On average, fine tequilas are slightly more expensive than other spirits, and the price is more than often justified. Still, you can find the best examples of blancos for $30 to $45, reposados for $40 to $50 and añejos for $50 to $60. Prices listed are those at Ace Beverage, 3301 New Mexico Ave. NW, 202-966-4444, http:/
Also known as silver or platinum, blanco tequilas are bottled without aging. Many believe they are the purest expression of the agave and are the best for most tequila-based cocktails.
Siete Leguas Blanco ($44): The most balanced, smoothest blanco you'll find. A must-have that you can sip neat.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe Platinum ($38): Bold, earthy aroma. Unbelievable flavor, full of spice, lime and finish. Versatile neat or in cocktails.
Patron Silver ($47): The standard-bearer in the category; round, soft and light. Wonderful tequila to convert newbies.
Siembra Azul Blanco ($33): Big agave flavor, with pepper and floral notes. Excellent in cocktails.
Milagro Silver ($28): Soft, light sweetness with a nice hint of salt. Great value; great mixer.
Reposado ("rested") tequila must age in oak for two to 12 months. The wood softens the blanco's edge while still allowing full agave flavor. With reposados, I look for a versatile spirit that I can sip neat or serve in a cocktail.
El Diamante del Cielo ($42): Spends more time in wood than any other reposado. Bright, fruity nose, honey and pepper notes, with smooth finish.
Casa Noble Reposado ($44): Mix of spice and citrus, with a hint of oak and vanilla. One of the finest, and an excellent value.
Tezon Reposado ($52): A little pricey, but worth it. Peppery aroma with creamy vanilla notes and a smoky finish.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe ($40): The gold standard. Robust aroma of spices and herbs; smooth, gorgeous flavor of dried fruit and citrus.
Sauza Hornitos Reposado ($28): Light, mellow flavor and fresh, fruity nose. A strong value that works well in cocktails.
These tequilas are aged in oak for one to three years. They are definitely meant for sipping neat, never for cocktails. The trick with añejo is finding one that retains some agave flavor and aroma. Age can vary greatly: Siete Leguas spends 18 to 24 months in oak, while El Tesoro ages for up to 3 years; both are exceptional.
Siete Leguas Añejo ($54): One of the finest spirits in the world for its price. Lighter than most añejos but with layers of flavor.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe Añejo ($45): Another amazing spirit. Robust but balanced mix of oak, agave, fruit and caramel.
Herradura Añejo ($48): Classic, oaky and bourbonlike with caramel and vanilla, yet still a slight taste of earthy agave.
-- Jason Wilson