You can spend a fortune on a good bourbon, but you don't have to; We're looking for your favorite bottles under $25

Bourbon drinkers can spend a fortune on good whiskey these days. They can also find good bottles at low prices -- and sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered. Chicago Editor Allen Helm has taken a shine to Kirkland, the Costco house brand. At about $20 a liter, and 103 proof, it's not hard to understand why. Photo by Allen Helm / BourbonStory.com

Bourbon drinkers can spend a fortune on good whiskey these days. They can also find good bottles at low prices -- and sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered. Chicago Editor Allen Helm has taken a shine to Kirkland, the Costco house brand. At about $20 a liter, and 103 proof, it's not hard to understand why. Photo by Allen Helm / BourbonStory.com

WASHINGTON -- These days, buying bourbon is a lot like buying art: There is no real limit to how much you can spend and no guarantee that, once you do, it's worth what you paid. The secret in both cases is to spend exactly the amount that feels right to you.

Here at Bourbon Story, we've been asking ourselves if the huge interest in premium and super-premium hootch has meant we've collectively forgotten that there is plenty of good American whiskey -- bourbon, especially -- that goes down nicely and still leaves enough in the billfold to pick up the milk and bread on the way home from the liquor store.

In other words: Our editors love a good high-end pour as much as the next bourbon enthusiast does. But sometimes it's fun to focus on the more pedestrian brands to see what secrets they may reveal under the scrutiny of a good three-finger pour. 

But which bourbons? That's the question. If you go cheap, you have to have a plan. Life, as the man said (or should have, anyway), is just too short to drink bad whiskey.

Fortunately, Bourbon Story Magazine is especially positioned to help decode just these kinds of puzzles. We're not a tasting magazine -- lots of sites already do that just splendidly -- but we are a magazine whose content is built from the ground up, by editors living and writing (and drinking) in cities across the country with a common goal: To engage and enliven conversations about bourbon in their region of the country. 

Our editors in Houston, Chicago, Colorado, Washington and Kentucky have been asking: What's the best low-priced bourbon out there? What classics have been overlooked? What's the equivalent, then, of the everyday table wine a traveler might find on an afternoon stop in Umbria, served in a carafe for 8 euros a liter?

We've got you covered. Our editors are exploring some good finds and we'll report back later this week. But first we want your help: What do you drink when the budget is tight? Or when the company is ordinary?  Do you have a bottle you pour when you've hidden your Pappy away until Christmas?

Look for some intelligence on Old Forester, which many in Louisville call the city's house brand. Our man in Chicago, Allen Helm, has sussed out the bargain bourbon Costco, which he says doesn't taste much like a bargain bourbon at all. Kevin's been popping in and out of the Bourbon Affair this weekend, and he'll reports on the extravaganza -- and maybe a few blue-collar pours to go with the super-premium sips he's managed to find. We'll have input from Colorado, Texas -- and a treat -- California.

Stay tuned. 

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Michael Lindenberger

Michael Lindenberger is a 2012-13 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, where he will spend a year developing a business model for blogs that looks beyond advertising and subscriptions for revenue. He is on leave from The Dallas Morning News, where he is a senior reporter writing about the nexus between the politics and policy of transportation on the local, state and national level. He is founder and co-author with Rodger Jones of the Dallas Transportation Blog. His print journalism was recognized in 2012 as the previous year's best example at The News of work that brings perspective, interpretation and analysis to bear on difficult topics. Also in 2012, the newspaper nominated his work for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting. A 2006 graduate of the night program at Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, Michael also is a contributing national legal affairs writer for TIME.com and a former adjunct professor of media law at the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism. His work has appeared in newspapers, wire reports and magazines around the world, including The New York Times, Reuters, The ABA Journal, Robb Report Magazine and others.