Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rediscover America's Legend - Tabasco!

By: Courtney Phillips

You can find it at any dinner across the heartland of America and in almost any refrigerator or pantry, but not many people know the history of this definitive American legend. Myth surrounds its early history, with some of the early rumors proving true according to the historians and curators at the McIlhenny Company,

The Legend Begins

It was a man by the name of Edmund McIlhenny who is credited with the development of the recipe and process that created the spicy red concoction focusing on a natural fermentation of the liquid instead of an accelerated boiling process. In 1868 he grew his own commercial crop of peppers for his first official batch. In 1869 McIlhenny sent out 658 bottles of liquid heat to sell to grocers and markets in the southern gulf coast.

Selling for one dollar a piece he labeled the bottles “Tabasco,” a word of Mexican Indian origin meaning “place where the soil is humid.” In 1870 he secured a patent for the name and the rest, as they say… well you can finish that one.


The brand is still in heavy production five generations later, being produced on Avery Island, Louisiana, where half of the factory’s 200 workers still live. Many are the descendants of the factory’s original workers and all working today for Paul McIlhenny, the sixth generation descendant of the inventor.

The Tradition

The recipe remains unchanged and the ‘mash’, or main pulp and spices for the recipe, is still made in much the same way as the original, although the quality of some of the ingredients has been improved over the years. The sauce is aged in white oak barrels for as long as 3 years and only at the permission of the family, who supervise the process very closely, is it allowed to be mixed with vinegar before being bottled.

Fun Facts and Secrets

One fact you may not know about Tabasco brand hot sauce is that every drop is aged in barrels which come from the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, TN. The company purchases used barrels that Jack Daniels brand whiskey has been aged in and subsequently uses them to age their hot sauce. The bottles that Tabasco goes into were not all that original at their start either. According to legend Edmund McIlhenny originally used discarded cologne bottles to package his first few batches, a fact confirmed through the company’s own historians!

This post was contributed by Courtney Phillips, who writes about the culinary school ranking. She welcomes your feedback at CourtneyPhillips80 at

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