Seven hot sauces, many tastes

By Razib Khan | June 3, 2013 5:35 am

First, I recommend this article in The Smithsonian, The Gut-Wrenching Science Behind the World’s Hottest Peppers. Recently due to my foolishness I took a teaspoon of Dave’s Ultimate Insanity Sauce. The problem is that though my tongue has developed a very high tolerance to capsaicin, my stomach has not. Tasting a teaspoon of Dave’s Ultimate was actually tolerable in regards to the sensation in my mouth, but my stomach did not agree.

With that out of the way, for the past few months I’ve been sampling seven purportedly very hot sauces with a group of friends on various dishes. The seven are:

I will give each hot sauce up to 10 points, broken down by 5 points for spice and 5 points for taste.

Dave’s Original Insanity Hot Sauce gets 6.5, 4.5 for spice, and 2 for taste. These sauces are the real deal in terms of industrial scale heat, but they often lack subtle flavor or texture, and exhibit an almost chemical sensation. Hot, yes. Delicious, not so much.

Dave’s Ultimate Insanity Hot Sauce gets 7. Like the Original, but with 5 points for spice. To be frank I didn’t find this sauce much spicier than the Original, but my tolerance might be cranked up.

Dave’s Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce goes up to 7.5. It’s not as spicy as the first two, with a 4, but the flavor is also a 3.5. This actually tastes like a sauce, rather than an emulsion of capsaicin in oils. The flavor is astringent and simple. The ingredients highlight garlic pulp and I can believe it.

Melinda’s Naga Jolokia get’s a 7.5. 4.5 for flavor, and a 3 on spice. Melinda’s has a mild sour taste which slams you at the same time as the spice, and the garlic and carrot leave you with vegetable and aromatic aftertastes. This is a delicious sauce indeed.

Pure Habanero is also a 7.5. It’s a little spicier than Melinda’s, but not as flavorful. 3.5 for spice and 4 for flavor. I would say that its taste is simpler and less complex. I doubt it is “pure” habanero, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the range of ingredients is far smaller than Melinda‘s (I couldn’t find them listed on the bottle).

Mad Dog 357 Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce ranks at a 6.5. It balances heat and flavor, 3.5 and 3 respectively. But I have to say that the simple vinegar and sweet complement to the spice doesn’t do much for me.

CaJohn’s Trinidad Scorpion Hot Sauce is a 7. 3.5 for both flavor and spice. It remind’s me of Mad Dog 357, but the vinegar and sweet are muted by the addition of tomato.

I’ll probably order Melinda’s Naga JolokiaPure Habanero, and Dave’s Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce again. I’m looking for more sauces to taste, so put in your recommendations below.

  • slartibartfastibast


  • miko

    Physiological. TRPV1-expressing neurons undergo rapid desensitization, and prolonged exposure causes receptor downregulation.

  • Generalista

    It should be noted that peppers, also including roasting, have a hugely varying fullness of flavors even without additional ingredients. I am partial to authentic New Mexican food with their green and red chili sauces – and many of the best derive from specialty chilies grown locally. You can go to plant/seed stores in Santa Fe and get tens of varieties of chili seeds – and many are more flavorful then hot. Outside of garlic, carrots, and tomatoes look for the original complex flavor in chilies, themselves.

  • Reedley Smith

    Razib, there’s a young guy whose Youtube channel is nothing but displays of him trying out some of the hottest peppers and sauces and rating them, including some of the ones you’ve listed here.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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