Tabasco Sauce – the go-to hot sauce across the globe – is celebrating its 150th birthday, and the brand is offering a special release to mark the occasion. What better time to give Tabasco a moment in the spotlight? I’ll bet there’s a lot you don’t know about the little bottle you take for granted!
Tabasco Sauce is named after the Tabasco Pepper ( Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), which originally comes from the Mexican State of Tabasco. But the namesake Sauce is actually Made in the U.S., by the McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana. The ‘Tabasco Sauce’ brand name is registered and protected, and no other Hot Sauce can call itself ‘Tabasco Sauce’.
What do they use?
The Tabasco Pepper is on the mild side, in its natural state, coming i at about 2,000 on the Scoville scale of Pepper Hotness. Jalapeño, by comparison, registers a respectable 5,000 Scovilles. But that’s nothing compared to the latest man-made hybrids, like Carolina Reaper, which come in a millions of Scovilles. They’re not really meant for eating. In fact. the military is already looking into weaponizing them.
But the Sauce McIlhenny’s make from it is concentrated and refined and, so, tastes much hotter. Typically, recipes call for no more than a few shakes of Tabasco Sauce; small fractions of a teaspoon.
How is it made?
Tabasco Peppers are picked at their prime, mashed, then packed into wooden barrels with salt. The barrels are oak, and have been previously used to age Jack Daniel’s Whiskey. But they are shaved and treated to minimize the presence of any residual booze. After three years of quiet aging in the McIlhenny’s warehouse, the barrels are uncapped, the Pepper mash is strained to remove seeds and skins, and the resulting liquid is mixed with vinegar, stirred gently several times over the next month, and then bottled.
Original Tabasco Sauce has a shelf life of at least five years.
McIlhenny’s has branched out in recent years, offering new flavours of Hot Pepper Sauce under the Tabasco brand name: including Jalapeño-based green, Chipotle-based smoked, Habanero, garlic, “sweet and spicy”, and “Buffalo style” sauces.
Not only that, but the company has brought out a range of Tabasco-laced Chocolates, in recognition that Hot Peppers and Chocolate go so well together.
Tabasco Sauce even went into space on several Shuttle missions, after astronauts complained of the bland food they were sent from the ground..
McIlhenny’s has occasionally produced special edition Tabasco Sauces. Their Special Reserve is aged eight years and mixed with Wine Vinegar. Their most recent special edition, Diamond Reserve, is aged twelve years and mixed with Sparking White Wine Vinegar. It is black, rather than the standard red we’ve all come to associate with Tabasco Sauce.
The Diamond Reserve Edition is for sale now, as part of the company’s 150th birthday celebration. It’s a mere (US)$34.95. per 6 oz. / 177 ml bottle. A lot to pay for Hot Sauce, you say? Yes, but it does come in a gold foil-topped bottle which, in turn, comes in a handsome wooden box – like a bottle of fine Champagne.
How popular is the Diamond Reserve Edition? Bottles are already showing up on eBay for as much as (US)$499.
~ Maggie J.