Tabasco – Top Sauce for Travelers

I travel, a lot including overseas, and often end up in so-so eateries with rather bland food. Which is why I carry a small TSA airline-acceptable bottle of my favorite spicy sauce to add – just in case.

Beautiful Red, Yellow, and Orange peppers

So while on a recent trip to south Louisiana Cajun country, visiting subtropical banana- and satsuma-filled gardens scattered along bayous and nestled amidst vast expanses of sugar cane, I made a side trip from quaint New Iberia to Avery Island. It’s a huge ancient salt dome rising from the swamps, and home of Jungle Gardens botanical wonderland and the world-famous McIlhenny’s Tabasco® pepper plantation.

What started in 1868 as a small plot of peppers turned into fiery sauce bottled as gifts in used perfume bottles, is now a 5th-generation family business with products available in nearly 200 countries and territories, aboard space ships, and included in military ready-to-eat meals. For spicy solace during simple meals I often turn to the little bottle I’ve carried in my shoulder bag across five continents.

In fact, Tabasco has been honored with a crest from the Queen of England – Britain’s only official hot sauce!

Image of British Crest Given to Tabasco
Tabasco is Britain’s Only Official Hot Sauce

Though I’m a lover of spicy vindaloo from the Indian subcontinent, and hot Thai dishes, the faux heat doesn’t bother me, at least not for long; I’ve eaten entire Habaneros, and grown the off-the-Scoville charts Scorpion and Naga Jolokia peppers. Still, my taste tends towards milder hot peppers with distinct flavors.

Oh, and after the initial heat fades I enjoy basking in the warm endorphin afterglow – old guy’s gotta get his kicks naturally and legally, right?

But my all-time  favorite condiment, which again I carry with me overseas, remains the regular old Tabasco®  Red Sauce, still made with the original recipe of red-ripe peppers handpicked using a red-painted stick as a guide for perfection, ground into mash, sealed with a little salt in white oak barrels previously used for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey, aged for three years, and finally diluted with high-quality vinegar.

Tabasco Sauce along with other spices
Tabasco Sauce along with other spices

Touring the McIlhennys’ newly-expanded plant includes a walk through pepper greenhouses, the barrel warehouse, mash vats, bottling facilities, and the country store where I tasted all the different sauce varieties.

Aging barrels in warehouse
Aging barrels in warehouse

They produce several sauces using different spices and peppers, including a surprisingly mild green but tasty Jalapeno sauce and a spicy but less-potent roasted pepper grilling baste. And they offer all sorts of Tabasco-infused products including Slim Jim snacks, chocolates, popcorn, nuts, olives, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire and other marinating sauces, pepper jelly, and of course the original Bloody Mary mix. I even tasted Tabasco ice cream, which was a real surprise because dairy products diffuse the pepper heat, leaving only a hint of spicy pepper flavor.

Eight Main Varieties of Tabasco Sauce
Eight Main Varieties of Tabasco Sauce

I’ve grown Tabasco peppers – beautiful, waist-high spreading ornamental plants topped with green, yellow, and red peppers. Makes my eyes water with fond anticipation.

Beautiful Red, Yellow, and Orange peppers
Beautiful Red, Yellow, and Orange peppers

But nothing beats the 3-year old whiskey barrel-aged sauce that comes directly from the family that started it all… which is why I carry it in my traveling shoulder bag everywhere I go.

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