Hey folks, how’s it going? It’s tuesday again and, honestly, things have been a little rough for my blog work lately. I’m doing a lot of other things on the side and it’s been a bit of a struggle to keep up with even my weekly reviews. Let alone all of the weekend recipes and random thursday things which I feel like I aught to be doing.
But, while I might not be able to offer you any of those extras, right now, I can at least provide you with a bit more than the norm in today’s post. Not the usual one or two sauces. Not even three.
No, the full on five of Spice Island Chilli’s entire range:
Each one a different heat and flavour, wrapped in its own tale of maritime history. Yet the whole lot hailing from a single portsmouth company, with a distinctive style throughout. Meaning that I’d probably just say the same things five times if I were to review them all separately, anyway.
All five are clad in a very similar label, featuring a fully-rigged ship, front and centre, sailing over a banner that holds each sauce’s name. The name of the company curved around the top, in a surprisingly non-bold font, while the area below holds more of a brief description. Both stating the key ingredients in each bottle and giving us a graphical heat rating of between two and six chillies.
They’re all in monochrome – Black and white with a few red highlights – but the six out of six on the left – Their “Ghost Ship” – still manages to stand out by being white on black, instead of the inverse. Which could be quite striking if the print quality was a little better.
Sadly, though, the company’s black ink is relatively pale and white lines show through, as if the image cracked when the paper was applied to the bottle. Plus, while it is nicely textured, the Spice Island labelling is just plain paper. Not anything particularly professional-looking or waterproof.
I don’t know if I’d be comfortable stocking these on an all-weather market stall and I certainly think that more could be done to visually differentiate the other four flavours. But I do appreciate the company’s attempts to tie their branding back to the spice trade of old and the small story on each bottle is surprisingly engaging. Even if the ties to the sauce inside can be a little tenuous.
For our first flavour, the mild “Hardy’s Kiss”, that connection relies on the fact that sailors would use citrus fruit to stave off scurvy. And so, it is entirely possible that the famous meeting of mouths may have been just a tiny bit limey.
Though it could also have contained orange or lemon. Rendering this Jalapeño & Lime sauce entirely unrelated.
On my spoon, it’s a murky, yellow-brownish shade of green. Thick and visibly full of pepper. Yet the smell makes it immediately apparent that most of that pepper isn’t chilli. It’s bitter, green bell, which comes through just as much in its taste.
The upfront sweetness and light lime and cider vinegar tang to today’s first product are quite enjoyable but I can barely taste its chilli beneath the regular peppers, which soon ruin the experience for me.
And, unfortunately, Hardy’s kick does nothing to mute their unpleasant aftertaste. Simply providing a quick, low
fire in my throat and making it slightly more medium than I’d imagined.
Not a great start but the next item on my list, “Bligh’s Revenge”, seems more promising.
It’s first ingredient tomato and, while still a tiny bit chunky, looks to have far more of a ketchup-like consistency. But more enticing than that is its dark red colour, strong smoky smell and slight hints of adobo spices. This one I’m actually excited to try.
I give it a taste and it’s not quite what I imagined. It’s not anywhere near as sweet as commercial ketchup and the smoked, red jalapeños actually have quite a dry flavour to them.
It’s not unpleasantly bitter, like the last one, but those bells do still come through, just a tad, in this sauce, as well. Adding a little extra complexity as they balance the gentle sweetness of the tomatoes.
I like this one rather a lot but I must say, its
is quite a shock when I finally swallow and my throat sets ablaze.
After that, we have “Drake’s gold”. A habanero & pineapple product which pushes the rating on the bottle up to four. So, if the company’s rating matches my own, yet again, this one’s going to be real hot. Though, at point two percent named chilli, I have some serious doubts.
Looking at it, this one appears to be little more than pure fruit pulp, though there’s a reddish tinge that betrays its hint of chilli.
What there isn’t, however, is any major smell. There’s a subtle fruit quality and tang but the aroma on this one is far weaker than the last two. So I take a mouthful, to see what that can tell me, and ow! This one’s sharp!
It’s neither sweet nor sour but it has a very acidic mouth-feel. And, along with the stinging
burn of the habanero, that makes Drake’s Gold unexpectedly painful. Even if the heat does ramp up quite gradually.
Flavour-wise, however, there’s almost as little as their was to its aroma, with any fruit hints being surprisingly subtle. The only thing that particularly interests me, here, is a certain something smooth and almost vanilla-y in the spice mix. So my mouth is watering from more than just the lingering chilli when I smell the same in product number four.
The “Centurion 1744” may claim to be scotch bonnet and spiced rum but what I smell is intense, madagascan vanilla on a subtle base of dark, red and slightly peppery sauce. From the moment I crack the top on the bottle, it is one of the most amazing scents that I’ve ever experienced.
As a result, I get a little distracted when I’m pouring this one and its thick, weighty consistency carries it out too fast for me to catch in time. Overflowing my spoon and making a mess of the plate below:
Still, it gives a great look at this thick and chunky, spiced pepper purée. For the few seconds before I throw it back in the hopes of tasting something as divine as this sauce smells.
But the sweetness, the depth of the dark rum and that gorgeous orchid pod are all fleeting, as that disgusting bell pepper bitterness is back in spades. And, this time, it’s so strong as to seem almost metallic.
That acrid taste overpowers everything but the Centurion’s dull
heat. Which only serves to reinforce my feelings of betrayal and regret.
How could the flavour of something that smells so stunning be so utterly foul?
I don’t even want to try the last one – The “Ghost Ship”. Its ingredients claim a whopping seventy-four percent red pepper and I just know that I’m going to hate it. But I’ll do it anyway. I have to. For my integrity as a reviewer.
The smell, as I pour my final spoonful, is a little peppery but also rich, savoury, garlicky and almost just a little bit tomato. Despite the sauce containing none.
It’s a tempting aroma, I won’t lie, but so was the last. I’m still very sceptical of this wet and pulpy product, even if its deep red colouration, with little flecks of char, supports everything that I’m getting on the nose.
I try only the smallest portion from my photography spoon, not willing to down the lot, and I’m glad of that fact almost immediately.
The heat hits unusually quick, for a ghost pepper sauce, and has the same stinging quality as Drake’s Gold. Yet it grows gradually, like the ghost should, and eventually covers my entire lower mouth in a low
Again, very much what I’ve come to expect from the pepper but not something that I want an entire spoonful of.
The flavour that accompanies it, though, I want none of. Because, as much as the slightly ketchupy, roasted peppers at the start are pleasant enough, that very same bell pepper bitterness comes in, yet again, towards the end. And, while it isn’t as truly overwhelming as in the Centurion, it still makes itself all too clear.
I don’t know why it’s so strong in Spice Island’s sauces but that bitterness is everything that I can’t stand in bell peppers and it ruins the majority of their range, for me. The only one that I could ever recommend being Bligh’s Revenge.
That second product standing out from the rest as a remarkably good, low sugar, smoked chilli ketchup. Perfect for burgers, sausages and casseroles but also just as good worked into a chilli con carne.
Tomatoes (43%), Red Peppers, Chipotle in Adobo 22%) (chipotle peppers, water, tomato puree, salt, sugar, onion, acetic acid), Cider Vinegar, Sugar, Garlic, Salt, Black Pepper.
While Hardy’s Kiss, before it, was made from:
Peppers, Lime Juice (8%), Cider Vinegar, Jalapeño Chilli (4%), Garlic, Sugar, Salt, Guar & Xanthan Gum (thickener).
The third product, Drake’s Gold, used:
Pineapple (60%), Peppers, Cider Vinegar, Sugar, Chilli, Garlic, Spices, Habanero Chilli (0.2%), Guar & Xanthan Gum.
Their Centurion 1744 was made from:
Red & Yellow Peppers, Scotch Bonnet Chilli (21%), Cider Vinegar, Sugar, Garlic, Spiced Rum (1%), Salt, Habanero Chilli Powder (0.3%), Guar & Xanthan Gum.
And our final number, the Ghost Ship, featured:
Red Peppers (74%), Garlic, Cider Vinegar, Demerara Sugar, Scotch Bonnet Chilli (3%), Lime Juice, Ghost Chilli (1%), Salt, Smoked Paprika, Black Pepper.
You can find their jalapeño, chipotle, habanero, scotch bonnet and ghost peppers by clicking through to my encyclopedia pages, too. Where you’ll see all sorts of more enjoyable flavours made from the same chillies.