The McIlhenny Company in Louisiana is the real Tabasco: it makes the world-famous brand of hot-pepper sauce. Now an international operation, the company grows its basic ingredient, the Capsicum frutescens pepper, in several countries to ensure a good harvest, sells its signature product in more than 160 countries and territories around the world, and prints its labels in 21 languages. Still, there is just one Tabasco factory, located west of New Orleans on Avery Island, Louisiana.
You'll know you're there as soon as you open your car door and catch a whiff of the piquant local aroma. Tours start with a film explaining that during the 19th century the company's founder created his Tabasco sauce (which takes its name from a river and state of Mexico) by mashing C. frutescens peppers with Avery Island salt, aging the mash in wooden barrels, adding vinegar, and then straining the mixture.
Along a corridor in the modern factory, you can see four lines of Tabasco sauce being bottled behind a long glass wall. The smell here is strong—but not nearly as strong as it must be inside the packaging room. Some lines produce more than 300 bottles of Tabasco sauce a minute, helping the factory produce at least 600,000 bottles a day.
After the bottles are spun around in the carousel and injected with the hot red-pepper sauce, they journey naked down the assembly line. Machines clothe the bottles with the familiar bright red octagonal caps, green foil neckbands, and diamond-shaped labels. The dressed bottles are then mechanically packed in boxes, ready to travel.
Burning with curiosity? See our book Watch It Made in the U.S.A. for more about this and other factory tours.
Posted By Karen Axelrod May 13, 2008