I, probably like many other chilliheads, started out my introduction to hot sauces through trying the ubiquitous Mclhenny’s Tabasco® sauce. It’s iconic bottle is found in many a restaurant or pantry as an additive to food, with a dash or a few drops being the usual amount needed by non chilliheads to enliven a dish. As ‘Tabasco® sauce’ is a brand name and registered trademark by McIlhenny’s, no one else is able to able to market their sauce using the ‘tabasco sauce’ moniker. However that doesn’t stop other companies from producing similar sauces using the tabasco chilli pepper and so what we have here is a variation on a theme of that well known sauce.
D’Olancho chilli sauce originates from Olancho, Honduras in Central America and is imported into the UK by Marsh Trading. Tabasco chilli peppers grown in the area are cultivated, salted and stored in wooden silos to age over a period of time. After this aging process the mash is strained to remove skins and seeds and the paste is then combined with vinegar in order to produce the finished sauce.
Red Tabasco Chilli, Salt and Vinegar
Bottle kindly supplied by Marsh Trading
Although relatively simple labelling, the bright green & yellow colour scheme in conjunction with the vibrant red colour of the sauce helps this bottle catch the eye. Rather usually too for a chilli sauce it’s supplied in a plastic bottle rather than glass.
Popping open the stopper lid on the bottle releases a scent similar to McIlhenny’s – a mixture of sweet ‘n’ sour aroma from the peppers and vinegar. The sauce is very thin and with the stopper lid design only a little comes out at a time. Handily though with the plastic bottle you can give it a squeeze if you want a large dosage more quickly. The sauce is a rich red colour and to the trained chillihead eye is easily seen as being a much more vibrant red that it’s well known competitor. I also notice that compared to McIlhenny’s it has a slightly more smoother consistent appearance – the pepper content in D’Olancho’s appears to be dissolved in the vinegar more than I recall with McIlhenny’s , where the pepper content can be seen to be suspended in the vinegar.
Tasting it, I initially get a hit of the natural sweetness & the heat of the peppers before the sharp hit of sourness of the vinegar comes forth. Inevitably in my mind I’m comparing it to the taste of that well know brand. With both sauces having high vinegar content they don’t make for the easiest tasting neat from the spoon but the D’Olancho sauce to my mind has the better balance of flavours. Yes, there’s the sharpness of the vinegar to go with the flavour of the chillies but the sharpness is a bit more reined in compared to McIlhenny’s, and not as over powering. There’s also a slight woody quality to the sauce which comes out towards the end after tasting the peppers and vinegar. It’s not at all a strong or unpleasant taste (I guess this must come from the ageing process in the wooden silos much like an ageing whiskey absorbs the flavours of the sherry casks it’s matured) but it gives another quality to the sauce than just the raw ingredients listed.
Given the high vinegar content of this type of sauce, it’s less of an all-purpose hot sauce but rather something which works really well as an ingredient /condiment to enliven soups, sauces, pasta dishes or stir fries. You could quite happily ditch your existing traditional malt vinegar and use this as an alternative to season your fish & chips (fries for our US based readers), giving them a little piquancy.
Available direct from the Marsh Trading website at only £1.95 for a 150ml bottle it represents excellent value for money – it costs around the same price as the standard 57ml of its well know competitor for almost three times the quantity.