McIlhenny’s Sauce

When I say “hot sauce”, you will most likely think “Tabasco”. The famous red sauce in the unique bottle was invented, initially produced, and the peppers still grown on a tiny private island in Western Louisiana. We couldn’t miss a chance to see the source of one of the most famous brands in the world – so we packed up the car and made the exhausting two hour drive to the Avery Island, the headquarters for the McIlhenny Company.

Even though we had called in advance to confirm the company would producing the product the Monday following New Years and they said yes. Unfortunately, once on the tour we discovered that they MEANT the tour would be running, but that there was no manufacturing of the sauce that day – so, no.

The tour guide gave us a brief company introduction (the same one we read on their Wiki page on the way up) and led us to a theater for their standard company video. She also gave us four mini sample bottles – they make much more than the standard pepper sauce these days. And after the video, we walked down a hall with clear windows open to the shiny, but empty, manufacturing floor.

The sauce is made from a variety of peppers called the tabasco which was developed by the company’s founder Edmund McIlhenny and provides Tabasco Sauce its unique flavor. Tabasco peppers are pretty hot and they are unique in that they are the only chili pepper whose fruits are ”juicy” meaning that they are not dry on the inside like other peppers. The most interesting part of the production process is that like the whisky that is aged in its barrels first, the peppers are aged three years before being processed.

We then made our way to the gift shop where we could try all of their sauces – a catalog that includes six pepper sauces, five steak sauces, two Bloody Mary mixes, and a couple salsas. They also gave had mixed up a batch of pepper ice cream, which was surprisingly good.

Of course, we didn’t want to miss it, but it turned out to be a pretty disappointing road trip that might have been better spent on Bourbon Street. Though, we heard from our friend Conrad that we should check out the Tabasco Gardens that were developed by the founder. But we were advised while we were there that maybe we needed to wait until summer – guess it gives us a reason to give it another try.