The Avery Island, Louisiana Tabasco Factory tour is about what you’d expect and not at all. Inside, the factory is the typical sterile, automated, conveyor belt, assembly line. Not the sort of thing you usually find in the midst of a jungle island. The McIlhenny family has taken pains to preserve the beauty and habitat for generations. Back in 1895, before ecology was even a thing, “Mr. Ned” founded Bird City, a refuge to foster a colony of the then endangered snowy egrets.
Having spent my life in a prairie, I treasure trees, and massive oaks draped in Spanish moss are especially enchanting. It was good that I was more than happy just hanging around under those exotics because the general store was packed to the gills.
The other unusual piece of this factory tour is that the island’s base is an ancient salt dome. The salt is mined to mix into the Tabasco pepper mash and also to cover the barrel tops during their three-year aging period. The sauce bubbles and leaks a bit as it ferments which hardens the fine salt granules into solid caps. How ancient is the dome? The visitor’s center displays a mastodon tooth found embedded in the salt.