As someone born on the bayou, Louisiana is in my blood. Cajun food is my comfort, zydeco makes my toes tap, and I have on more than one occasion found myself using French terms without realizing no one around me in Virginia knew what I was talking about. So, when Jaime and I began seriously dating and he was coming home to visit my home, I had to show him all the highlights. A trip to the Tabasco Factory was an absolute must and we had just a fantastic time.
Before going too far into this post, it is important to note that this trip took place in 2019, long before the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, you will see images without masks and without social distancing. As of late April, the Tabasco Factory Tour is not operating in order to comply with health and safety guidelines, though you can still visit Avery Island, the general store, and restaurant. Tabasco is very excited to safely welcome visitors back soon, so stay tuned for more tour announcements.
A tour of the Tabasco Factory begins with the Tabasco Museum. You’ll walk through expertly curated exhibits walking you through the history of the McIlhenny family, their creation of the famous hot sauce, and their presence in Avery Island, Louisiana. You’ll also get a great look at Tabasco’s impact on popular culture, historic advertising, and some great videos.
Next, walk through the green houses to see the peppers that create the zing in Tabasco sauce. Although most of the peppers used to create Tabasco sauce are now grown in Central and South America, you can get an up close look at them here. (They’re not quite as hot as Jaime, but I may be a little bias) Interesting fact, the peppers are picked by hand at peak ripeness by comparing the pepper to a stick painted the exact shade of red the pepper needs to be.
Once the peppers are picked, they are shipped back to Avery Island, where they are mashed, mixed with salt, and aged in barrels for three years. The smell of this section of the tour is Intense! There is a hugely fragrant punch of vinegar and spice that radiates from the barrels viewing area. Interestingly, the barrels are topped with salt to seal them, but allow the gasses created in the aging process to be expelled, so you can often see the mash bubbling up in this viewing area.
The McIlhenny family inspects each barrel to be sure it is up to the Tabasco standard, before sending them off to be bottled. The bottling section was one of my favorites to watch. There is such precision, efficiency, and ingenuity on display as you see the bottles, labels, and boxes go whizzing by. Check out the bottle counter to see how many have been manufactured that day.
After exploring replicas of the Avery Island salt mines and the history of the area, we landed in the Tabasco General Store, packed with branded memorabilia, clothing, kitchenware, and more. I loved all of the Louisiana culture on display here. In the back of the store is a fun tasting station, where you can sample all of the sauces Tabasco has available, as well as some interesting dishes made with Tabasco such as chili, soda, and even raspberry Tabasco ice cream!
This little exploration of my spicy side was such a fun time for Jaime and I. We found some of our favorite barbeque sauce from this trip, and reminisce every time we taste it. If you’re in southern Louisiana, a trip to the Tabasco Factory is an absolute must!