About That Time A Hot Sauce Met Scotch Whisky

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This weekend, my wife and I had brunch with family friends, including Elizabeth Riley Bell, author of Smart Guide To Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Usually, she greets us with a pour of some rare single malt, but on this occasion, the first thing she did was ask if we'd heard about the passing of Paul McIlhenny, the chairman and chief executive of the McIlhenny Company, better known as the makers of Tabasco® hot sauce.

I had not. But I've always had a soft spot for Tabasco®, in my mind one of the most iconic brands in the history of this country, dating back to its found in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana. McIlhenny died at 68 in New Orleans over the weekend, apparently of a heart attack.

His passing reminded Bell of an apocryphal story about the making of Original Hotscotch Sauce, a cult hot sauce that she came across while working on a story exploring the connection between the making and aging of Scotch whisky and that of Tabasco®, which begins life as a "mash" and is similarly aged in barrels. "In the summer of 2002," Bell wrote to me this morning, "The Scotch Malt Whisky Society released a fiery condiment known as the MD'S (Managing Director's) Folly, Hotscotch Sauce. It was described as, 'A demonically fiery cooking spirit for the impetuously experimental chef.'"

Which sounds like something you'd expect to hear when talking to The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. But seriously, Bell, who published the story about the fascinating history behind the McIlhenney family's beloved product in The Scotch Malt Whisky Society journal, went on to write to me further of her findings and of how the hot sauce started out as an experiment in producting a spicy, flavored whisky:

"What actually happened was that the then MD, Richard Gordon, had the idea of finishing several casks of single malt whisky in ex-Tabasco casks which had been used to ferment and age Tabasco Sauce. The final results produced a malt where the original whisky character was quite evident, but with an incredible heat. A bit difficult to drink on its own, but worked incredibly well with food. The result was Hotscotch Sauce bottled to be a cooking condiment."

She continues: "In order to promote its attributes, the SMWS held a dinner with all dishes made with the Hotscotch Sauce (accompanied with a suitable SMWS dram, of course), and a booklet of inventive recipes. Additonal recipes were published in the society publication. It was a resounding success, and I cooked with it quite successfully until my stash ran out. Understandably, the experiment was not repeated, and the Hotscotch Sauce no longer exists."

More Scotch Whisky On Food Republic:

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