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Tabasco is a brand of hot sauce made exclusively from tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), vinegar, and salt. It is produced by McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana.
According to company legend, Tabasco was first produced in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a Maryland-born former banker who moved to Louisiana around 1840.
Originally all peppers used in Tabasco were grown on Avery Island. Today peppers grown on the Island are used to produce seed stock, which is then shipped to foreign growers primarily in Central and South America. More predictable weather and readily available farmland in these locales allow a constant year-round supply. This ensures the availability of peppers should severe weather or other problems occur at a particular growing location.
Following company tradition, peppers are picked by hand. To ensure ripeness, pickers compare peppers to a little red stick (le petit bâton rouge); peppers that match the color of the stick are then introduced into the sauce production process. Peppers are ground into a mash on the day of harvest and placed along with salt in white oak barrels previously used for whiskey of various distilleries). To prepare the barrel, the inside of the barrel is de-charred (top layer of wood is removed), torched, and cleaned, to minimize the presence of any residual whiskey. The barrels are then used in warehouses on Avery Island for aging the mash.
After aging for up to three years, the mash is strained to remove skins and seeds. The resulting liquid is then mixed with distilled vinegar, stirred occasionally for a month, and then bottled as finished sauce. Tabasco has released a Tabasco reserve edition with peppers aged for up to eight years, mixed with wine vinegar.
Tabasco diamond reserve edition was a limited bottling released 2018 to commemorate the brand's 150th anniversary. This sauce consists of peppers that have been aged for up to fifteen years, then mixed with sparkling white wine vinegar.
Much of the salt used in Tabasco production comes from an Avery Island salt mine, one of the largest in the U.S.
Several sauces are produced under the Tabasco brand name, including jalapeño-based green, chipotle-based smoked, habanero, cayenne garlic, "sweet and spicy", and "Buffalo style" sauces. The habanero, chipotle, and garlic sauces include the tabasco peppers blended with other peppers, whereas the jalapeño variety does not include tabasco peppers. None of these sauces, however, has the three-year aging process the flagship product uses. The brand also produces a selection of Tabasco Chocolate.
Tabasco brand pepper sauce is sold in more than 195 countries and territories and is packaged in 25 languages and dialects. The Tabasco bottle is still modeled after the cologne-style bottles used for the first batch of sauce in 1868. As many as 720,000 two-ounce (57 ml) bottles of Tabasco sauce are produced daily at the Tabasco factory on Avery Island. Bottles range from the common two-ounce and five-ounce (59 ml and 148 ml) bottles, up to a one US gallon-(3.8 liter) jug for food service businesses, and down to a 1/8-ounce (3.7 ml) miniature bottle. There are also 0.11-ounce portion control (PC) packets of Tabasco sauce.
One-eighth-ounce bottles of Tabasco, bearing the presidential seal, are served on Air Force One. The US military has included Tabasco sauce in Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) since the 1980s. The Australian, British and Canadian armies also issue small bottles of Tabasco sauce in their rations. The 1/8th ounce bottles will fit in John M. Browning's .50 caliber M2 link, replacing the used round. A belt of the bottles, and the used links will make a bandoleer. But, since the 1/8th ounce bottles are no longer in MREs, they are quite difficult to find.
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