Tahiti Joe's Hot Sauces

Hot sauces can be categorized in a variety of ways. Heat level is the most obvious characteristic. They're also often grouped by pepper type. Additionally, the sauce's origin can generally be traced back to one of three main regions: Mexico, The Caribbean or Asia.

Though countless quality sauces can be found from any of the aforementioned categories, I'm always on the lookout for "outsiders". When I discovered Tahiti Joe's, I was immediately intrigued. Their line of hot pepper sauces runs the complete spectrum of heat levels while the ingredients and flavors have a distinct Polynesian flare.

Despite what their branding and flavors would indicate, Tahiti Joe's is not based in the South Pacific. The sauces are produced in West Palm Beach Florida.  There also appears to be an Ohio connection based on a couple novelty offerings. As a die hard Wolverine, I can't say that I approve of their "Buck U Michigan" offering, but I'll try not to hold that against them.There are currently eleven different sauces in the Tahiti's Joe's lineup plus nine additional sauces in their Maui Pepper line (to be reviewed at a later date).

The eleven Tahiti Joe's sauces range from tongue tingling spicy to hotter than ghost pepper hell. Each one also features sweet, complex Polynesian flavor profiles that make them very unique in the hot sauce market. I won't be able to review EVERY flavor offering, but I'll address a couple of my favorites in this review and circle back to some of their other offerings at a later date.

As with any company that offers multiple products, I like to start with the original product. Every sauce company starts with that original flavor that was just soooo good that they had to bottle it for the masses. For Tahiti Joe's, it was the Polynesian hot sauce.

Polynesian hot sauce blends habenero and jalapeno peppers with vinegar for a spicy, tangy base. Most hot sauces would stop right there, but it's the additional ingredients that separates Polynesian (and all Tahiti Joe's sauces) from the pack. Clam juice, honey, tomatoes, carrots, garlic and parmesan cheese are all crammed into the 5 oz. bottle.

The result is a really complex melody of sweet, savory and spicy flavors. The flavor is so good that the heat takes a back seat. The moderate spice is tolerable, but does build steadily. The rich, well rounded flavor was a fantastic surprise. The sweet elements are great with fish tacos. If you can stand the heat, Polynesian makes an incredible wing sauce as well.

After thoroughly enjoying Tahiti Joe's Polynesian Hot Sauce, I decided to tackle their hottest sauce, Uhane Akai XXXX Hot Sauce. This sauce uses the infamous ghost pepper (as well as habeneros) as its heat source. Like all Tahiti Joe's sauces, the peppers are accented by a variety of unique ingredients like key lime juice, clam juice, honey and ginger. Unfortunately, with a sauce this hot, the other ingredients aren't necessary.

Flavor be damned with Uhane Akai. I'm fairly certain that your taste buds totally shut done as soon as a drop of this evil concoction hits your tongue. Like all the other extreme hot sauces that I've tasted over the years, I have a hard time evaluating the sauce's merits. I can't exactly say that I "enjoy" it. On the other hand, the sauce delivers on its promises. It's CRAZY HOT!

In a crowded hot sauce market, Tahiti Joe's is in a category of its own. Infused with sweet and savory elements of the South Pacific, their original Polynesian Hot Sauce is as good as it gets. Uhane Akai will singe, sear, and blister your tongue. If your the type of sadist that enjoys those sort of sensations, then grab a bottle and have at it. Based on the initial impressions that first two sauces made, I can't wait to try their other offerings.

Check out Tahiti Joe's entire sauce lineup at http://tahitijoeshotsauces.com/

Polynesian Hot Sauce: (5/5)
Uhane Akai: (4/5)

Sugar Hill Smoke House Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce

Sugar Hill is sleepy Atlanta suburb in Northern Georgia. It's also the namesake for Mike O'Rourke's newly produced BBQ sauce. The Georgia native's sauce is a blend based on childhood memories of the tangy vinegar dip used by the local smokehouse as well as the sweet, tomato based recipe that his mother brewed at home.

The result is a medium / thin red sauce that's both sweet and tangy (as stated on the label). Sugar Hill Smokehouse BBQ Sauce is packaged in standard 16 oz. glass bottles. The label / logo is simple, but appealing.

Like many Georgia sauces, Sugar Hill Smokehouse also includes a fair amount of mustard. This balances the sweetness and adds to the tang. The all natural sauce is sweetened with sugar and molasses (no HFCS). The spices / seasonings include the usual suspects.

I first used Sugar Hill as a finishing glaze for two nicely trimmed racks of St. Louis ribs. The sauce looked fantastic on the racks. It brushed on smoothly and created a great glossy shine. The color darkened just a bit under the heat, giving the ribs a magnificent mahogany bark.

The flavor of the sauce held up well to the heat. It lost a bit of tang, but a hint of mustard was still evident. The sugars got richer and deeper which complimented the salty rub and smokey meat. The sauce made the each bone appropriately sweet and sticky.

I later poured Sugar Hill Sweet & Tangy over a mound of smoked pork shoulder. I love tossing smoked pork into medium/thin tangy sauces. Sugar Hill proved to be a perfect BBQ sandwich sauce. It's thin enough to penetrate every piece of pulled pork, but thick enough to stand on it's own and be poured over the sandwich.

Sugar Hill Smokehouse Sweet & Tangy is great because of it's versatility. It's the style of sauce I constantly have on hand. It's suitable for nearly any BBQ application. Additionally, since it doesn't feature any real extreme flavors, it's the type of sauce that nearly everyone will enjoy.

Pick up a bottle of this delightful sauce Here.

Rating: (4/5)

Triple Crown Organic BBQ Sauce

Minnesota based, Triple Crown BBQ Sauce, started in the home kitchen of Richard Schaaf in the early 90s. Richard entered his home brewed sauce in the Minnesota State Fair on several occasions where it won multiple blue ribbons. Word of Richard's sauce spread quickly until the market demanded that the sauce be sold commercially. In 2009, Triple Crown hit the shelves of local markets.

In 2012, the sauce and brand were acquired by Andy Wright who made some tweaks / upgrades to both the recipe and packaging. Even more recently the sauce became USDA certified organic making Triple Crown only the second organic BBQ sauce that I've reviewed.

Triple Crown's packaging is stylish and appealing. It's definitely tailored to the organic / hipster market. The slender, 12 oz bottles fall right in line with the aesthetics commonly seen in Whole Foods and other organic markets. This alone, makes it a standout among most sauces.

Thick, sweet and smokey are the three defining adjectives for describing Triple Crown BBQ Sauce. One taste leaves little doubt as to it's region of origin. This is a Midwestern sauce to the core. It's the type of sauce that I grew up with. What sets Triple Crown apart from other common tomato based sauces is the ingredient list. Thick, organic tomato puree is sweetened intensely with pure cane sugar and given depth with savory ingredients like salt, garlic, and chili pepper. They then go the extra mile to enhance the flavor with exotic spices like tamarind and allspice. Natural hickory flavor (liquid smoke) is also very evident in the flavor and aroma.

With ribs on the menu, I chose Triple Crown BBQ Sauce to give two racks of meaty spares a sweet, sticky finish. After smoking the ribs for 5 hours, I applied Triple Crown liberally and grilled each rack for a couple minutes per side. As with any sweet sauce, I took care not to allow the hot flames too much contact with the ribs to prevent burning.

Thanks to Triple Crown, my ribs were a tantalizing ruby red. I probably should have heated the sauce a bit before applying it to get a smoother, more glossy finish. Even without doing so, the ribs were still beautiful. Better yet, the ribs' taste surpassed their appearance. The sweet, smokey profile was just what I was looking for with those ribs.

Triple Crown has all the components of a top notch tomato BBQ sauce. Thanks to the extra attention and care given to each of those components, Triple Crown separates itself from familiar favorites. Organic sauces are few and far between. I'm thankful for another tasty option. It's the type of sauce that you can serve to a crowd...especially a health conscious crowd.

Featured primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin markets, Triple Crown can also be purchased online through Amazon and Yumzar. Check out their website for additional information about Triple Crown.

Rating: (4/5)

Willie's Hog Wash

Willie's Hog Dust is a South Carolina based company founded in 2009. Like most BBQ start ups, Willie began cooking regularly at home and experimenting with his own flavor combinations. Years of testing led him to develop his Hog Dust rubs formulated primarily for pork and chicken.

To compliment his rubs, Willie also developed a tangy sauce that blends the various tomato, mustard and vinegar sauces found South Carolina. Willie's Hog Wash is unique in that it really can't be categorized as either a tomato, mustard or vinegar sauce. It's truly a blend of all three.

Hog Wash is dark red in the bottle. The sauce is on the thin side, but not nearly as thin as traditional Carolina vinegar sauces. Coarsely ground dark spices can be seen scattered throughout the sauce. It pours quickly as the bottle has a wide open mouth.

While Hog Wash evokes many of the flavor attributes that I became accustomed to while living in the Carolinas, it definitely deviates from tradition. Thanks to ketchup and additional sugar, the sauce has a sweeter profile than standard vinegar sauces. That's just fine with me. I love using sweet ingredients to balance the vinegar tang. The sauce also finishes with just a touch of heat thanks to the inclusion of cayenne pepper sauce.

Anytime a sauce with Carolina roots comes my way, I'm compelled to use it on smokey pulled/chopped pork. I poured an entire bottle of hog wash over a large mound of hickory smoked pork shoulder that I cooked for the holiday weekend.

Willie's website suggests a variety of uses for the sauce, but I can't think of better use than pairing it with smoked pork. The thin sauce covers and penetrates the meat perfectly. The tangy flavor is a natural compliment (enhancer?) to the mild, smokey pork. It's probably thick enough to use as a finishing sauce for ribs and chicken, but it's tailor made for pourin' or dippin'.

I've tried my share of sauces from the Carolinas. Willie's Hog Wash is the real deal. It belongs right along side of other top shelf vinegar blends. It's sure to please Carolina traditionalists and maybe even convert a few Yankees.

Willie's Hog Wash and other products can be purchased here.

Rating: (4/5)

Nando's Peri Peri Sauce

Man has been turning chili peppers into spicy condiments for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Nearly every culture on every continent has found a way to incorporate hot peppers into their diets. The African bird's eye chili or "peri peri" has a particularly robust history. This well traveled pepper is featured in African, South American and European cuisine. Thanks to companies like Nando's, peri peri is also catching on in the United States.

Nando's is a thriving franchise with restaurants all over the world. In the United States, Nando's can be found in and around Washington DC. Nando's specializes in the traditional Portuguese method of using peri peri peppers. After all, it was the Portuguese who were credited with"discovering" the pepper. Nando's combines the peri peri peppers with garlic and lemon juice to create a savory, spicy sauce. The sauce is then used as both a marinade and finishing sauce for chicken grilled over an open flame.

While I haven't been able to visit a Nando's restaurant, I did get the opportunity to sample their peri peri sauce. Nando's sells their thin, orange sauce in 1.4 oz (40 gram) glass bottles. It comes in a variety of heat levels and flavor variations.

I wanted to stay true to the Nando's style of cooking when testing their sauce. However, I received the samples in the midst of a record breaking Michigan winter. My grill was buried under two feet of snow making open flame cooking impossible. As a result, I had to make due with my oven's broiler.

I was cooking four medium-large chicken breasts for my family. The bottle didn't appear to be large enough to both marinade and finish the chicken so I skipped the marinading. I dusted the chicken simply with seasoned salt and pepper and slid it under the searing broiler. Finally, I brushed the sauce on heavily just before the chicken finished cooking.

Since I was cooking for my family, I started with the medium sauce. It's a good thing I did. Nando's medium peri peri sauce packed quite a punch. The sauce was tangy and the garlic was evident. As I mentioned, the burn was more than I anticipated.

The sauce's low sugar content makes it perfect for high heat cooking. The chicken didn't char as it would have with a high sugar (BBQ) sauce. Though it's thin, it still manages to cling to the meat. It also colors the surface nicely.

Though I'm new to Nando's, this wasn't my first experience with peri peri. I really enjoy the unique sizzle provided by this sauce. It's unlike the cayenne / tabasco / jalapeno sauces that are typically featured in North America. Nando's take on the sauce is simple and delicious.

More information about Nando's and the peri peri pepper can found here.

Rating: (3.5/5)

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