“We will clearly miss Paul’s devoted leadership but will more sorely feel the loss of his acumen, his charm and his irrepressible sense of humor.”
A sixth-generation member of the family to live on Avery Island and fourth-generation member to produce Tabasco brand Pepper Sauce, McIlhenny joined McIlhenny Company in 1967 and directly oversaw the production and quality of all products sold under the Tabasco brand for 13 years.
At the time of his death, McIlhenny was serving as chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and a director of McIlhenny Company, as well as president and a director of Avery Island, Inc. As an active and concerned member of the community and environment, McIlhenny served on the board of the America’s WETLAND Foundation, and worked diligently to preserve Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. He also served as president and director of Bayou Corporation (Bayou Club).
During his tenure, McIlhenny Company experienced many years of record growth in sales and earnings, marked by the introduction of multiple new products and flavors including Tabasco brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce, Tabasco brand SWEET & Spicy Pepper Sauce and Tabasco brand Buffalo Style Hot Sauce. A lifelong epicure, He took a deep interest in the evolution of the American palette and led 145-year-old McIlhenny Company to consistently respond to the culinary and flavor trends that shape the way America eats. He also led an expansion of the brand’s merchandising, licensing partnerships and product offerings to include numerous products co-branded with the Tabasco brand name, as well as a thriving catalogue business in licensed merchandise, including, for example, the popular Tabasco neckties. He continued to expand the distribution of Tabasco brand products globally to more than 165 countries and territories where they are sold today. He also co-authored The 125th Anniversary TABASCO Cookbook, which was first published in 1993.
Born on March 19, 1944, McIlhenny attended Metairie Park Country Day School, the Woodberry Forest School and the University of the South. He served stateside as an artillerist in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. In 2006 he reigned as Rex, the first King of Carnival after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and served as an example of the resilience and determination of the city of New Orleans. He was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in 2010, was member of the Boston Club of New Orleans, the Bayou Club of Vermilion Parish and the Chevaliers de Tastevin. McIlhenny was a true bon vivant whose personal passions included wing shooting, red fishing, wine tasting and game cooking.
“All of McIlhenny Company and the McIlhenny and Avery families are deeply saddened by this news,” said Tony Simmons, president of McIlhenny Company and fifth-generation McIlhenny family member. “We will clearly miss Paul’s devoted leadership but will more sorely feel the loss of his acumen, his charm and his irrepressible sense of humor.”
He is survived by his wife Judith Goodwin McIlhenny, two daughters, Barbara McIlhenny Fitz-Hugh of New Orleans and Rosemary McIlhenny Dinkins of Nashville, Tenn., and four grandchildren.