Happy thursday again, everyone. Recently, it has come to my attention that Encona have made some rather drastic changes to their old carolina reaper sauce and, as a result, I cannot, in good faith, leave my previous review of it alone.
That post will remain accessible here and through my search bar but it will, from now on, be prefaced with a warning that it does not reflect the new version of the product on the market and it will be removed from my review catalogue, in order to replace it with today’s updated article.
So, read on for my opinion on the updated sauce but do be warned – I’ve not got the best of expectations for this one. Especially given its atrocious new label:
It’s really quite tacky-looking, with all of the previous version’s metallic ink and implied danger gone, in favour of a scuffed up and highly generic, black on yellow design. Waves, in the background, implying that this is simply a pleasant, tropical, beach sauce.
The decidedly ugly and dangerous-looking, world record chilli has also been replaced by nothing more than a vaguely pepper-shaped, angular block of red.
And its reaper name? Represented only by a small black segment and a fine, white line which, if you’re actively looking for it, can just about be seen as a scythe. Though they certainly won’t stand out as such to the average viewer.
Oh, and that fake sticker saying “sauce of inspiration”? Just no. Please don’t do it, Encona. Please leave the internet meme speak to the professionals.
It pains me to even have to think about this label design, let alone describe it. So let’s move on to the one bit of the packaging that I do like. The company’s custom bottle:
Their signature “ENCONA” lettering in the glass is probably the only element that remains, from the original, and, while I wasn’t able to capture it on camera before, it really does look rather good.
Yet that’s the only praise that I expect to give, today, since the ingredients list appears just as awful as the front label, cutting down the carolina reaper content from around five percent to less than naught point five. It’s pathetic:
Water, Tomato Paste, Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Carolina Reaper Mash 5% (Red Chilli Puree, Salt, Carolina Reaper Chilli (8%)), Orange Juice Concentrate, Salt, Modified Maize Starch, Birds Eye Chilli (1%), Cumin, Garlic, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate.
Yes, the namesake chilli is now only eight percent of a chilli mash which, in turn, only accounts for five percent of the sauce. So, to even call it a reaper product, when it contains so much more generic red chilli, and even bird’s eye, just seems fraudulent. But I’ll try it, anyway.
After all, low chilli content sauces with superhot peppers have been able to surprise me in the past. It is possible, if unlikely, that this one could do the same. And my spoonful does look quite promising:
Its colour and consistency are both similar to the original, with brownish-red tones and the occasional chilli seed adding a sense of warmth and liveliness to its otherwise ultra-smooth, ketchup-like appearance. One which instantly gets across its medium thickness, gentle texture and slight stickiness, from the sugar and starch.
So the contents pass the first test but the only scent coming from the bottle is a slight hint of cumin and cornflour. Nothing more to go on there.
Which means it’s time for me to taste it.
When it falls from the spoon and onto my tongue, the first thing that I get from this sauce is a sweet, tomato tang. One which quickly becomes more earthy and savoury, as the cumin and garlic take hold, yet never loses that initial ketchup quality.
Then there’s a wave of fruitiness, the origin of which isn’t immediately obvious. But, once that wave breaks and it starts to fade away, it gets a lot easier to identify. And it’s not the chilli.
No, that’s added orange juice, presumably brought in to hide the utter lack of reaper flavour. Because even the generic red chilli in this sauce is really quite subtle.
If anything, it’s actually the bird’s eye that’s the most obvious. Providing the sharp feel to this sauce’s low
which is definitely extra hot but doesn’t really border on super, like it did before. Though I doubt a mere one percent bird’s eye could get so hot, without the super hot peppers to support it.
And their presence is also made clear by the multiple places where this sauce burns – Both the back of the throat and the tip of the tongue, yet very little in between. A sure sign that multiple chillies are involved.
Honestly, I don’t hate it. It’s another, quite enjoyable, cumin-heavy ketchup and that touch of orange works rather well, to boot. But it is still more of a ketchup than it is a hot sauce, despite its heat. And, this time around, it barely has any chilli taste, at all. Let alone one of the namesake variety.
It lives up to its name in neither heat, nor flavour, so I’d strongly suggest picking up one of the other items from my carolina reaper pepper page, instead, if you care about the chilli. Or looking at bird’s eye sauces, if you like the feel of this one.
I’m definitely going to enjoy it over burgers and chips but this new version of Encona’s hottest sauce does not deserve to be called a carolina reaper one, at all.