Written by   

In 1841a fourth generation American of Scottish-Irish descent moved to New Orleans to begin a career in Banking. His name was Edmund McIlhenny. There he worked his way from bookkeeper to bank ownership, purchasing five branch


banks within 14 years.

In 1859, he married the daughter of a prominent Baton Rouge attorney by the name of Avery. Mary Avery and her family owned a sugar plantation on Petite Anse, a small land island near the Gulf of Mexico near southwest Louisiana.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Edmund and wife Mary along with her family fled to this small island for safety. However, the Union troops included Petite Anse in their raids; and so the McIlhenny and Avery’s traveled to Texas and remained there until the end of the war in 1864.

Upon returning to Petite Anse and discovering the ruins left by the invading troops, the families began the process of rebuilding the sugarcane business and reorganizing a salt mining operation which had began before the war. You see Petite Anse sits atop a huge salt dome just 16′ below layers of rich soil. Following the war, they renamed their home Avery Island.

Edmund left to seek employment in New Orleans following the end of the war; but dismal conditions of Louisiana’s financial industy made jobs scarce. The story passed on from the McIlhenny family was that Edmund had befriended a Mexican gentleman who at some point, presented him with a handful of pepper pods with instructions that the tasty peppers would improve the taste of his meals.

He eventually planted them in the gardens at Avery Island and in 1866 begin experimenting with producing a hot sauce from the peppers. He would crush the ripest of the peppers with rock salt from the mines, age the powder for 30 days, then add wine vinegar and store for an additional 30 days.

The result was so popular than he began producing a commercial crop in 1868. Two years later a patent was obtained; and the rest is history!

The family has continued their ownership and control of this world-famous sauce. You will find the sauce in the most remote areas throughout the world. Tabasco is now a staple with NASA; and can be found in the Skylab space station, thousands of miles above Avery Island.

The production operations are still located on Avery Island and the McIlhenny descendants have added an outstanding bird and wildlife sanctuary donated as a major tourist attraction to the State of Louisiana. More than 100,000 visitors tour the Bird Sanctuary, Visitor’s Center, and Country Store each year.

The seeds of the most select Tabasco peppers are actually kept in a bank vault in New Iberia as protection from possible hurricane loss.

One additional interesting note is that the peppers are still picked by hand and only the absolute perfectly ripe fruit is picked. Pickers actually carry a red stick, colored in the shade of the ideal pepper so as to insure consistent selection.

The McIlhenny Company has expanded their product line to include a variety of additional sauces. Wherever you live, walk into your favorite supermarket. I’ll bet you find the Tabasco products front and center on the shelves!

For more information, be sure to visit their website at: