Tequila is the type of spirit that can really be destroyed when produced incorrectly. Mass production, pesticide use in agave farming, cheap shortcuts and bad agave plants all lead to the tendency to shoot a shot with a lick of salt and wedge of lime. Not here. There is such a thing an honest to goodness sipping tequila. We went through the trouble of tasting them all for you and found some truly exceptional drinks. No mixing with margarita mix, adding fruit, or wincing as you inhale. Below you have the four most sophisticated (and highly priced) tequilas that we just couldn’t get enough of. Salud!

Patrón is one of the most recognized names in the spirits industry…but did you know they offer much more than the typical Silver? For Gran Patrón Burdeos they hand select weber blue agave plants with the highest sugar levels, which will produce the smoothest tasting tequila. It’s aged in Bordeaux barrels personally selected in France— evidence of the barrel can be noticed in the berry, vanilla, cocoa, and cherry notes.  We had the pleasure of tasting this sophisticated tequila…comparable to a fine cognac without losing the natural agave flavor that defines tequila. Gran  Patrón Burdeos  comes in a sexy box handcrafted from a single piece of black walnut and sealed inside a crystal decanter. We asked Ed Brown, President and CEO of Patrón Spirits International about their luxe tequila. “For people who understand and appreciate quality, this tequila is well worth the price. There’s no other spirit quite like this.” How does Ed drink his Gran Patrón Burdeos? Always neat. MSRP $499

Casa Herradura is one of the oldest and most respected producers of tequila. Herradura is 100% blue agave tequila crafted using traditional methods, such as cooking the agave in clay ovens and fermenting naturally with wild yeast. This old school process delivers a rich, smooth and unexpected taste that evokes memories of agave fields. Their Extra Añejo Selección Suprema is aged for more than 49 months in American oak barrels, creating an enormously complex tequila.  The barrels give the tequila a creamy, soft finish with an exceptionally long aftertaste…sort of like an agave cream soda explosion on a hot July day. We love the classic Mexican presentation it arrives in. “One of the main reasons Seleccion Suprema is $350 a bottle is because of the Angel Share. We lose 50 percent of the tequila in the barrel throughout the 49 month aging process.” John Hayes of Casa Herradura tells us. How does John take his tequila? “Neat in a snifter if it’s Seleccion Suprema.” MSRP $350

If you don’t know the name Patrida, you should.  Partida Elegante is a truly world class sipping tequila…a spirit that won the blind taste tests of Mexico and won over our taste buds. Partida Tequila use a combination of great agave farming and cutting edge technology. Instead of using the remains that stay in a brick oven, Partida’s stainless steel autoclaves don’t pick up any bitter aftertaste or smoke that come with traditional methods, keeping the flavor cleaner. The bottle is designed to be slightly feminine and comes in an understated and decidedly sleek silk lined box. The golden color reminded us of drinking sunshine, and the notes of honey lingered.  Gary Shansby, the founder, chairman and CEO of Partida says “I don’t like to be quoted saying it’s the best tequila, because I don’t like to sound that way, but it does get the highest marks. We like people to just discover us.” When unwinding Gary takes a swirl of Partida in a champagne flute, neat. MSRP $350

Casa Dragones is the only Joven style tequila to make our list! Among the contenders of Extra Anejos rose this extraordinary spirit. The most aromatic of the bunch, this tequila is unique in that it is the first of it’s kind to truly exist. The Joven style has been overlooked in the tequila industry, and for the life of us we cannot figure out why. It’s is intended only as a sipping tequila, never to be mixed and to be served neat. Casa Dragones does not produce any styles other than the Joven platinum tequila they are known for. We loved the inviting floral and citrus aroma, something not often found in any spirit but especially tequila. The notes of spice balanced with pear, which takes a few sips to fully find, are nothing short of genius. “We believe we have something very unique in our hands. We’re committed to delivering this very particular style in an extraordinary way. “ Bertha Gonzalez, Maestro Tequilero, CEO and Co-Founder, told us in an exclusive interview this week. How does she drink her Casa Dragones? “As a digestif accompanied with one or two dark chocolates.” MSRP $275

*Tried & Tested. Alister & Paine practices old-school journalistic integrity. We only write from experience–never press releases. If we haven’t tried it and loved it you won’t find it in our magazine.