The founding trio of YOLA Mezcal; Gina Aglietti, Yola Jimenez and Lykke Li, fell in love over food, music, architecture and travel in a bar in Oaxaca, Mexico. Despite three completely different backgrounds they all found strength in lifting the strong women that have produced the agave-based alcohol Mezcal for generations. We met with Aglietti at their dreamy brand house designed by Rudolph Schindler, overlooking the hills of Los Angeles.
Yola Mezcal is run by women, bottled by women. Why do you find it important to celebrate women in the production of mezcal? What impact has this got on the business?
The reality is: Mezcal has always been produced in large part, by women. Most rural farms and villages are made up predominantly of women, as their sons are off in cities trying to get work. So we at YOLA have made it a point to highlight their work and pay them directly for it.
That’s the only major difference. A lot of women are working, they just aren’t necessarily getting the accolades or compensation they deserve, it’s something we set out to change.
Celebrating women seems to be an intricate part of your brand, how is this shown? What women influences you?
The simplest answer is we just are women, which makes it an intricate detail I suppose. It’s a very unique thing to be in the booze business: females. Many different women have influenced me, mostly my mother, as is the case for so many girls. Her strength and resilience are incomparable. Other inspirations are the women I cull around me. I’m so greateful for the lessons I learn about myself by surrounding myself professionally and personally with forthright and aware women who I allow to know me very intimately. The realest friendships amongst women are gruelling in that they are so so honest and they last forever.
How would you describe Yola as a woman?
I always see Yola as the most elegant extremes of childlike innocence and seasoned maturity and sophistication. She is somehow ageless and timeless and sharply relevant all at once.
You and your co-founders Yola Jimenez whose grandfather ran a mezcal farm in Oaxaca, and later Lykke Li, met in Yola’s bar La Clandestina, describe that meeting (how come you were there?) – and how did you all decide to launch Yola Mezcal?
This is a long and winding tale, but I think to keep it somewhat concise I would say: we all fell in love over food and music and architecture and travel and people and mezcal was our bonding agent. We seemed to have very similar perspectives on the worlds we were in, although we came from very different ones. Not sure if there was a greater force that guided us to each other, but it all feels kismet in retrospect. In the moment it just felt like the right door to walk through and ride to be on… not a lot of analyzation occurred until we were well on our way to becoming a legitimate company.
What different traits do each of you bring to the company?
Luckily, we all stay quite in our lanes. I am afforded the ability to run the day to day in the US with Yolas and Lykke’s trust, which (let’s face it) is everything to a relationship’s success. Yola, obviously, is not only the name and face, but the genius behind the product and its quality and consistency. Lykke is our creative force and artistic arm. When it comes to the brand’s viewpoints and major voice choices, we all contribute. There are some very “healthy” debates, but ultimately we are chock full of respect for each other and that keeps us connected and moving forward.
You have a background as a stylist, and that’s how you got to know Lykke Li. How would you say this has formed your relationship?
We worked intimately on a shared vision and executed, over and over again. That’s confidence inspiring. Any collaborating that ends on a high is a foundation, and we just built on that. We were also roommates during many of those years. You learn an entire language with something you share that much with… and you learn your threshold. We really enjoy each other and our differences… (I mean, not always) but on a deep level there’s a knowing that we are both in it for the long haul and that gave us freedom to really produce, when you know the other is always going to be there. That was the base of our ability to work on YOLA together, we had our own language for which we became fluent.
What are your next plans ahead?
Just to continue, grow. Maybe get knocked down a bit, then climb out of that, then chill, then get up with some new excitement, then, who knows? I’ve never been too much of a planner. We have ideas of what will take this project to its greatest potential, and that we are seeing through and seems that everything we saw is coming to fruition and now it just has to play itself out. For me personally there are 100 versions of a life I wanted to live and could still work toward, but I also just have to enjoy this one as its unfolding. Likewise, I lay little bits of soil and water down daily so that if it seems to be the moment to plant, I can. For now, I’m really just focused on doing the best at this. Oh, and I’d like to write a cookbook.
You have an amazing brand house in LA designed by Rudolph Schindler, what does this bring to the brand? What do you like most about it?
For one: Its way groovier than any office! I truly believe LA’s most interesting pieces of history are its residential homes. These vestiges are a bit more alive than new developments and it speaks to the tradition and heritage of what we’re doing down in Mexico, as well.
Architecture has always been a big part of my California life. I grew up in midcentury ranch houses and love both the acoustics and the breath of light they provide. I also want to provide a special world for the girls who work with us, and the people that we want to entertain. How and where I live and work either deflates and depresses me or inspires me. I’m not assuming everyone has the same reaction I do, but I’m pretty confident this house has had a positive effect on everyone involved.
What is your favourite Yola Mezcal cocktail?
A classic Martini or Negroni
What’s your favourite part of LA?
Any main thoroughfare on a major holiday.
Where do you go for dinner?
I cook or go to friend’s houses and cook. Unlike New York, LA lacks that top 5 list for me. I love everything from old Hollywood spots where the food is relatively inedible but the room makes it worth it somehow, to the dumpiest whole in the wall with the best most specific soup. There are incredibly diverse cultures and cuisines here and although I’ve lived in LA the majority of my life, I still happen upon new places that have seemingly been there forever.
What’s your favourite bar in the city?
I honestly love all the bars we work with for different reasons, different times and different moods.