Happy tuesday oncemore, today I’m bringing you a sauce from The Chilli Alchemist.
Their proudest work, their Smoke Potion: Magnum Opus. Which is an upgrade to their original Smoke Potion, an excellent and slightly sweet chipotle sauce to which they have added honey bourbon, mustard and smoked ghost pepper.
People asked for more heat and the alchemist delivered.
I don’t usually use a lot of smokey sauces but this one in particular has always intrigued me so, when I saw that naga and chipotle sauces were starting to make their way into supermarkets, I felt it was time I bought this actual smoked naga sauce to review.
Unfortunately, I could not afford to bring you the original alchemy bottle version but, even so, you can tell they put more effort into the presentation of this sauce than any other.
The rest of their regular bottle line used some rather lacklustre plain paper labelling that, even in their photographs, doesn’t exactly look like great quality. This one, however, is clad in a clear plastic onto the underside of which a fake paper label has been printed, allowing them to replicate the look of the hand-singed alchemy bottle labels without anywhere near the same level of time requirement and with a much glossier finish. It looks like this may be becoming their standard labelling method though, which will go a long way towards improving the look and feel of their regular line and the added benefit of waterproofing will help a good deal on stalls.
As for the actual design they’ve printed, though, that initially looks very minimalist.
We see the name of the sauce in central all caps, the word “smoke” in large yellow lettering while “magnum opus” gets far smaller red text and the rest is a very light grey. Beneath this we get some tiny text displaying the message “smoked ghost pepper and honey bourbon”, apparently the key ingredients to this sauce, and a weird symbol that’s half Y and half inverted question mark.
This is not, as I first thought, the alchemical sign for smoke but in fact stands for the grand concoction, the pinnacle of the alchemical arts and the goal each alchemist set forth to achieve. Their Magnum Opus.
For many, this would have been a potion that created gold. So many that the symbol is sometimes even mistranslated as referring to the metal. For The Chilli Alchemist, however, their goal was the perfect barbecue sauce.
And, besides their logo at the bottom, this is all we seem to get on the front of the bottle. The rest is just plain black. Or is it.
Close inspection yields some incredibly faint letters in the background, which I cannot capture on camera or even make out most of. If you can decipher the hidden message, please write in and tell me because all I can see is an S and an M.
As we work our way round we get all their contact details on one side and a brief description of the sauce and its intended use on the other. Alongside this:
I don’t normally do this but for once I thought it would be important to show you the printed ingredients list.
It’s got a rather nice aged scroll background and a handwriting style font to match. It looks good but try reading it. It’s so small and ornate that doing so really isn’t an easy task. Especially off camera where it’s extra small.
For those of you who can’t make it out, here’s the list I pulled from their website: Ketchup, Soy Sauce (contains WHEAT & SOYA), Brown Sugar, Red Onion, Garlic, Honey Bourbon, Liquid Smoke, MUSTARD, Smoked Ghost Pepper, Chipotle, Spices.
You might notice a bit of difference though as the site describes the allergens in the soy sauce but not the contents of its ketchup base.
My point is, a font this fancy should not be used at a size this small for something people might actually need to read. This ingredients list is badly designed.
But, packaging failures aside, let’s see the sauce:
It’s fairly thick and sticky, definitely intended for ribs and meats but, even for that use, its texture seems a little unusual. Almost jellied and nigh impossible to get out the bottle the first time.
Tastewise, it’s rich and sweet with the honeyed flavour of the bourbon featuring heavily alongside the darker notes of the brown sugar and soy. The ketchup base is noticeable but very much an undertone that the rest builds upon, rather than being a major flavour.
The smoke, however, is much subtler than I expected and comes in rather late, along with the ghost pepper heat. Which is, as it turns out, also a lot subtler than expected, coming in at the very bottom of what I’d call a
A level I’d be pleasantly surprised to see but not absolutely shocked by in a supermarket sauce. It’s the very top end of what is normally seen in such mass market sauces.
What separates the heat of this sauce from the heat of a more mainstream contender, however, is the way in which it hits you.
In a supermarket sauce, you’d be getting that heat level from a high level of habanero or scotch bonnet and maybe just a touch of ghost if you’re lucky. It’d be a truly ferocious burn, not the slower, more relaxed sort you get from hiding the ghost pepper behind sweetness like the Magnum Opus does. It’s strong but it’s a little more gentle about it and, while it leaves a lingering warmth in the throat, it seems to grow exclusively in the mouth.
If, like I was, you’re expecting a proper ghost pepper heat from this sauce, you’re going to be very disappointed. If you’re expecting a good deal of smoke, you’re also going to be disappointed there. And, if you’re expecting it to taste just like the alchemist’s milder Smoke Potion, you’ll probably be disappointed by the taste as well.
I do not feel that this sauce lived up to any of my expectations but it’s definitely not a bad sauce. It’s just not a smoke sauce or a ghost sauce.
It is, as the little blurb on the bottle subtly points out, a barbecue sauce. “A sauce for charred flesh of hunted beasts.” The meat brings the smokiness and the Magnum Opus brings the depth of flavour with a glorious slow burn that’ll let you enjoy your food before the heat really kicks in.
But it’s not quite your standard barbecue sauce. It may be sweet, a good deal more so than its mild counterpart, but it’s not the full on, almost sickly molasses sweetness or flavour of other barbecue sauces. It’s a well rounded concoction which brings all the joys of that richness alongside a honey glaze and small hints of the ketchup you might dip your meat in. It’s a unique triple threat of everything you might do to your smokey meat.
In my opinion, this sauce may be a little wrongly marketed but it’s both the hottest and the tastiest barbecue sauce I’ve come across. Well worth having with that kind of meal.
But no, I can’t taste the mustard at all.