The state of Louisiana has long been known for its culinary creations, but one of the longest living brands continues to be Tabasco Hot Sauce. Located a couple of hours west of New Orleans is Avery Island. Here, one of the most popular sauces in the world is produced. The McIlhenny family has been building one of America’s favorite hot sauces since 1868. Today, the fifth generation of the family continues to handpick their peppers. Therefore, producing a unique flavor that is smoky, spicy, and yet mild enough to put onto just about any dish.
Tabasco Sauce Factory Tour
Touring the island gives visitors a rare look into the factory process, as well as several different tour options to enjoy. Some of the tour offerings focus on the surrounding wildlife and sustainable production habits. On the contrary, other educational points of interest focus on the history of the brand and the family behind it.
Open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, you can take a factory tour of the Tabasco bottling plant. Here, guests can enjoy a self-guided tour with ten different stops. Here, exhibits detail the process, as well as a short history film in the onsite museum.
Other stops along the tour include the greenhouse, a look at the barrel process, the bottling process, and a trip to the onsite store and restaurant. As the visit continues, it becomes apparent that many significant changes have occurred over the years. In addition, the modernized process is impressive, to say the least.
A Fairly New Tour
As is the case with most family-based businesses that make it big, Tabasco didn’t always offer public tours. In fact, for many years they were a highly private company. Therefore, the plant was unavailable for a tour. But several of the tour facilities, most notably the Restaurant 1886, were opened just a few years ago. Now, the plant welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
The tour grounds have already undergone at least one renovation, so it seems as if the family is intent on keeping the tour running for at least the immediate future. It is also likely that over time we can expect to see even more new and exciting changes to take place.
What to Expect
The main tour of the factory is a walking tour. This means upwards of three hours of standing and walking inside and out in the Louisiana heat and humidity. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes that breathe, as well as some comfortable walking shoes. Children are welcome on this family-friendly historical tour. However, I would also suggest planning accordingly. Especially if you are going to have to drive several hours before even arriving.
It seems as if not all of the facilities are always open. I have read comments by more than one person stating that on Mondays especially many of the tour areas are closed. It’s suggested to call ahead and see what the availability is before heading out.
Admission is fairly cheap; while I could not locate an official price, it would seem that the factory tours run about $1 per person, with the Jungle Gardens area costing $8. Again, it seems like calling beforehand would be your best bet of nailing down more details.
Finally, a $65 tour has recently been offered, which includes transportation to and from the island from New Orleans. If you are short on wheels, this may be the way to go, and probably much cheaper than trying to find a taxi or Uber.
Free Samples and Unique Items
Not only is the Tabasco factory tour a unique attraction, but it also includes a free sample. And no, this isn’t’ someone coming around with a drop of hot sauce. The company sells a surprising variety of snacks, such as spicy beans, pickled okra, chili beans, even their own flavor of Cheez-It crackers. No matter what type of sample that they hook you up with, you can find an expansive selection at the Tabasco Country Store.
Of course, going to a store with only one flavor of hot sauce wouldn’t be much fun. But the Country Store has a huge selection of Tabasco sauce flavors, some of which are fairly rare and not readily found in stores.
Also, there is a fairly large difference in bottle sizes. Ranging from miniature travel bottles you can take anywhere to large glass jugs sold as an entire gallon. Visitors can also find spicy jellies, candies, and crunchy snacks, as well as gift bundles.
The tours typically take two to three hours, and there are other available tours on the island as well, which may or may not have to do with the Tabasco factory. One of the earlier McIlhenny family attractions involves self-guided tours of the Jungle Gardens, full of lush Louisiana wilderness, wildlife, and views.
Other tours are premium tours by appointment only that go even further than the public tours. This includes a guided factory tour, a cooking class with the company’s chef, and a culinary tour.