Red Hot Sauce and Cool White Birds: Avery Island, LA
Where can you find an island rising above a wetland marsh that provides for thousands of snowy egrets nesting on man-made stilt platforms and a historic factory producing over 700,000 bottles of a fire-hot red sauce a day? Only one place in world, Avery Island, Louisiana, home to the world-famous Tabasco sauce.
Located about 3 hours west of New Orleans, Avery Island is where Tabasco sauce was created in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenney. Still family-run, the factory (open for tours) produces over 700,000 bottles a day of the hot stuff after aging the pepper "mash" in white oak casks for 3 years.
The factory tour (free of charge) includes a video about how Tabasco sauce is made, a view of the bottling room, and a chance to see a oak cask up close filled with the pungent smelling pepper mash.
After the hot stuff, it is time for a little nature. In the late 1890's the founder's son, E.A. McIlhenney created what is now known as Bird Island to encourage the nesting of the beautiful snowy egrets which had been hunted for their plumes nearly to the point of extinction. Over 120 years later, thousands of snowy egrets mass each spring in a squawking community of white to raise their young safely on man-made stilt and reed platforms.
Bird Island is located within the 170-acre Jungle Garden along the Bayou Petite Anse just a two-minute drive from the Tabasco Factory. The gardens include bamboo forests, camellia and azalea gardens, massive oak trees, gators, deer and raccoon.