What’s up everybody? We’ve played it safe these last couple of weeks but, today, I think it’s time that we branched out to someone new, once again. A company so fresh that they don’t even seem to have a website yet. But they still feature prominently in my local hot sauce shop.
Meet Heat Lab. A small, york-based business with three different flavours and a science-themed aesthetic that’s very much after my own heart.
The wrinkled heat shrink around their bottle necks may show their lack of experience but it says nothing about the quality within. And honestly, I have high hopes for this trio.
First in the range is their sweet chilli – Visibly seed-filled, even around the edges of its stark, white label. Adorned with a big, black circle and a golden-orange hexagon, reminiscent of atomic structure diagrams.
An orangey-red stripe tells us what to expect from the sauce inside. Both with the words “sweet chilli” cut from it and the colour that reflects the product’s peppers.
Then, down below, we see the heat rating. Given as two conical flasks out of five. Which I find a fun and novel representation, in line with the brand’s own image.
It’s not the absolute most informative label but it says what it has to and it looks remarkably professional while it does so. Which is good enough for me, so let’s move on to the contents.
To be as transparent with you as the sauce itself, though, this is not my first spoonful of the company’s sweet chilli. It’s my second.
The consistency of today’s lowest rated item is very similar to that of Wiltshire Chilli Farm’s own mild sweet chilli, with all the drawbacks which that sadly entails. Its thin and easy pour providing little to no resistance for any floating seeds that might wish to clog the neck and interfere with my initial tasting.
Yet, as annoying as that may be, this second spoonful should give us all a better idea of the sauce as a whole. Still displaying plenty of pepper seeds, of course, but with shreds of their red flesh, as well, and a hint of gold from its cider vinegar. All of which bode very well for this sauce’s flavour.
When I raise it to my lips, however, that flavour is disappointingly ordinary. The red chilli is there, the sweetness is there, the tang is there and there’s a nice little undertone of ginger. Yet I’m getting none of the garlic or golden, aged apple notes from the cider vinegar. None of the things which made that Wiltshire sauce more complex and special.
The only thing that really sets The Heat Lab’s sweet chilli apart from supermarket thai-style sauces is its bird’s eye chilli. Adding a slightly more savoury, dry and almost woody element to the company’s red pepper blend. Along with a sharp
mouth burn that lingers for a while after the sugars have subsided.
It’s something, at least, but what that chilli brings to the taste of today’s first showpiece is honestly very subtle and certainly not worth paying the extra for an artisan sauce, if you ask me. So let’s see if The Heat Lab’s second is any better.
This is their Roasted Garlic and the strip of colour across its label reflects that – Now being an earthy, creamy shade of yellow-brown.
Aside from that, though, all that’s changed is the higher heat rating of four flasks. So I think we can safely move on to my spoonful without missing anything.
It uses the same blend of peppers – Including serranos and bells, alongside the bird’s eye that I could taste – and has a very similar ingredients list all ’round. Yet it’s very clearly a different recipe to the last, given how much thicker and pulpier it is on my spoon.
The aroma is quite different, too. A stronger pepper scent but none of the sweetness or tang of their thai-style sauce. Trading it in for an earthy, dry garlic aroma, more processed than freshly roasted.
Upon tasting it, however, that processed garlic plays only a small part in what is otherwise a serious red pepper, salt and acid flavour. With none of the specific varieties coming through at all in its generic, yet rather harsh, red chilli taste.
Whereas the sweet chilli was at least enjoyable – Albeit somewhat generic – this sauce is actively and unpleasantly abrasive. With an equally unwelcome
kick that sits in the back of my mouth and burns deep down into my throat. Building gradually but doing enough right away to bring on instant hiccups.
Perhaps that extra heat is coming from the added scotch bonnets but, if so, it’s a real shame that none of their more redeeming qualities can come through and save this sauce.
Still, I’ve kept the best sounding of the bunch for last and that’s their Pineapple Habanero. A simple blend of fruit and fruity chillies that should prove pretty difficult to mess up.
It’s very different from the others, visually, with a bold orange showing around the edges of its label and a brighter, pure yellow stripe backing its name.
Even through the glass, I can see tiny shreds of white and the occasional red, suspended in the sauce inside, hinting at a heavy hit of savoury garlic amidst the sweeter fruit. Something which the aroma backs up wholeheartedly but the pour doesn’t really support.
This sauce is thin. Extremely thin. Watery even, despite its visible pulp.
And it definitely contains habanero but the chilli’s mango and carrot-like, tropical taste barely comes through at all. Instead lending only its sharp,
mid-tongue prickle to this product’s equally bland base. A light hint of pineapple and ginger that really don’t pack anything like the pepper’s punch.
Thankfully the vinegar isn’t as offensively strong in this one as the last but, even so, I can’t say that I recommend it. It’s just too weak of a taste to bring much to the table. As if the pineapple itself was picked green and left to just barely ripen on a shelf.
I will probably end up drenching egg-fried rice in the stuff, in order to at least get some use out of it. But all three of the bottles that I bought have been filled with disappointment. Making this one of the least enjoyable reviews that I’ve written in a long, long time.
The Heat Lab’s Sweet Chilli contained:
Serrano Pepper, Red Bell Pepper, Birdseye Chilli, Garlic, Ginger, Apple Cider Vinegar, Sugar.
Their Roasted Garlic was made from:
Serrano Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, Birdseye Chilli, Scotch Bonnet, White Wine Vinegar, Garlic, Sugar, Salt.
And their Pineapple Habanero used:
Pineapple, Apple Cider Vinegar, Carrots, Habanero Mash, ginger, Garlic, Salt, Brown Sugar.
But not one of them held a flavour that excited me as much as their scientific branding.