Science & Sorcery

Happy tuesday, everyone! This week, we have another company who wax seal their beautiful bottles but their products aren’t shipped over from the states like our last. They’re made here in the UK and I’ve got not one but two of them to show you, today:

These are Heriot Hott’s sweet chilli and barbecue-style sauces but neither has anything like the usual list of ingredients and neither looks quite like I’d expect, either.

The blue label sweet chilli on the left is made with yellow habaneros and leaves a golden residue around the neck of its bottle, yet otherwise contrasts that bright blue with a dark brown. Tinted less by its peppers and more by a mixture of soy sauce and coconut sugar. In order to add umami and a touch of bitterness, against all of that sweet.

Whereas its pinker partner is almost as reddish within as it is without. Proving far lighter than the average barbecue blend, largely due to its high cherry content. Something which I’ve really enjoyed before in that style of sauce.

So one’s a familiar concept and the other is an entirely new twist on a classic but both sound utterly delicious. And the contrast between their labels is fascinating.

In the blue we see the company craftsman, all suited up with frilly sleeves, putting the finishing touches on one of his creations beneath a microscope. But, over on the magenta bottle, that same sauce maker has taken a step back from the science to become a full-blown sorcerer. Swapping his suit for a cloak, his microscope for a spell book and his petri dish for a giant cauldron that fills the foreground.

Two completely different themes, held together by a recurring character and art style. Filled with a colourful, swirling mist that looks as much like the man’s eureka moment as any potential spellcraft.

Yet, as different as the two may be, there’s a clear midpoint between them in the old craft of alchemy. And it is, of course, that craft which drew me to this pair. My love of its mystical, yet methodical, ways and the unorthodox flavours which they always seem to bring to the table.

Flavours which it’s about time I tasted but, first, I’ve got some wax to crack:

Thicker, more deeply stamped wax than last week’s, providing a far clearer look at the company’s initials. Though my misreading of Dawson’s insignia was still far more my fault than theirs.

Breaking on through the red top, the sauce that fills my spoon may hold its shape, ever so slightly, but it’s still much thinner than I’m used to in barbecue. With a woody aroma of cinnamon and allspice atop its rich, sweet base. Those spices showing them selves as black flecks amidst the brown of the sauce itself:

There’s no obvious scent of cherry but a subtle, fruity note does colour its molassesy base and, alongside a touch of lemon juice and red wine vinegar, the cherries do seem to provide a tarter taste, to balance out the sweet. While smoked paprika, black pepper and cumin do very much the same for the more wintery, dessert-style side of the sauce’s spice blend.

The main fruit flavour that strikes me, though, is still very much the sweet, cooked tomato of its second ingredient – The ketchup. Pairing wonderfully with the rich, dark and equally sweet molasses but not doing anything that I haven’t seen in a dozen barbecue sauces before. So it’s the subtleties – The earthy, smoky, woody spices, the hints of vanilla and bourbon alongside them, that balance of sweet and sour and the gradual, high

prickly heat in the back of my mouth – and how they all come together that sell me on this one.

It’s made from:

Cherries (40%), Tomato Ketchup, Red Chilli (14%), Molasses, Sugar, Onion, Garlic, Maple Syrup, Salt, Lemon Juice, Red Wine Vinegar (Sulphites), Vanilla Pods (1%), Bourbon (2%), Paprika, Coriander Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Cinnamon, Allspice, Black Pepper, Ground Ginger, Turmeric.

And not a single one of those ingredients goes to waste. Yet it’s far from as cherry-forward as I was expecting and I probably wouldn’t want this one on my chips.

I see it as a far better fit for barbecue’s other main uses – Marinating or slathering over meats, especially pork ribs, and enlivening more cheese-based dishes. Or, odd as it may sound, mixing into the sour cream on my nachos.

Its blue-bottled counterpart is, to my surprise, even thinner. With far less than the expected stickiness behind its pour. A free-flowing liquid, rather than a syrup or traditional sweet chilli, with an incredibly obvious, yellow pepper aroma.

I can tell right away that this one’s going to be hotter than the last and a quick taste confirms that. Yet its top of a

tongue and sides burn falls a tad short of the full four that I’d expect from its flavour. The yellow habaneros being incredibly upfront in the taste but not quite delivering their usual heat. Instead pairing beautifully with the salt in this sauce and subtle caramel notes of the coconut sugar.

That same sugar’s sweetness downplayed by the salt and savoury of the soy. As well as its own gentle touch of bitter.

It’s a curious creation, this one, just barely qualifying as “sweet chilli” and focussing far more on chinese-inspired flavours than the traditional thai. Yet still really pushing that of the pepper, itself, without pushing its heat beyond what most chilli-lovers can handle.

So, personally, I’d be more inclined to use it over noodles, stir-fry and beef than my usual chicken or enchiladas. Almost as if it were a teriyaki. But I like it a lot and, if you enjoy the taste of hot and fragrant, yellow chillies, you’re going to love Herriot Hott’s blue label sweet chilli.

It was made from:

Yellow Habanero (18%), Yellow Peppers, Coconut Palm Sugar, Dreid Aji Amarillo, Water, Garlic, Rice Vinegar(Sulphites), Tamarind, Soy Sauce, Salt, Lime Juice, Lime Zest.

And it’s definitely the more unique of today’s pair. Yet both are well worth trying.

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