2022

MCHAP

Abasolo Distilery

Lorenzo Alvarez

Jilotepec, Mexico

March 2020

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Lorenzo Alvarez

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Karmina Miranda

CLIENT

Casa Lumbre Spirits / Ivan Saldaña

PHOTOGRAPHER

Onnis Luque Rodriguez

OBJECTIVE

The encounter with the landscape and creating a dialogue with the rural simplicity of the original buildings were the first directives. It was clear that the scale needed to be determined by the old trees and not by the existing volumes, but the scale of the spaces between them determined the organization of the complex. Following this rationale, the main nave required for a serious and determined presence and was resolved as a steel factory bay, whose long sides are open to light and to the landscape through a glazed façade, that is both the supporting structure and the device that provides and filters natural light and ventilation. The repetitive character of its members refers to the simple structures of the silos that in the region were used to store and maintain fresh corn in one compact volume that kept the airflow. From the inside, this transparent facade allows the visual connection with the landscape and provides natural light for the factory. The short sides of the nave are closed with industrial laminated panels of corten-steel, giving it character and color through a natural patina, closer to the materiality of the surroundings.
The access patio cuts the long building to separate the distillation area with its copper stills, a highlight of the process with a sculptural character. The main patio articulates the rest of the buildings. A visiting area with a terrace and a kitchen completes the complex, within the existing buildings, solved with small interventions that respect its simple and functional nature.

CONTEXT

The commission was the creation of an industrial building to produce corn whiskey by repurposing a rural facility with history in the middle of an old agricultural property with a consolidated landscape in Jilotepec, State of Mexico.
Jilotepec is a town with a long tradition of growing corn, the main raw material for the production of Abasolo Whiskey. It is located 90km from Mexico City and its name in náhuatl translates as the place where corn flourishes. The client, an innovative spirits company, wanted to solve spatially the production processes and storage while creating a house for a new brand of his crafted product. They wanted to translate their ambition of producing a special whisky based on ancestral corn cooking methods, and also to project the high standards, time, and care involved in producing whisky.
They asked for a place capable of receiving visitors, that could offer a first-hand experience of the agricultural landscape of this region, to have an immersion in the transformation of the corn and its cultural importance in Mexico, and allow for an in-depth understanding of the process of creating a spirit. The original buildings of the complex, such as the stables, warehouses, and workers’ houses, were rehabilitated. In this context, a new modern warehouse was inserted in the old corn drying yard to carry out the most sophisticated processes such as nixtamalization, toasting, milling, fermentation, and distillation. The oldest of the original buildings was designated to be the barrel aging warehouse.

PERFORMANCE

The distillery was designed to produce a special new type of corn whiskey, that needed to conjunct both the artisanal and the innovative industrial vocation. The complex is indeed used in an intensive industrial way but maintains its human craft purpose and benefits from its calming surroundings. Three working shifts profit during the day of the soothing effect of the openness, light, and natural landscape of the site. Abasolo Distillery has provided new jobs and created a new identity for the town, which now has proudly its own whiskey. Visits are held during weekends allowing people to come close to the creation of corn whiskey production and mainly enjoy an outdoor experience in the Mexican countryside. The visitor center provides a space for reunions, meals, and tastings of the products. The visit to the distillery transforms into a sensorial experience, where people get to see, smell, and taste along with the nixtamalization and toasting of the corn, the distillation, the aging.

The impact on the environment is mitigated with onsite treatments and with the inclusion of the community that recollects the rich in protein byproduct of distillation to feed cattle, and an agricultural program to reintroduce native and non-gmo corn in the area.

The design of the building complex was developed in parallel to the creation of the brand and its character, it was designed to produce and transform through careful labor, to accommodate change and be flexible, and that’s how it is evolving.