey?

Look for clues such as overly low prices compared to other whiskies in the same category, vague labeling or lack of information about the production process, and negative reviews or ratings from other consumers.

Can I improve the taste of cheap whiskey with mixers for cocktails?

Mixing cheap whiskey with other ingredients can help mask some of its flaws, but it’s unlikely to completely transform the taste. If you prefer mixed drinks, consider using higher-quality mixers to enhance the overall flavor.

In Conclusion 

While you should know the best whiskeys available on the market, you also need to know your worst options. And we get it – you want to save some bucks. But in some cases, cheap ones are really the worst. 

If you want to fill your liquor shelves with lots of excellent and quality spirits, you may want to avoid the spirits mentioned above (unless you’re curious). It’s totally fine opting for cheaper spirits but be meticulous.

Or, just save some more bucks and buy real quality ones.  


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