A legend of the mezcal community, Aquilino García López, “el Maestro,” died this weekend according to a statement from his family. López was a mezcalero and spiritual godfather for Mezcal Vago and an icon to agave lovers worldwide.
“To those in the mezcal community, he was an absolute legend. To a lucky few, he was a friend. To us, he was Don Aquilino, “el maestro,” and a treasure of a human being,” read a statement from Mezcal Vago.
“Aquilino was the epitome of the heart, the care, and wisdom that we all have come to treasure about this incredible liquid that brings us together and gives us a community. For many of us, Aquilino and his mezcal were the ones warmly pulling back the curtain and inviting us in.”
Don Aquilino learned to make mezcal from his father in their native Oaxaca. His father had learned the art from his father who had learned from his father before him, and so on. However, the López family only produced mezcal for themselves and their friends until the launch of Mezcal Vago in 2013.
A few years earlier, Lopez’s daughter Valentina, a nurse, treated Judah Kuper, an American transplant in her clinic. Kuper and Valentina soon fell in love and married.
Kuper did not only fall in love with Valentina López; he also fell in love with the López family mezcal. The American subsequently co-founded Mezcal Vago to share the talents of Don Aquilino and his friends.
López’ palenque was located on his father’s field in Candelaria Yegolé, a remote location even by Oaxacan standards. On the lands, he grew Maguey Espadín, and Maguey Mexicano and wild harvested Maguey Cuixe (Tobasiche) and Tepeztate. Renowned for his cuts of the tails, El Maestro’s expressions such as his Elote were among Vago’s most popular.
As Vago’s profiel grew, so did López’s. He helped educate the uninitiated about mezcal both in person—always happy to entertain those who made the journey—and in the pages of prestigious publications. He was even profiled in a film, Agave: The Spirit of a Nation.
Despite the fame, López did not change and neither did his juice. He continued to live in his fields and continued to make mezcal the way his father did: with stone tahona’s, mud, with care. Family remained paramount to him and in Vago, he found the opportunity to combine his loves.
Rest In Power, Don Aquilino.