For most, the mere thought of tequila brings back fond memories of downing shots in a noisy club, only to heave it up hours later. While you may have moved on to the finer things in life like cognac, luxury headphones, and Bulgari properties, allow us to bring you back to the humble agave plant. Not all tequila is created equally, and not all of them have to be downed in shot glasses. Introducing: upscale tequila brands.

A far cry from your usual shot downers, these refined tequilas are made in small batches and carefully aged in certain barrels to impart different kinds of aromas and tasting notes. Thanks to this, you should try sipping on these tequilas neat or on the rocks, and through a snifter glass.

In light of International Tequila Day today, allow us to introduce five upscale tequila brands for you to look out for the next time you’re travelling. Get these as a gift for the agave lover in your life or add them to your home bar and wax lyrical about these craft tequilas to your guests. Otherwise, simply come to an appreciation for tequila that you never could back in your youth.

1
Partida Tequila Elegante

Should you dislike the bitter and smoky taste that lingers in your mouth with some tequilas, you’ll like the Partida Tequila Elegante just fine. The blue agave grown on the base of a volcano is cooked in stainless steel autoclaves, distilled, and then aged in white oak barrels previously containing Jack Daniel’s between 36 and 4o months. The resulting liquid is then poured into this handmade crystal decanter. The Partida Tequila Elegante has tasting notes of cinnamon, caramel, and banana. Best sipped slowly to savour every possible note you can find in this tequila.

2
Casa Dragones

This is another brand of tequila that uses handmade crystal decanters for an award-winning bottle design. The Casa Dragones tequila uses a mix of extra-añejo (extra-aged for five years) and un-aged tequila, blended and then aged in new American white oak barrels. The blend then goes through a charcoal filter to get its clear colour. On the nose, the Casa Dragones has vanilla and citrusy notes. Take a sip and you’ll taste pepper with some fruitiness.

3
Don Julio Real

Don Julio is one of Mexico’s oldest and most popular premium tequila brands. The Don Julio Real variant is extra-aged (referred to as extra-añejo in Mexico), made from handpicked blue agave plants that are usually around seven to 10 years old. The liquid is then aged in American white oak barrels between three and five years. The resulting tequila has a vanilla flavour with a smoky oak aftertaste.

4
Gran Patron Burdeos

Now, this is one crystal bottle that you’re sure to keep when you’re done. At first glance, one might mistake the Gran Patron Burdeos for a bottle of cognac thanks to its dark amber liquid. This is thanks to the fact that the triple-distilled tequila is aged in Bordeaux barrels. The tequila itself is smooth, sweet, and full-bodied with notes of oak, vanilla, and raisins.

5
Tears of Llorona No. 3

While most tequila brands age their spirit in just one barrel, Tears of Llorona No. 3 goes the extra mile and ages its tequila in three different barrels: scotch, sherry, and cognac. As a result, the taste of this tequila is perhaps like none you’ve ever tried. On the nose, there are notes of caramel, custard, dark chocolate, and raisins. Take a sip and you’ll taste custard and some sweetness with toffee, cocoa, and herbs. It’s a difficult bottle to come by, so if you do get your hands on one, we suggest you keep it for yourself.

PohNee Chin
Associate Editor
Poh Nee is the associate editor and writes about travel and drinks. When she's not living out her holiday dreams via Google Earth and sipping on an Old Fashioned down at the local bars, you can find her snug at home bingeing on Netflix and mystery fiction.