Paul C.P. McIlhenny took joy in escorting visitors to his company’s warehouse, where wooden whiskey barrels filled with the aging pepper mash that is the main ingredient in Tabasco sauce were stacked six-high.
With a flourish, he would ask an employee to crack open a couple of barrels. After the stinging smell of the peppers was noted, he asked guests to dab the mash with a finger and gingerly lick it.
McIlhenny had no doubt played the culinary instigator countless times in his 45 years at the McIlhenny Co., the makers of Tabasco pepper sauce, perhaps Louisiana’s best-known product.
McIlhenny, chairman and chief executive of the family-owned McIlhenny Co., died Saturday in New Orleans of an apparent heart attack. He was 68.
The great-grandson of Edmund McIlhenny, who invented Tabasco sauce after the Civil War, Paul Carr Polk McIlhenny was born in Houston on March 19, 1944, with his twin sister, Sara.
During his tenure, the company enjoyed record growth, thanks in part to the introduction of new products, like chipotle, and Buffalo-style hot sauces.