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May 2, 2021

The Tabasco Factory Tour: Louisiana’s Hottest Attraction

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Simply put, the Tabasco Factory tour is one of the best things to do in Avery Island. Here's how a visit to this island reveals the secret to success.

Visiting the Tabasco Factory and Jungle Gardens on Avery Island Louisiana

The Tabasco Factory Tour Review

Recommended reading: 27 Ways Food and Travel Go Together (Not just for "Foodies")

Avery Island gets people guessing from the start.

First, it’s not an island, at least not in the conventional sense.

It’s a 2.5 mile wide peak of salt that rises, island-like, from the surrounding swamps and bayous of the Deep American South.

Second, it's the home of Tabasco, the most famous hot pepper sauce in the world.

Today, the Tabasco Factory runs a slick operation beneath the Louisiana sun. Tabasco bottles line up for photo ops while glassy miniatures wait in the gift shop and Avery Island gumbo comes with no fewer than six different Tabasco versions.

And if hot sauce golf bags, key rings and clothes are all that's been missing from your life, you'll find them all here. 

But a Tabasco factory tour also reveals a lot more. It talks about the mystery that is the secret to success.

Tabasco Factory Tour: Need to Knows

The Tabasco Factory tour is self-guided through pretty big grounds. It's indoors and outdoors and the sun is fierce in Louisiana, so bring hats and water and try to avoid the outdoor portions during the midday heat.

The Tabasco Factory tour takes in the TABASCO® Museum, Pepper Greenhouse, Barrel Warehouse, Blending and Bottling exhibition, Avery Island Conservation Area, Salt Mine diorama, TABASCO® Country Store, and the 1868! Restaurant.

The food is unpretentious, traditional Louisiana fare. With a LOT of hot sauce available.

It's great fun and easily one of the best things to do on Avery Island.

Tabasco paraphernalia found in the tabasco factory on Avery Island Louisiana


TABASCO AND THE SECRET TO SUCCESS

Today, Tabasco retails in over 185 countries, in over 20 languages and dialects and has even appeared in the world of James Bond. The business generates over $100 million dollars each year - and every single bottle is filled in the Tabasco Factory here on Avery Island Louisiana.

Yet, the story began back in 1868 with a young man who had lost everything in America's Civil War.

Edmund McIlhenny dreamed of putting “a bottle of Tabasco on every table” and he and his heirs have arguably achieved just that.

The recipe is largely unchanged and the bottle reads like a history book.

But how did McIlhenny do it?

Why this hot sauce, why here?

What is Tabasco made of?

Tabasco is a hot sauce mash of capsicum frutescens peppers aged, strained and mixed with vinegar and local rock salt.

Avery Island Louisiana is home to the Tabasco Factory which produces every bottle of the hot sauce in the world. You can visit and discover the fascinating history behind the pepper sauce just a two hour day trip from New Orleans

WHY WAS TABASCO SO SUCCESSFUL?

Was it his business partner, the less well known John. C. Henshaw, who opened up sales to the prosperous north east?

Was it the company’s devotion to family, with a 5th generation CEO today?

Or was it the company’s approach to marketing and embracing new technology while keeping the basics of the product the same?

The first ever newspaper advertisement in New Orleans in 1869 was for Tabasco.

They made an early move to radio. And were one of the first food companies to get online.

And then there was that pioneering product placement involving The Man with the Golden Gun.

Yes, the Tabasco factory tour reveals that they were the masters of marketing. Keeping up with the new. Retaining the old. 

The shape of the bottle hasn't changed. McIlhenny initially forged them from recycled cologne bottles as that was all that was available in the post-war years. A green top replaces the wax seal but the label remains the same: Tabasco, Avery Island, McIlhenny.

Peppers used in making tabasco on Avery Island Louisiana

Does the Tabasco Factory Tour reveal this as the secret to success?

Is the secret to success simply committing to one thing and then trying any and everything to make that thing work?

And when it comes to earning a living through our own creativity, does it pay to create different works or to focus on one thing and one thing only and market the hell out of that?

Creatively.

That's a lot of introspection to wrangle out of a Louisiana hot sauce tour.

But the Tabasco Factory tour seems to invite thought, time, reflection.

Driving into the Jungle Gardens on Avery Island Louisiana

Other Things to do on Avery Island


Avery Island Jungle Gardens: A Safari Rather than a Garden

And if you didn't get that side of things during the bright blaze of the factory, the neighbouring Jungle Gardens provide a soothing journey through Avery Island Louisiana.

Along the self-drive safari, the water ripples, the sun slides by.

Even the alligators seem languid, lovely even, as the wheels roll over tarmac in this semi-tropical garden. One hundred and seventy acres of the Louisiana state: wild and free yet also dotted with McIlhenny's ancestors eco-passion projects.


Buddhist Statues

Buddhist statues, wild deer, bamboo and live oaks stretch along the Bayou Petite Anse, home to the world's largest collection of camellias.

Birdwatchers can look out for roseate spoonbills, white ibises and the occasional great blue heron in this sanctuary that attracts terns and blue-winged teals.


Snowy Egrets

But it's the snowy egrets that dominate this part of Avery Island Louisiana: the result of a McIlhenny bid to save the birds from extinction when fashion found their feathers fruitful for female hats.

And for all the reflection on what underpins the secret of success, perhaps the better point lives among the egrets.

It's not so much the reach of success; it's what you do with it that counts.

You can find Bird City within the Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, Iberia Parish.

Peering at the details at the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island Louisiana


Avery Island to New Orleans: can I visit Avery Island as a day trip?

Avery Island Louisiana is a two hour drive from New Orleans so can be done in an ambitious day trip from the city. Alternatively, weave it into a road trip through Louisiana and visit nearby Lafayette and learn all about Cajun history. 


How long should I spend at the Tabasco factory on Avery Island?

The weather is hot here and there's plenty to do. I'd suggest a morning visiting the Tabasco Factory and the afternoon driving around the Jungle Gardens (it makes sense to have a car here - you won't be allowed to walk through because of the alligators.)

Shelter from the sun over lunch; the cafe offers a surprisingly decent range of Cajun classics like gumbo.

And of course plenty of Tabasco.

How to Arrange a Tabasco Factory Tour

Both the Tabasco Factory and Avery Island are open all year round but, as ever, double check the details before you set off. And the best place to do that is on the website itself: how to visit Avery Island.

Avery Island Things To Do

Obviously, the Tabasco Factory tops the list for things to do on Avery Island but don't miss driving around the Jungle Gardens.

Nearby attractions include the living museum of Acadian history at Vermilionville and the arts centre of the closest city of Lafayette. 

Disclosure - I travelled through Louisiana with assistance from Flight Centre, Hertz UK, Louisiana Travel and TTM World. As ever as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what is the point?!


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  • I have so often wondered how it is that Tabasco is the hot sauce sold round the world. While it is no where near my fave, it has certainly come in handy in areas that are less spice obsessed than I, and the clever moves you describe in your article sure explain their success!

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