Travel + Leisure (September 23, 2021).- Sitting at the “grand table” at Casa Silencio — 17 tons of hand-cut basalt that extends from the hotel’s restaurant into the plant-lined courtyard — I chatted with Torrence Swain, who oversees east coast operations for Mezcal El Silencio. We had our laptops in front of us for a work session fueled both by our freshly made carajillos (basically, a Latin American espresso martini) and the million-dollar view. Agave-strewn plains stretched out ahead of us, and rays of sun broke through the clouds in a truly Godlike display, drenching a nearby mountain in light. I asked Swain (who goes by “Brother Agave” on Instagram) about the work that went into building the Casa. He pointed to the wall behind me, and said, “See that? I helped make it.”
This is a hotel completely rooted in mezcal — so much so that everyone at Mezcal El Silencio, the largest purveyor of mezcal in the U.S. and the brand behind this property, was enlisted to help out. This hotel is, in many ways, the first of its kind. While mezcal and hospitality are a given on any trip to Mexico, an integrated approach to tasting tourism hasn’t quite taken hold. Tasting rooms and distillery tours abound in the desert outside Oaxaca City, but most mezcal tourists retreat back to town at the end of the day.
That is, until El Silencio founders Fausto Zapata and Vicente Cisneros unveiled a six-room hotel on their distillery grounds in Xaaga, 30 miles outside the capital. The property officially opened on September 15, but I was lucky enough to preview it in early August and see their vision realized. The pair, both originally from Mexico City, grew up visiting this region on weekend trips that were all about spontaneity, great food, and even better drink. In Casa Silencio, they hope to reflect their own experiences with Oaxacan hospitality.
“There are places in the world that may be as beautiful as Oaxaca, but none more so,” Zapata told me. “Going out to eat and to drink and be in the streets and feel the energy, it was always something I would look forward to.”
In breathing life into Casa Silencio, Zapata and Cisneros sought to emulate boozy destinations that put guests in the heart of production — the vineyard hotels of Napa, the distillery lodges in the barley-lined hills of the Scottish Highlands. Their research paid off. The Casa Silencio experience is full-blown immersion: guests learn to speak the language of mezcal fluently here. Before it became a hotel, this was one of three El Silencio distillery facilities in Oaxaca, and it is still very much producing mezcal. I got in on production myself, with professional help of course — chopping agaves plucked from the Casa Silencio grounds and smoking the smashed piñas, the inner hearts of the spiky plants.