I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving, or at least gorged yourselves in the traditional American fashion. I also hope you didn’t get trampled to death in the mad rush for Black Friday sales, because dead folks don’t read hot sauce websites. It’s pretty crazy out there, and in many ways resembles a battle of survival. Speaking of which, “Who will survive?” is the tagline for tonight’s product, which is the Pandemic sauce from Race City Sauce Works. This particular product is inspired by the notion that the human population could feasibly be overtaken and killed off not by some nuclear mutually-assured destruction, but by a “silent killer,” a plague that spreads and infects at an exponential rate. While I’m not certain why RCSW decided to take a sauce in that direction, it’s still a neat idea nonetheless, and it’s appropriate for this wholly unconventional sauce.
Espresso, Aged Red Wine Vinegar, 7 Pot Chile Puree, Scorpion Chile Puree, Dark Chocolate, Coffe [sic] Flavored Vodka, Jagermeister, Spices, 16 Million SHU Crystals
In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say that this product contains ingredients that I would not normally put in my mouth, one of which is the very first one. I’ve never really been a coffee or espresso fan, so the idea of a sauce trying to capture that flavor – let alone featuring the stuff as the primary ingredient – has me worried. But that’s nothing compared to some of the other stuff. We get both 7 Pot and Scorpion puree in the same bottle, which sounds like a ridiculously potent combination, and that’s not even considering the presence of the pure capsaicin crystals. That’s absurd. I’ll be lucky to taste the espresso flavor beyond all the heat. Hell, I’ll be lucky to taste anything after this experience. On the plus side, this does contain both vodka (albeit coffee-flavored) and Jagermeister, the latter of which reminds me of going to my best friend Ben’s band gigs. Suffice to say, this is a really interesting mix of ingredients, and I don’t think you’ll see much like it anywhere else.
This sauce is really brown, but I guess that shouldn’t be surprising considering the primary ingredient. It’s also a little on the thin side, and doesn’t really want to stick to or stay on my chips very well. Otherwise, there’s not really anything notable to look at.
Smell and Taste:
There’s a little bit of an espresso/coffee scent in there, but it is nothing compared to walking into Big Name Coffee Joint® and getting a good whiff of the place. More importantly, the two pepper purees have a great presence in the aroma. The combination of the espresso and peppers actually makes this smell a little smokey, which is probably misleading, but also rather mouthwatering (I love chipotle stuff, so this is tricking my senses). The best way I can describe the flavor, though, is like this: Imagine a chocolate truffle whose inside is made of some of the hottest peppers on the planet. Liquify it, and drink that stuff down, man. There’s your Pandemic sauce. I seriously get more of the dark chocolate flavor than the straight espresso, though that may be due to the two tastes blending together. Either way, it isn’t anywhere near the gross coffee flavor I was initially expecting.
Guess what? This stuff is hot. Sometimes I feel like I’m becoming a fan of hyperbole, but this is honestly one of the hottest sauces I’ve had that was intended as an actual sauce, and not just an additive. It’s getting a Madness from me. I wish I could rate the flavor quite as high, but while it doesn’t outright disgust me like I thought it would, it’s not exactly my favorite thing. Still, I actually enjoy it a little, so I’ll give it a Nominal. Espresso and coffee drinkers will likely find it more palatable (assuming they are also chileheads, because this stuff is, true to its name, very dangerous).
For once, I’m at a loss in this section. What the hell do you do with a sauce that tastes like coffee, chocolate, and death? I’m not certain if this passes the venerable, time-honored Tamale Test, because I’m honestly afraid to try. I guess you could put it on some chicken, if that idea appeals to you. More likely, though, you might put this on some ice cream for a spicy dessert, or even poured on top of some kind of decadent lava cake thing. This is a tough one to call, but maybe you’ll like it.
Race City Sauce Works is definitely one of the more creative sauce makers out there, and I love seeing what they come up with. I can’t help wondering what this stuff would taste like without the coffee-like ingredients, though. Also, the English Major in me wonders if their calling a coffee-based sauce “Pandemic” is some kind of social satire. If so, that’s friggin’ genius.