Hello again spice lovers, boy do I have doozy for you this tuesday!
A while a go I got my hands on CaJohn’s Hydra, a sauce with a very promising first ingredient. The 7-Pot Primo chilli.
The branding instantly caught my attention with it’s mythical dragon-like beast that fits the theme of sevens and could only be killed by fire (or rock slides in the Disney version). But does the sauce live up to it? Can it provide the heat to slay its namesake hydra? We’ll find out soon but first let’s take a closer look at the bottle.
The silhouette of the monster that adorns it is sketched roughly but well to provide a more menacing appearance as its many heads rise from the name in front of a backdrop of flame.
It’s simple, it’s stylish and, while it doesn’t show the chilli as such, it’s clearly themed around it. Definitely good label work.
But the art isn’t all.
As I go in to crack open the seal, I’m greeted by an embossed version of the company logo. This is a lovely little extra but could, I feel, benefit from some coloured wax or similar to make it stand out more.
And then it hits me. Before I’ve even opened the lid I can smell that classic aroma of chillies, vinegar and salted garlic. The lemon extract is less prominent than I expected but that’s a good thing. Such extracts always smell and taste quite fake.
Once I’d finished unscrewing the cap, I was greeted by this:
Sure, some of you might not like safety nozzles. I completely understand. In this case though, I’m glad it’s there. This is a first ingredient super hot sauce and it’s pretty liquid. You do not want to be freely pouring something like that.
Yep, as you might have guessed, it lets out a somewhat pitiful amount. Eating it straight though, this is probably for the best. On food I’d want a few more drops, I’m sure, but let’s get tasting.
At first, the smell translates well to taste. The first test gives a slightly tart and acidic blend of tangy chilli, salted garlic and assorted spices. A little sour but not too much so, with very little of that lemon coming through at all. The garlic comes through strong but the main flavour is definitely the chilli itself, somewhere between a ghost and a reaper. With just the smallest hint of some darker tones which you might call “smokey”, even if that’s not a perfect description of them.
It’s an interesting sauce, very peppery and not at all raw tasting, making it quite different from sriracha, the big name garlic chilli sauce. I rather like this initial taste but there’s a lot more to it than just that.
The heat kicks in early at the back of the mouth, not a throaty sting like the scorpion at all, then it builds at the upper front before spreading out sharp and reaper-like all over the mouth. It comes in fast and grows with incredible speed. It feels hot and grows hotter. And hotter. And, nope, that’s it. A couple of seconds before the expected peak, this sauce just cuts off, leaving you hanging. The abrupt halt to its heat is almost as much of a shock as the searing delayed burn of your first ghost pepper sauce.
Not that the heat disappears completely. No it stays seriously hot for a good long while as it simmering down to a lovely all round tingle. And, even then, it leaves a great warming afterglow all the way down.
Had it finished where I expected it to, where it tasted and felt like it should, this sauce would be getting an eleven. No doubt about it, it was going to be hotter than a reaper or moruga sauce. Hotter than any natural sauce I’ve tried.
But it wasn’t. It cut off early, never felt like it reached a true peak and was definitely milder than the record holders. I’m going to have to call its
But again, be careful. Eight may not be the highest but that doesn’t mean it isn’t seriously hot. Your average extreme sauce comes in at five and your hottest supermarket offering might just scrape a four, if its lucky. This sauce is not one to be trifled with. It will blow your head off, be warned. Unless you have another six to spare, please treat this sauce with caution as, unlike with most, the drop stopper is actually there for a reason.
But, as you probably guessed from the above description, that’s not the end of this review. The initial taste may be that of zesty chilli and garlic, with a mix of spices and more chilli coming through behind but things aren’t quite that simple.
With each additional drop, the lemon extract becomes more noticeable. First it becomes zesty and rather rind-like, then it turns sour. Soon after that it becomes slightly perfumed and then, finally it becomes almost bitter.
But this isn’t poor shaking on my part or the subtleties reaching me more with experience. No, this is an actual quirk of the sauce as the next day it’s right back to tasting like it first did. The same multi-stage experience happens again and again, for reasons that I don’t fully understand.
I would guess, however, that it’s either a result of endorphins kicking in or the extract itself hanging around on the tongue.
The lemon definitely adds to the fiery flavour of the sauce but the more obvious it becomes, the more wrong it feels. As with all fruit extracts, it doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing. There’s a fakeness to it that just isn’t pleasant.
Personally, I find this to be quite a shame because of how much I enjoyed the initial flavour but, if a more zesty sauce is what you’re into and you don’t mind the artificial aspect to the fruit extract, this one will certainly grow on you as you use it.
Things I would pair it with are hot dogs, tomato-based soups and spaghetti but I, myself, would not use a lot of this sauce on anything because, after the first proper teaspoon or so, I just don’t find it pleasant.