Is the Naga Viper the world’s hottest pepper?

Naga Viper image courtesy of The Chile Foundry

*UPDATE 12/15/10*The Chile Pepper Institute responds to the Naga Viper claims.
*UPDATE 12/10/10*University of Warwick (lab that HPLC tested the Naga Viper) Response to Naga Viper Testing

The mainstream news wires have finally gotten word about the Naga Viper.  The chile that our friends over at The Chile Foundry told you about BACK IN OCTOBER!  Everyone is making a huge fuss about this being the new world’s hottest pepper, but is it really?  In a word; maybe.

Now don’t get me wrong. Gerald Fowler (the creator of the Naga Viper) has done an amazing thing. He has created a hybrid pepper that has a higher Scoville rating than any chile ever tested. However that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the OVERALL hottest pepper in the world. Please allow me to explain.

The most common method of Scoville testing currently is HPLC (High-Performance Liquid Chromatography).  It is an unbelievably accurate way of testing the amount of capsaicin in just about any spicy food.  However there is a flaw in how the majority of inexperienced HPLC labs report the results.  They normally only report the highest Scoville rating found in the test.  Which for a pepper isn’t a very accurate number of its total heat.

In order to understand why that number isn’t completely accurate, you need to understand the anatomy of a chile pepper.  Thanks to Michael Hultquist (author of Jalapeño Madness), we can take a look at the guts of a jalapeño:

Anatomy of the Jalapeño Pepper (courtesy of Jalapeño Madness)

Like most living things there are different parts to a pepper.  The part we want to focus on is the placenta.  The placenta in a pepper is the white, fleshy tissue that holds the seeds, and it also carries the vast majority of the capsaicin in the fruit.

HPLC testing requires the substance to be tested is dehydrated (since they’re testing parts per million in water). That means a live pod must be dehydrated, ground into a powder, and then test what’s left. During testing it would make sense to focus the placenta since you will get the hottest results, and I would wager that’s what happened here. Now I’m not saying that the lab results of 1,349,000 Scoville Heat Units (or SHUs) for the Naga Viper are inaccurate, but you have to question such a huge jump (almost 300,000 SHUs) over the previous record. Unfortunately for the Naga Viper, if it is going to defeat the Infinity Chile (approx 66,000 SHUs hotter than the Bhut Jolokia) for the world’s hottest, then they will have to establish a Guinness World Record. Guinness requires testing of the whole chile (not just the placenta), and testing of multiple pods to establish an average Scoville rating. If the Naga Viper is certified by Guinness that it’s the hottest, then I will be first in line to congratulate Gerald on his accomplishment.

Either way, I’ve been promised fresh pods from the next harvest for a live review. Hopefully I won’t puke like poor Darth Naga.

Now all this assumes the current tests are accurate and legitimate. If you ask American chile grower Jim Duffy you will hear a different story.

I will update our site as this story unfolds.



6 Responses to Is the Naga Viper the world’s hottest pepper?

  1. David Floyd says:

    Hi

    It is our understanding that this was whole pepper test.

    dave

  2. James says:

    Thanks Dave! Do you know if there were multiple samples tested from the same pod, or even better from multiple pods? Just curious if that number is an average, or the result of a single test.

  3. Sam says:

    James, if you bring pods to either ZestFest or FFS I will glady chow one next to you! It has to be on Sunday after the show! Sound like good TV to me!

  4. James says:

    Sounds good! I will let you know if and when I get my hands on them.

  5. Alisa says:

    I saw your site from the foodie blog roll and I enjoyed reading your posts. This is the first time I came across this pepper.Thanks for sharing! Im following the links to find out more about it.

  6. Jim Duffy says:

    This is a response from Peter Dunn press representative from Warwick University to Dave De Witts Press person.It is also on Dave’s website.

    “The University of Warwick School of Life Sciences has been asked by a number of growers to test Chillies to ascertain their heat level on the Scoville Scale. Each of those tests has been done as a commercial service to those clients and the University has not publicized or press released any of the results.

    One of those clients recently asked us to test a Chilli they described as a “Naga Viper”. We completed the test and gave the results to the client. We have since seen a number of media publish those results under headlines that this indicates that the tested Chilli is the hottest in the world.

    We also understand from news reports that there has been some interest in having this published as a fact in the Guinness Book Records.

    While we cannot release our full report on this Chilli without the commercial clients express permission, we can say that we feel that any result obtained from the Chilli sample that was tested by us should be viewed as only a good indicator that this Chilli could the conditions of entry into the Guinness Book of Records. The sample provided to us was relatively small and, while we do not know explicitly what the Guinness Book of Records testing requirements would be, we would expect that they would require at least one more test with a larger sample and possibly a corroborating test in another lab.”

    Now recently in the U.S. Marlin Bensinger has completed tests on all the Superhot species including Nagas and Trinidad varieties. No hybrids. This has been on multiple samples with multiple species over the past 2 months. Four varieties surpassed the Bhut Jolokia in heat levels. Marlin is America’s leading authority on Capsaicin testing and extraction. After his testing was complete the two highest composite samples of whole peppers was submitted to a lab in Texas that specializes in Capsaicin. We now await the results and if they are good we apply to Guinness with all our data. My name is Jim Duffy and I grew the plants and provided majority of pepper samples to Marlin.

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