Our friends at Agua Mágica invited us to visit the palenque in Oaxaca where their mezcal is brought to life... from humble seed to first delicious sip.
Our visit was the culmination of a creative partnership with Agua Mágica designing an outfit for the modern day “mayordomo”.
In a tradition spanning more than 500 years, every town in Oaxaca appoints a trusted member as mayordomo. The mayordomo is bestowed with a great responsibility: to keep the festivities alive by ensuring no glass runs empty.
In Oaxaca, sharing the mezcal is a cultural rite that is cherished.
We used the pretext of the ‘mayordomo’ outfit as an opportunity to make our very first dark cabana set, evoking the embers in which the agave is cooked and the nights enriched by sipping mezcal.
The set features original artwork by Miguel Cardenas depicting the ceremonial extraction of agave straight from the source in a pre-Colombian style.
Finally, we added elaborate edge stitching as a nod to the embroidery craft for which Oaxaca is famous.
The highlight of our time enjoyed at the palenque was meeting Don Rogelio, Maestro Mezcalero. In addition to being an ideal drinking companion and dashing model, Don Rogelio showed us the process of making the mezcal firsthand.
Don Rogelio’s palenque is located in the mythical village of San Juan Del Río, said to be blessed by the gods for its ideal growing conditions. Its rich soil and steep terrain challenges the agave, giving it a stronger sugar concentration and a richer, more complex depth of flavor.
From the local banana leaves and rocks dredged from the Río Grande that are used to cook the agave underground, to the stone tahona pulled by a horse to mash the piñas, Don Rolegio honors the traditional way of making mezcal.
We had the pleasure of sipping Agua Mágica straight from the pipe exiting the copper still. To our fledgling palates, it tasted remarkably smooth and the sweetness of the agave was immediately apparent among the subtle smokiness.
It had a subtlety and depth of flavor that set it apart from the overpowering, smokey mezcals we have been inundated with in New York.
Sipping it neat was a delight, and we had to restrain ourselves from getting very drunk off of it mid-photoshoot.
These days, it seems like Manhattan is an island afloat on a proverbial sea of mezcal with new brands popping up left and right almost daily. Here's why Agua Mágica stole our attention, our palettes, and our hearts.
We first encountered Agua Mágica at their New York launch party and were taken by their vibrant celebration of Oaxacan culture through the lens of magical realism. Candles were ablaze everywhere (fire hazard be damned!), male Agua Mágica staff wore dresses in keeping with 'muxe' tradition, and neon Zapotec iconography flooded the space in an eerie green glow. When it came to sampling the goods, it was love at first copita - delicious in its smokey splendor!
The story only got better when we were given the opportunity to peek behind the curtain. We admired how Agua Mágica's Mexican-founded team has built a real partnership with its Maestro Mezcalero, Don Rogelio. He is a true friend and drinking companion. He is paid premiums above the industry, in turn allowing him to pay higher wages to farmers, and reinvest in the palenque. Agua Magica also donates 5% of its yearly profits to fund mezcal certifications for other small producers to keep traditional production alive in the San Juan del Río.
Finally, Agua Mágica is determined to redefine mezcal consumption as a measured exploration of taste and appreciation of artisanal knowledge - more akin to drinking wine than traditional spirits. Sipping the spirit neat and teaching the consumer to tune into its unique properties keeps mezcal from becoming an industrialized commodity and preserves the artisanal tradition of Oaxacans.