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Tabasco Sauce, Hot Sauce Manufactured by McIlhenny Company Based in Avery Island, Louisana


dcandohio
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I like Sriracha, but it is one of the most overrated hot sauces in America (behind Tabasco...

OK, I'm going to push back on this a bit. Full disclosure...back in the day, when I was in a different industry in a different place, McIlhenny was my client. So, as a Louisiana native and someone who's actually BEEN to Avery Island, where the McIlhenny's first grew the peppers and made the sauce...I feel a strong affection for the brand and the need to defend it just a bit, at least from a historical perspective. I don't know exactly what you mean by overated (flavor? unwarranted popularity? lack of complexity?). But the history of this product and the family is really fascinating, and really, Tabasco was way out in front of hot sauce popularity in this country.

Avery Island, the "home" of Tabasco, sits on a natural salt dome. It is a luxuriously tropical place, filled with swamp wildlife, flowers and the Asian sculptures collected by the McIlhenny brothers on their travels (I recall a massive Buddha). They also planted acres of bamboo because they liked Asian bamboo forests. The place is magical, otherwordly (it was, back in the 80's. It may be a theme park now). No one went there accidentally - you had to drive for miles out in field and across bayous. You went there to VISIT. Picnicing was encouraged. You could sit by a bayou and listen to the gentle clacking of bamboo against bamboo, watching birds of all kinds and, if the wind was right, getting a lung full of red pepper fumes!

The McIlhenny family cultivated the tobasco peppers (a very distinct variety of peppers, which I believe they still use today) and grew them on top of the salt dome. Everything they needed for the sauce was in one tiny spot in the middle of nowhere in Southern Louisiana. The original ingredients are still the same ingredients - red peppers, salt, vinegar. When I visited the Island, back in the mid-80's, the sauce was still made by workers who lived on the island, and who all stopped work at noon and sat together on large picnic benches for "family meals." The filling and packaging operations were comically rudimentary. It was like stepping back in time. I am sure it is not like that now (or like that only for visitors), but even in the 80's, that operation served the global demand for Tabasco.

The family, however, was extremely shrewd. Their lawyers chased down every Tabasco imitator they could find, to stop copying of the labels, the bottle shape, the cap shape...all which they protected legally. I believe they have unique legal rights to grow the actual pepper, too. I am not sure. The family was extraordinarily generous to the people of Southern Louisiana, and to the other businesses with which they affiliated. They have been a symbol of the culinary tradition of South Louisiana for decades, and the brand is fiercely loved by many people who certainly have knowledge of and access to many other hot sauces.

It's not a complex sauce. It was never meant to be. There are so many hot sauces now that it's easy to dismiss Tabasco as just a mass-marketed sauce designed for common palates. But I see it as an importan piece of Louisiana culture and history, and my house, is NEVER without a large bottle of original Tabasco. I have LOTS of other hot sauces. I collect them while traveling and I receive a lot as gifts. But when I cook, I use Tabasco.

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OK, I'm going to push back on this a bit. Full disclosure...back in the day, when I was in a different industry in a different place, McIlhenny was my client. So, as a Louisiana native and someone who's actually BEEN to Avery Island, where the McIlhenny's first grew the peppers and made the sauce...I feel a strong affection for the brand and the need to defend it just a bit, at least from a historical perspective. I don't know exactly what you mean by overated (flavor? unwarranted popularity? lack of complexity?). But the history of this product and the family is really fascinating, and really, Tabasco was way out in front of hot sauce popularity in this country.

...

It's not a complex sauce. It was never meant to be. There are so many hot sauces now that it's easy to dismiss Tabasco as just a mass-marketed sauce designed for common palates. But I see it as an importan piece of Louisiana culture and history, and my house, is NEVER without a large bottle of original Tabasco. I have LOTS of other hot sauces. I collect them while traveling and I receive a lot as gifts. But when I cook, I use Tabasco.

What dcandohio said.  And some of us keep a bottle of Crystal around, too.

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OK, I'm going to push back on this a bit. Full disclosure...back in the day, when I was in a different industry in a different place, McIlhenny was my client. So, as a Louisiana native and someone who's actually BEEN to Avery Island, where the McIlhenny's first grew the peppers and made the sauce...I feel a strong affection for the brand and the need to defend it just a bit, at least from a historical perspective. I don't know exactly what you mean by overated (flavor? unwarranted popularity? lack of complexity?). But the history of this product and the family is really fascinating, and really, Tabasco was way out in front of hot sauce popularity in this country.

It's especially good on fish - you know, those things that "take the bait?" ;)

(I'm kidding - I felt obliged to say Tabasco, simply because of its enormous sales volume.)

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I agree Sriracha is overrated, at least the ubiquitous made in USA version.  I find it too sweet-tasting.  While a bit vinegary for my taste, Tabasco is a good product, and everyone should have some on hand; most people do -- I understand it is or at least was at one time found in more countries of the world than any other single product.   My personal go-to sauce is unfancy Franks.  Spicy yet smooth, good balance -- thank you giant international consumer goods company Renkitt Benckiser, a company almost nobody has ever heard of, but yet nearly everyone has at least two or three of their products in the house.

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IIRC, McIlhenny now has their particular strain of peppers grown-to-order elsewhere, but they control and directly supervise the harvesting, which is done by hand with each picker carrying a color reference stick.  There's actually something a bit creepy and antebellum about the way the tour keeps mentioning that each harvest is still supervised in person by a member of the McIlhenny family, as if you'd expect them to be astride a horse carrying a whip.

All processing is still done at Avery Island, I believe using local salt to form the "cap" around the airlocks on each wooden barrel.  The aroma is phenomenal from the moment you pull into their parking lot.  The normal product is just okay in my book, but the extra-aged "reserve" Tabasco, originally produced for the family's own use but now bottled as a limited edition, is quite a bit better.

The true reserve, based on the one time I was able to taste a somewhat mishandled jug of it, is phenomenal.

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IIRC, McIlhenny now has their particular strain of peppers grown-to-order elsewhere, but they control and directly supervise the harvesting, which is done by hand with each picker carrying a color reference stick.  There's actually something a bit creepy and antebellum about the way the tour keeps mentioning that each harvest is still supervised in person by a member of the McIlhenny family, as if you'd expect them to be astride a horse carrying a whip.

All processing is still done at Avery Island, I believe using local salt to form the "cap" around the airlocks on each wooden barrel.  The aroma is phenomenal from the moment you pull into their parking lot.  The normal product is just okay in my book, but the extra-aged "reserve" Tabasco, originally produced for the family's own use but now bottled as a limited edition, is quite a bit better.

The true reserve, based on the one time I was able to taste a somewhat mishandled jug of it, is phenomenal.

What is this green stuff? I *love* salsa verde, but I don't think this is their best product.

I saw both this and Sriracha today at the accoutrements station at Nourish Market (where I got a large drip coffee, and paid $3.07 :angry:).

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IIRC, McIlhenny now has their particular strain of peppers grown-to-order elsewhere, but they control and directly supervise the harvesting, which is done by hand with each picker carrying a color reference stick.  

I believe most of their fruit is grown in Honduras.

They have a very wide product line these days, with sauces made of various peppers and with various flavors, ketchup, soy sauce, pickles, olives, and many other products.  Unlike Rocks, I recently tried the green sauce and rather like it, but it's not a particularly hot sauce.

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http://www.tabasco.com/mcilhenny-company/press-releases/tabasco-family-reserve/ is the Reserve which we bought at the Tabasco Company Store a couple of years ago when we visited it.  It is superb and worth the $25 it costs.  I'm not sure that any peppers are grown on Avery island any more but the place has a lot of character and is well worth the visit.

For anyone that goes there is a fantastic restauant called Cafe Des Amis in nearby Breaux Bridge http://www.cafedesamis.com/our-menu/8-menu-item/13-entrees.html  Ground zero for Cajun food and music.

FWIW I love all Tabasco sauce whether traditional red, green, Buffalo, garlic, chipotle or a half dozen others that I first saw at the Tabasco store and still haven't seen around here.

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There's a special on Tabasco sauce on TV now and then. I think they have some peppers growing on the island for visitors to see, but not for serious crop. What I found interesting was just how corrosive an atmosphere is in the warehouses. They have to replace fork lifts much more frequently than most industry, and they showed an "old" (not really old) fork lift which looked like it was kept in battery acid.

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There's a special on Tabasco sauce on TV now and then. I think they have some peppers growing on the island for visitors to see, but not for serious crop. What I found interesting was just how corrosive an atmosphere is in the warehouses. They have to replace fork lifts much more frequently than most industry, and they showed an "old" (not really old) fork lift which looked like it was kept in battery acid. 

You mean literally corrosive, as in, "corrosive acid," right?

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You mean literally corrosive, as in, "corrosive acid," right?

Trust me, salt air (McIlhenny uses salt in their curing process) can be extremely corrosive.  Having recently purchased a house one block from the ocean in Florida, close enough that salt air reaches us, I have become painfully acquainted with that fact.  Everything rusts very quickly.  Metal items that aren't heavily coated are covered in rust within six months.  I already had to replace the eight-year-old a/c system, which they tell me is typical.  Such systems last at least 15 years in "normal" environments.

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My old UVa fraternity brother, Maunsel White, is the great great grandson referred to in this article

(there are many more like it)

I don't think McIlhenny "stole" White's recipe but I do think it likely that White introduced him to the "Tobasco" pepper itself, and probably gave him the seeds. After that, the peppers probably took on a different flavor on Avery Island than at the White plantation at Deer Range. I believe McIlhenny's sauce was entirely his own however. I think both men can be honored with the idea that White gets credit for the cultivation of the pepper itself and McIlhenny for either creating the sauce or at the very least, perfecting it -- and marketing the absolute tee-total hell out of it.

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I live in a village with less than half the number of members on this site.  You can only buy groceries at a small bodega and a butcher.  At the butcher you can buy house made picante sauce of local olive oil and peppers, their own hot sauce..  Nothing is in English; the family that runs the butcher shop cannot and does not want to speak English.

Both carry Tabasco.

It is displayed on the butcher counter so it is one of the first things you see when you walk into the store.  It may be overrated, but it is overrated all over the world.

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