Agave is a special succulent. Of course, it’s the cornerstone of some of the world’s most popular adult drinks. But in the highlands of Oaxaca, this hardy, spiky plant enjoys an almost supernatural status. While mezcal may be a priority for many here in the United States during Día de Muertos, Mexico, they celebrate the spirit of agave all year round. For all those who revere this burgeoning category of alcohol, a trip to Oaxaca is more than just a vacation, it’s a pilgrimage. And El Silence is now positioned as a mandatory step along the way.
This fall, the best-selling producer opened at Casa Silencio. Combining a working distillery, a gourmet restaurant and a five-star inn, this is a one-of-a-kind operation for mezcal. Never before have visitors to the region been able to stay inside a palenque. Much has already been written about the overnight experience here. In the remote town of the Xaaga Valley, just 30 miles from the capital, you feel like you’re on the edge of the earth. Although mezcal production and food preparation is quite traditional, the building itself is a sanctuary of modernism, with a continuous nod to minimalist sensibilities. As kids are used to saying these days, “It’s a mood. “
But for $ 1000 a night, you need more than a vibe. You demand world-class mezcal. And that is precisely what they have to pay here. You can expect no less than seven bottlings of precious agave spirits, exclusive to this location. Sip them by the glass or take home bottles full of liquid, which is frustrating and rare.
Here are the highlights (with full bottle prices in brackets):
Lumber – ($ 500)
With aromas of milk chocolate, marzipan and moist forest soil, this is an eminently complex spirit to see, even before you take your first sip. Once you do, you’ll get a nice minerality to accompany slightly sweet barbecue notes.
Sierra Negra – ($ 300)
A fruity nose with slightly floral intonations before the blend. It gives notes of cinnamon and cedar in a prolonged finish.
Jabali – ($ 400)
Relieves a herbaceous scent with notes of wet wood. On the palate, a harmonious dance of berries, burnt sugar and pine.
Tepextate – ($ 300)
The most curious of the group, delivering a milky note, with notes of leather and slate. Super dry on the tongue and yet against all odds, everything works wonderfully together.
Tobasiche – ($ 270)
A slight vinegar note on the nose gives way to tropical fruits on the palate. A mad race for the senses.
After indulging in the ultra-premium agave spirit, visitors to Casa Silencio can enjoy an intimate glimpse into how the liquid was constructed in the first place. The property is built around a courtyard containing the tahona mill used to extract the juice from the roasted piñas. Fermentation and distillation take place a short walk from the well-appointed suites.
At dinner, mezcal cocktails are prepared by dedicated mixologists. The colorful drinks arrive on a communal table, made from 17 tons of basalt, accompanied by a whimsical menu designed by Rodolfo Castellanos (the first winner of Top Chef Mexico). The entire experience can best be described as Instagram catnip.
However, tagging these sweet and sweet “likes” will take time and effort. Oaxaca Airport is currently only served directly from the United States by Dallas and Houston. Once you land, you’ll have to travel through rural and often rocky backcountry roads to get to this luxury lodge. A taste of El Silencio, by comparison, remains eminently easy. It is currently the most widely distributed mezcal in the United States, recognizable by the opaque black bottle of its flagship product Espadin.
If you want to taste something more closely linked to the exclusive offerings of Casa Silencio, opt for a bottle of Ensamble that infuses elements of two wild agaves: Tobasiche and Mexicano. It’s an intoxicating way to celebrate the flavors of Mexico during Día De Muertos, and, well, pretty much all day of the calendar year.