Hey folks, today I’ve got something a little strange for you. Something that I just randomly came across in one of my local supermarkets and felt I had to feature. Because, while I’ve talked about McIlhenny Co.’s Tabasco Brand Scorpion Sauce and their Chipotle Cola Marinade, I’ve never seen a “Tobasco” sauce before.
Except, of course, when people misspell it online.
Today’s item, however, has the word slapped right across its centre, beneath the “Dipitt” company name, and it looks a lot more like lawsuit dodging than a mistake, to me. But how does it really compare to the original?
Visually speaking, it doesn’t. Not in the slightest.
There is absolutely no connection between Dipitt’s white label, patterened red around its edges, and the iconic diamond of McIlhenny Co.’s sauces. Nor do the two brands even use the same bottle shape or cap colour. So it doesn’t seem like this “Tobasco” sauce is truly trying to be an imposter, even if its ingredients are near identical:
Vinegar, Chilli (18%), Salt, Stabilizer (E415)
Where, as I’ve mentioned before, E415 is xanthan gum. A harmless thickener that’s often used to stop hot sauce from separating out, like McIlhenny Co.’s Tabasco is known to.
So that’s one improvement over the original recipe, already, but the two lists don’t look to differ in any other meaningful manner. And, while neither states exactly what pepper goes into them, I have my suspicions that the two aren’t much different there, either.
You see, it’s a widely known secret that Tabasco sauce is made with its own unique breed of Tabasco peppers, grown by the McIlhenny family on their avery island estate. Yet what isn’t quite so well known is that that’s not legally true.
McIlhenny Co. don’t officially get their brand’s name from their peppers but from the mexican state where they were originally sourced. And, no matter how much hobby growers might argue otherwise, no tabasco pepper officially exists. Mostly because it doing so would allow other companies to use the chilli’s name without infringing on McIlhenny’s copyright.
So, as far as the record books are concerned, Tabasco sauce uses nothing more than a common bird’s eye – The american pequin. Even if their version is known to be rather milder and juicier than what you’ll find growing wild across the continent.
And, while Dipitt aren’t quite as big of a company or as under scrutiny as McIlhenny Co., they give us a bit of a clue, as well, in the art above their name. Two short, thin, pointy, red chillies with slightly darker than average stems, looking for all the world like a pair of the very same bird’s eye variety.
Have they used the same pepper or the wild variant? Are they simply using its image as a placeholder? And will I be able to taste a difference between the two? There’s only one way to find out.
The original Tabasco, on the right, displays a slightly more muted colour and transparent appearance but I’m not entirely convinced that that’s anything more than the xanthan gum, which I already mentioned. After all, there are plenty of ultra-fine, red specks within the liquid and, while its counterpart offers us a more even consistency, closer inspection of Dipitt’s Tobasco yields some very similar shreds. Suggesting that they’re just better mixed into both its texture and its colour. Held in place by that natural stabiliser.
When it comes to their flavours, though, it’s actually the other way around. McIlhenny Co.’s Tabasco tastes just that little bit more of red chilli than its newcomer counterpart and packs a fair bit of something citrussy, as well.
There’s no real citrus in it, of course, but the lactic acid produced by fermentation can come across as surprisingly lemon-like. Especially when mixed with the high vinegar content of this pair.
In Dipitt’s Tobasco, however, I get none of that. Implying a far less involved production process and letting rather more of the vinegar’s own flavour come through. Which I wouldn’t call a plus, personally.
I much prefer the sharper, more citrussy tang of McIlhenny’s fermented chillies and find it far more enjoyable over cheese-laden foods, like pizza, enchiladas or savoury crepes. Though I do find it interesting that I taste no other difference in today’s peppers. As if Dipitt really are using what we call tabasco peppers.
Both sauces pack a very similar, subtly woody, red chilli taste with a remarkably similar
tongue heat. Even if the extra acid in the true Tabasco makes it ever so slightly more of a shock to the system.
And both are entirely adequate sauces which, while well suited to cheesy, egg-based and/or greasy dishes, should be able to find a home just about anywhere.
I don’t, however, see any real reason to buy what amounts to a cheaper, slightly less enjoyable version of Tabasco from Dipitt, though, when McIlhenny Co.’s sauce is already so easy to get your hands on and far from breaking the bank. And I can’t really recommend either as the gourmet option when Rad Dude Foods’ Fermented Chilli Hot Sauce does everything that today’s pair do but better and with more nuance.
If you’re prepared to splash out just that tiny bit extra, they are easily the winners of the day.