So it’s thursday again, everybody and it’s the first thursday of december. Finally time for my yearly, pre-christmas recap. And, unlike with my previous lists, I’m not going to be changing the format up at all.
Ordering by type, so that readers could skim to the section(s) that most suited their gift giving, has proven itself rather more work than ordering by time or heat but, personally, it’s what I’d rather read. It’s a much more useful sorting method.
So, pay attention to the bold headings, stop and read if you see something inspiring, poke the product names to see my full reviews and give the company names a click to go straight to their websites (UK brands only and only if they have one). Plus, don’t forget to check my top product summaries at the end for the very best of the best.
Now, let’s get right into it with the first heading. The products that I wouldn’t recommend as gifts:
Kicking things off without much of a kick, Dorset Chilli Shop are a great company and their 📽️ Dorset Sun 📽️ was a good-tasting sauce but it just didn’t have enough heat or flavour to stand up to anything that I paired it with. A flaw that Henry’s Hot Sauce‘s 📽️ Black Abyss 📽️ also fell quite foul of.
Bravado Spice Co.’s Ghost Pepper & Blueberry, Cornish Chilli Co.‘s Chipotle Sauce and Chilli of the Valley‘s Calypso, on the other hand, all shared a single, unpleasantly intense flavour: Too much vinegar. Even as somebody who likes tangy sauces, I could not recommend those. Nor could I recommend the naff, reaper and freeze-dried veg flavour of Culley’s 📽️ World’s Hottest Ramen Noodles 📽️, even to those only in it for the challenge.
Likewise, Manda Foods‘ 📽️ Extra Hot 📽️, Saucey Lady’s Nagamor, Carringtons‘s Flaming Chup, Gingerbeard’s Preserves‘ Gingerbread Satay, Daddy Cool’s 📽️ Salted Caramel Cowboy Candy 📽️, The Chillees‘ Orangatongue Tingler and Rock A Doodle Do‘s Banshee and Pooka all failed to satisfy my taste-buds. And, while the last of those companies assures me that I just got a bad batch, I haven’t had chance to confirm that claim yet.
Then there are 📽️ Cholula 📽️ and 📽️ Doritos 📽️, which are simply too cheap and ubiquitous to make good gifts. As well as Byron Bay’s Smokin’ Mango and Farraday’s Tasty‘s The Flying Monkey, which strike me as too misleading in their packaging.
Followed by the limited editions from Sauce Shop, Daddy Cool’s, Brighton Hot Stuff and Hop, Burns & Black, which were delicious but simply aren’t around anymore. Which is sadly also the case for Thousand Hills‘ Screaming Pumpkin Jam and most of the Chilli Alchemist‘s range. I’ll let you know which few are still around later in the list.
Then, last but not least, the 🔥📽️ Death Nuts V2 📽️🔥 – A challenge so hot that I’m not sure it would be legal for me to recommend it. Purchase at your own risk.
For the Extreme Heat Freaks:
Tubby Tom‘s 📽️ Gut Rot 📽️, Hot Face Sauces‘ 📽️ Extreme Reaper 📽️ and the Chilli Alchemist‘s 📽️ Everlasting Flame 📽️ all proved that you could make a superhot extract sauce without sacrificing flavour, this year, but you’re going to have to make that sacrifice, just a tad, for Burning Desire Foods‘ Five Finger Death Punch or Firebox‘s 📽️ Instant Regret Chocolate 📽️, if you want the true hottest that twenty-nineteen has given me.
Naturally, though, we’ve seen Daddy Cool’s Jeepers Reapers Revenge, Hot-Headz‘ 📽️ Killer Carolina Reaper Sauce 📽️, the Chilli Jam Man‘s 📽️ Carolina Reaper Powder 📽️ and Burns & McCoy’s 📽️ Exhorresco 📽️ all push the upper limits of my scale.
Only one sauce managed to break through to eleven, though, and that was the latest version of Burning Desire Foods‘ Critical Mass. So that’s my top recommendation for this category, along with the Exhorresco’s super long and sharp burn for those who want a more pure chilli taste and Bang Bang Oil‘s titular product for those who 📽️ can’t even eat cereal without spice 📽️.
For the Fruit Lovers:
This year saw a whole host of mango sauces, with both Burning Desire Foods‘ Burning Indulgence and Upton Cheyney‘s Mango, Lime, Red Habanero putting focus on a lime pairing, while Wiltshire Chilli Farm and The Chillees opted for indian spices with their Mango and Indian Fire sauces, respectively. Plus, how could I forget the more savoury taste of Opal Sunshine’s Mayan Mango?
Then we saw a wonderful pair of chutneys from Prices Spices and Village on the hill, a delicious hot but not extreme take on mandarin salsa, in the form of Simpson’s Seeds’ Scorpion Salsa and an IPA-inspired Hop Sauce from Brighton Hot Stuff.
This section is also, I suppose, the place to talk about Byron Bay and Hell’s Kitchen’s caribbean-style curry sauces, Fiery Coconut and Rocking Rasta. Both of which were exquisite, even if they aren’t what I think of when I think “fruit”.
Unlike the peaches in the peach and onion Cheeba Gold, made by High River Sauces and featured in 📽️ Mojo’s Hot Ones challenge night 📽️. Those were exactly the sort of fruit that I had in mind for this section and they set that sauce apart from all the other caribbean competition in the very best way. I loved it!
Finally, on the slightly weirder side, we have Daddy Cool’s rich, plum-based 📽️ Scorpion Annihilation 📽️, perfect for roasted meat and veg, and the rare loquat sauce that is Ibiza Chilli Co’s Magnificent 7.
For the Tang Trialists:
A new category this year, “Tang Trialists” attempts to alleviate the usual bloat in the fruit section, just a tad, by offering more citrus-focussed sauces a new home, alongside any sharp or vinegar-forward options that I don’t find too overbearing to include.
So Brighton Hot Stuff‘s Jalapeño and Hop sauces definitely earn themselves a place here with their vinegar tang, despite the second of the pair also making it into the previous section, but Opal Sunshine’s bright Lime-Anero is also a clear fit. And so is Burning Desire Foods‘ asian-inspired Nuzu.
Less obvious, though, are sweet and sour items, like Saucey Lady’s Birds & Bonnets, Magma Sauces‘ Jalapeño Sour Mango and Tubby Tom‘s absolutely incredible Pablo Diablo, none of which feel quite as tart, due to their sugar content. Plus, Khoo’s Hot Sauce‘s Golden Syrup doesn’t taste tangy in the slightest but, if we’re making this the citrus section, it’s full of lemon, lemondrop and fatalii flavour, so it definitely belongs.
Other citrus sauces of the year included Screaming Chimp‘s rich and fiery Mon-Key Lime, which I consider pure genius, the previously mentioned Mango, Lime, Red Habanero, from Upton Cheyney Chilli Co. and, my personal favourite, the Magnificent 7 from Ibiza Chilli Co. that’s loquats were oh so reminiscent of my spanish childhood summers.
For the Smoke Seekers:
I was going to divide up this category, too, but a quick glance over my upload calendar tells me that I’ve not had a lot of smoke sauces this year and that even fewer of them have been good and stuck around. In fact, the one truly smoke-heavy sauce still on sale from twenty-nineteen’s reviews is an extra spicy old favourite, The Raven, from Grim Reaper Foods. Though we did also try a mild, cayenne-based, smoked tea, named 📽️ “Death Walks Among You” 📽️ since my last recap. And, much as we would have liked more heat in it, Beastly Beverages did a good job on its flavour and Overwatch-themed branding.
That is, however, it for the smoky items, this year, so I’m also going to include the rich, dark and savoury stuff in this section. Things that aren’t strictly smoke-based, yet are likely to appeal to the same people. And what better to kick that off with than the mind-blowing savoury Chocolate BBQ from Eaten Alive?
Then we have Screaming Chimp‘s Mon-Key Lime from the previous section, full of rich chocolate habanero flavour. Followed by two great rubs – Fat Man Chilli Co‘s Sweet Child o’ Mayan and Burning Desire Foods‘ Coffee and Chilli one. At which point, I should probably mention Queen Majesty’s Red Habanero & Black Coffee and Chilli Scrumptious‘ Java Hot – The two other coffee products of the year, both of which were great in their own way, too.
And finally, we finish the section off with The Whiskey Sauce Co.‘s scotch-heavy 📽️ Scotch Bonnet Sauce 📽️ and Bunsters’ black label 📽️ Sh🔥t the Bed 📽️ – A seriously hot and sweary item with a bit of a high price tag but it’s well worth it if the recipient shares Bunsters’ sense of humour. You can pick it up from Aussie Hot Sauces.
For Garlic & Sriracha Lovers:
This year, there one sauce that really stands out for this category and it’s one of the ones from 📽️ Mojo’s Hot Ones challenge night 📽️. I am, of course, talking about Torchbearer’s Garlic Reaper – A carolina reaper-heavy rendition of a classic, creamy, german-style garlic sauce that’s extreme in both heat and flavour. If you’re buying for someone who loves garlic but also goes to the extreme, head over to Hot-Headz to grab a bottle on import because it won’t disappoint in either regard.
For the slightly saner people out there, though, there are still a few other options. Like Opal Sunshine’s Mayan Mango, which uses garlic to bring savoury richness into a fruit sauce. Or the equally creamy, green chilli and garlic Vampire Botherer from The Garlic Farm. A sauce with more heat than I’d expect of its colour but still far more focus of flavour.
Plus, Wiltshire Chilli Farm‘s mild Sweet Chilli may not have been the most garlic-forward but it definitely used a good amount for depth. As did the Chilli Jam Man‘s Gorgeous Garlic. And, while a tad too sweet for my tastes, Manjira‘s Hot Garlic Pachadi was a tasty base for cooking, with an interesting basis in a lesser-known part of indian cuisine.
And finally, back in the super hot heat bracket, Horners Aftermath, from Prices Spices, would make a great alternative to Torchbearer’s sauce, if that doesn’t suit your extreme recipient, for some reason.
For the Mustard Men and Women:
This category’s never been a personal favourite of mine but, this year, it does contain one of my favourite products: Gingerbeard’s Preserves‘ Ale and Chilli Picalilli. A delicious, chunky relish with a beautiful, warming citrus quality that reminded me of yuzu. It’s not the only item in this category, or even the only one that comes out of a jar, but it’s incredibly morish and I can’t recommend it enough.
Unlike Love Pickle‘s indian pickles, which I’d say that I’m recommending just the right amount if I tell you that they’re a tomato-based take on indian chutney with plenty of mustard seed but none of the usual achari bitterness. Do with that information as you will, dear readers.
Which is sadly it for the strictly mustard products, this year, but I’d like to quickly mention Man Food‘s Wasabi Mayonnaise and Karimix‘s Teriyaki Wasabi Sauce before I close out the section. I feel like both have the potential to appeal to lovers of more aromatic and nasal spices, like mustard.
For the Cheese Heads:
We’re mostly looking at stuff to go ontop, this year. Be it one of the Chilli Jam Man‘s range, the Ale and Chilli Picalilli made by Gingerbeard’s Preserves that graced the previous section, Posh Pickles and Preserves’ Fiery Chilli Extra Jam or even one of the Mango Chutneys that I had from Prices Spices and Village on the Hill, this year has seen a lot of traditional topping for a cheese sandwich.
Yet, if you or your intended recipient are a bit more adventurous, Posh Pickles and Preserves and Prices Spices have you covered there, too, with their Sẚ Và Tu’o’ng ó’t and Horners Aftermath, respectively. The first bringing gorgeous, caramelised lemongrass from vietnamese cooking, while the Aftermath comes with serious heat and a tonne of savoury flavour.
So yeah, if you want to cover your cheese, I’ve definitely got you covered but there is one last item that belongs in this segment: The utterly crazy sounding Chocolate with Chilli & Lime wensleydale that The Great British Cheese Company make. Delicious as a dessert cheese on its own or paired with ginger biscuits.
For the Green Fiends:
Let’s start with the Philosopher’s Dew Apothecary Edition – One of the best looking gift bottles and a wonderful, asian-inspired, jalapeño sauce that just happens to be one of the Chilli Alchemist‘s few remaining items. It’s been quite the favourite of mine but, if you’ve read my review of it, you’ll know that it got overshadowed by Tubby Tom‘s latest and greatest at the time – His Pablo Diablo.
Pablo Diablo was sweet, herby, green and citrussy and, if I remember rightly, I’m now about six bottles deep on it. Don’t buy it for anyone who dislikes coriander but, otherwise, expect it to start an addiction. It’s just that good!
And, if you are looking for something without coriander, Fat Man Chilli Co‘s Green Chilli Sauce uses mint, instead, to produce a similar herbal flavour without that soapy taste that some people’s genes force upon them.
On the less herby and rather more savoury side, though, we have plenty of other options, as well. The Garlic Farm‘s Vampire Botherer, mentioned earlier for its powerful garlic undertones, is the first thing that comes to mind but Burns & McCoy’s far milder Avocado Fire Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette is just as creamy and great as a dressing. Or what about the tangy Jalapeño sauce, from Brighton Hot Stuff, enriched by padrons and olives?
But the crazies green sauce this year – Not in heat but in flavour – Has to have been the Jalapeño Sour Mango from Magma Sauces. Fruity and tart, yet sweet and green, well-suited for meats of all kinds.
For the Snack Addicts:
He’s a fun category, while we’re talking about things that are addictively good. What top-notch snacks have we seen this year?
Well, first off, I feel like starting with the surprises. Which is to say, with Montezuma‘s Satay Chocolate, which was far better than I expected of a supermarket brand, and Screaming Chimp‘s scotch bonnet ones. I feel like the chimp have really improved since last year.
But, if your or whoever you’re buying for likes it extreme, bunsters’ 📽️ Sh🔥t the Bed chocolate 📽️, imported by Aussie Hot Sauces, is really quite mental. Definitely not for most people but it had a great taste and I am certain that a select few of you will absolutely adore the stuff.
And, staying on that chocolate theme, The Great British Cheese Company‘s Chocolate with Chilli & Lime wensleydale was another unexpected treat, just because of how crazy its assortment of ingredients was. Yet they all came together into a rather delicate dessert cheese that I would definitely recommend.
But, for those who want something a touch more savoury, Purely Pickled Eggs have a good range of chilli options for their namesake product and Brighton Hot Stuff‘s Szechuan Peanuts were both unique and delicious. Plus, how could I forget HipChips‘ savoury crisps and dips selection box?
For the Adventurers:
The section for those who fancy a taste of elsewhere or something really out of the ordinary. Or maybe even a rare pepper that doesn’t necessarily provide record-level heat. It’s the home for products like Posh Pickles and Preserves’ vietnamese Sẚ Và Tu’o’ng ó’t, Magma Sauces‘ bizarre yet tasty Jalapeño Sour Mango and Chillies Galore‘s carolina-free The Reaper, to name just a few.
Other culturally-inspired favourites for this section include a taste of spain in the form Ibiza Chilli Co’s Magnificent 7, of mexico in Salsa Tamaƶula’s sauces, of africa in Burning Desire Foods‘ Harissa, of australia in Bunster’s 📽️ Sh🔥t the Bed sauces 📽️ and Byron Bay’s Fiery Coconut, of kerala in Manjira‘s Hot Garlic Pachadi and of japan in the Chilli Alchemist‘s Philosopher’s Dew, Man Food‘s Wasabi Mayonnaise and Burning Desire Foods‘ Nuzu. The last of which also featured a unique, white ghost pepper.
Aside from that and Chillies Galore’s sauce, though, we haven’t had a tonne of rare pepper products this year. Instead, I’ve been trying most such peppers fresh on my YouTube channel, which isn’t much help unless your buying for a green-fingered individual.
Looking a the crazier concepts, though, there’s more than just Magma’s. Karimix‘s Teriyaki Wasabi fits the bill to a tee and so, in my mind, does The Great British Cheese Company‘s Chocolate with Chilli & Lime wensleydale. Then there are Eaten Alive‘s Chocolate BBQ and Screaming Chimp‘s Mon-Key Lime, which both threw me for a loop when I first tasted them but wound up being fantastic.
And to round off this section, I think that Khoo’s Hot Sauce‘s fatalii and lemondrop Golden Syrup seems perfectly sane but I’ve come to realise that it’s still pretty out there to everyone else. Unlike Fat Man Chilli Co‘s Green Chilli Sauce, which is far more normal than its ingredients list might suggest.
For the Purists:
If you’re looking for a classic red chilli sauce, salsa or other middle of the road product with a high chilli content and maybe just the tiniest of twists, this is your section. Though I won’t be including the really extreme stuff that I recommend for extreme heat seekers, since I already covered that up top.
No, this section is for things like Daddy Cool’s Ghost Pepper, which added herbs and roasted veg but was still very much a ghost-forward sauce. Or like Queen Majesty’s Red Habanero & Black Coffee, which really put the emphasis on that first ingredient.
Other good fits are Grim Reaper Foods‘ Sweeney Todd, the Fiery Chilli Extra Jam made by Posh Pickles & Preserves, the previously mentioned Bloody Mary Salsa from Gingerbeard’s Preserves and even Badgers Artisan Foods‘ mellow, salsa-like Reaper Sauce.
And for those with a Sweet Tooth:
Then we have Daddy Cool’s rich, roasted and hot but not super Ketch the Reaper ketchup, along with Saucey Lady’s Birds & Bonnets and Magma Sauces‘ Jalapeño Sour Mango, which all combine sweet flavours with tangy ones to create something more or less all purpose and perhaps even a little bit fruity. Yet that’s as close as I’m going to get to actual fruit products in this section, since I’ve already given you a dedicated one.
No, we’re going to move right on to desserts, topping them with Khoo’s Hot Sauce‘s fatalii and lemondrop Golden Syrup, Devon Chilli Man‘s extreme – Yet also extremely good on ice-cream and fruit pies – Smack m,Peach Up and South Devon Chilli Farm‘s Elderflower Chilli Jelly.
Or how about some straight up chocolate, in the form of Montezuma‘s Satay and Screaming Chimp‘s scotch bonnet ones? Plus, that brown stuff’s also highly enjoyable in powdered form, as Fat Man Chilli Co‘s proved with their Sweet Child o’ Mayan rub.
Which brings us to my final verdict.
Top Five Giftable items of 2019:
–Tubby Tom’s Pablo Diablo, for those who like it green, sweet and/or citrussy. If they aren’t genetically averse to coriander, they’re going to love this sauce and, trust me, that aversion comes up in conversation long before you’re getting them gifts if they have it.
-Burns & McCoy’s 📽️ Exhorresco 📽️, imported by Hot-Headz, to please the heat seekers who want to suffer. It’s full of chilli flavour, with a hint of citrus, but it’s also such a high, long and stinging heat.
My Personal Favourites this Year:
–Daddy Cool’s 📽️ Blood Orange Bhut Jolokia 📽️, because of its similar blend of tang and complexity, this time using red fruit and favouring rich and ever so slightly smoky flavours over sugar content. Sadly nolonger available.
And the Best Stocking Fillers:
–Bang Bang Oil’s signature chilli oil again because, no matter how much of a novelty it may seem, those who like it hot WILL use this one and they’ll use it on just about anything. It’s a great way to carry ghost pepper on the go.
I do hope that this helps some of you with your seasonal shopping but, if you still need more ideas, why not check out the Craft Hot Sauce 100 list that I looked at recently, too?