The sustainable, design-forward Casa Silencio hotel celebrates the traditions of the region, from mezcal and cuisine to artisan craftsmanship
Mexico has no shortage of beautiful resort destinations, from Los Cabos to Punta Mita and beyond, but it often takes venturing to some of the country’s more remote spots to really connect with its culture and traditions. Now, a new hotel is making it easier to do just that – without sacrificing luxury and style. Nestled within the Valley of Xaaga (the Valley of Silence), an hour from the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, Casa Silencio is a design-forward boutique hotel that celebrates Oaxaca with a focus on both artisan traditions and the spirit of mezcal.
Tasting excursions and distillery tours have always lured mezcal lovers to Oaxaca, but Casa Silencio is the first hotel in the region to combine spirits and luxury hospitality on the same grounds. Officially opened on September 15, and set on nine acres of agave-filled plains, Casa Silencio is both a hotel and working distillery for artisanal spirit brand Mezcal El Silencio, a sustainably made mezcal (and the largest mezcal purveyor in the US) that is made using revived ancient production methods.
The hotel is a collaboration between Mezcal El Silencio founders Vicente Cisneros and Fausto Zapata, and award-winning Mexican architect Alejandro D’Acosta. Together they’ve created a stunning modern retreat inspired by the whisky houses in the Scottish Highlands and the vineyard hotels in Napa and Spain that have managed to artfully marry hospitality and spirits.
“Oaxaca is so magical,” co-founder Cisneros tells Robb Report, “and Casa Silencio is an experimental project because there’s no other building here like it. We didn’t want to make a big impact on the land, and we wanted to enhance the practices of the Oaxacan people and be respectful of their culture.”
The ethos of Mezcal El Silencio is “made by hand,” and Cisneros and Zapata wanted to translate this into the hotel as well. Nearly all of the materials used to build the hotel and its rooms are recycled or reclaimed and were sourced on property. The walls are made with soil sourced on the hotel’s grounds and crafted using a rammed earth method called tapial, while a lot of the wood used throughout the property was reclaimed from old bridges found on the site.
All of the spa-like bathrooms feature a one-ton monolithic stone sink and a mosaic wall made of recycled El Silencio bottles. The property is also completely self-sustaining, has a no-waste policy, uses solar panels for energy and has implemented rainwater harvesting and water reuse systems for the distillery, hotel and restaurant.
The hotel has six sumptuous suites – Agua, Tierra, Luna, Fuego, Aire and Sol – that are named after the elements and the sun and moon. Each one has a completely different layout and decor, but they all share a modern design and moody ambience, along with design features that tie back to nature. Many of the accent pieces in the rooms were produced by local Oaxacan artisans and craftspeople, including the distressed leather furniture, hand-woven wool rugs, velvet upholstery, copper lamps, artwork and candles crafted using an ancient artisanal method. All the views perfectly frame the surrounding desert and looming mountains.
“Nothing at Casa Silencio is out of a shop,” Cisneros says. “It feels like a living museum because none of these things are replicable. Artisans contributed to every level of the project, from the pillows in the rooms to beautiful custom shades. It’s the most beautiful craftsmanship, and many of these art forms are dying, and they won’t last too much longer unless we do something about it.”
Casa Silencio further connects guests to Oaxacan culture through the incredible gastronomic experience at the restaurant and cocktail bar, led by Executive Chef Daniel Robles Sumano. His menu features traditional Oaxacan dishes made in an ancestral kitchen. Second only to the food is the indoor-outdoor dining setting with views over the mountains and valleys. There is a 53-foot communal table with room for 45 guests that was made from a single 17-ton slab of hand-cut basalt stone and is shaded by an abstract wood sculpture. By night, the desert sky lights up with stars as you enjoy a quiet dinner.
The hotel feels exceptionally remote and connects guests to an exciting, ancient history. Less than a mile away, for example, you’ll find mural paintings inside caves, ancient ruins and petrified waterfalls. “Coming to Oaxaca is like time travel in a way,” says Cisneros. “And coming to Casa Silencio is magical, like you’re visiting your country house.”
There is much to do both on and off property, from art and theatre in downtown Xaaga to exclusive day trips in Oaxaca or yoga and hiking at the hotel. On property, mezcal experiences are available each day and include a guided production tour of the distillery, a mezcal tasting and a five-course Oaxacan-inspired sunset dinner prepared by Top Chef Mexico winner Chef Rodolfo Castellanos. At the distillery, guests are encouraged to join mezcaleros (someone who distills mezcal) by chopping piñas, the inner hearts of agave, and tossing them into the oven to be smoked.
At the end of your trip, be sure to pick up something from the gift shop, which sells bottles of Mezcal El Silencio and handcrafted items, from decor to jewellery, made, of course, by Oaxacan artisans. Rates start at US$1,000 per night.
This story was first published on Robb Report USA