Posted October 29, 2007 by SteveM in Reviews

Review: Bandana Bill’s Walapeno Hot Sauce

Bandana Bill's Walapeno Hot Sauce

Before I even open this sauce, it has 3 things going for it;

  1. It’s from Maine ““ a great state (Lars and Generallee, what do you think? Could Maine kick the crap out of Florida in a likeability contest?)
  2. Organic ingredients (95% organic)
  3. If you look at the picture of Bandana Bill close up, he sort of looks like John Lennon

Bandana Bill's Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

But how’s this stuff going to taste? I’m a little squeamish on Jalapeno-based sauces after my last experience.

Ingredients: Organic (org.) onions, org. bell peppers, org. jalapenos, water, org. Apple Cider Vinegar, org. sugar, org. garlic, org. black pepper, wasabi powder, sea salt, org. coriander, org. habanero.

I guess “walapeno” is the combination of wasabi and jalapeno, so I expect those to be the predominant flavors.

Initial Impression: As I hold the flask, I should mention again that I like the shape of this packaging, which is popular for many hot sauce makers, but it is prone to tipping over, which can cause a heartbreaking loss of good hot sauce.

Peering through the glass, I see that the consistency is almost “slurpee-like”. It’s thick with ground peppers, onion, garlic and I spy a fair amount of black pepper flecks. I shake it well and pop it open. Oh, man! I get a very nice nose full of cider vinegar, and then distinctive green pepper and black pepper smells all at once. I can’t wait for food ““ I gotta take a pull off this bottle right now.

It’s so thick, I have to shake it into my mouth. The very first thing I taste is an unexpected sweetness. Let me get back to that, because”¦Wham! Instant heat, pretty much confined to mid-mouth initially, but powerful! Several more swigs. Now, lips burning. Tongue numb. Roof of mouth under attack! Back of throat too! I’m sucking in air and enjoying a good shellacking from this combo of peppers. More on that when it wears off and I can take stock of what hit me.

Flavor: First, to address the sweetness, it’s the only element of this sauce that seems disjointed from the rest of the ingredients. I think the sugar could stand to be reduced (but not eliminated) until it fades into the background. I tasted this sauce with my daughter’s boyfriend, Ricky Passarelli, and he said the sweetness made the sauce taste uncharacteristically “fruity”. Instead of complementing the vinegar, the sugar just presents itself as a distraction, but believe me, that’s a very minor flaw. I’m loving the flavor of this stuff. Nevertheless, in order to address the odd sweetness, I recommend that you try pouring BANDANA BILL’S WALAPENO HOT SAUCE on savory foods that have some natural sweetness to them ““ that might be some fried sweet potato chips, any kind of sweet and sour dish, maybe that odd concoction – the ham and pineapple pizza, or how about fried sweet Plantains? That’s my choice!

Bandana Bill's Walapeno Hot Sauce

After I opened this sauce, I ran to the local mercado in search of platanos, the large, thick-skinned beauties that are sort of half banana, half potato. The platanos maduros are the ones I was after. Their skin is almost completely black and they “give” when you squeeze them. In other words, they are the ripe ones (vs. the green ones). The key, as shown in the picture below, is to fry them to a golden brown to bring out the natural sweetness, then sprinkle a little sea salt over them. The salt of choice (shown in the picture) is Fleur de Sel, one of the highest grade gourmet salts available. The difference between this salt and table salt is striking. Invest in some.

Bandana Bill's Walapeno Hot Sauce

The first of many things I want to applaud about this sauce is the use of Bell Peppers. Most hot sauce recipes eschew the green bell pepper. Why? It aint hot. Why take up space in the bottle with mild peppers when the hot peppers can help form the body of the sauce and give you heat all at once? I’ll tell you why it’s a great idea ““ because the addition of the green bell pepper keeps the sauce tasting as much like the pepper as a vegetable as it is the pepper as a heat source. Taste the WALAPENO HOT SAUCE and you will see what I mean.

The best feature of this sauce is that Bill (if there really is a Bill) has taken a bunch of ingredients common to many hot sauces and made them into a complex and dastardly combination designed to burn you in sneaky ways.

Heat: It’s hard to put this one on the scale. At it’s hottest, I guess it almost reaches a 7 on the HSB scale of 10, but it’s the combo of burns that gives this sauce my highest praise. As far as I’m concerned, the jalapeno actually takes a back seat to the most predominant flavor ““ the black pepper ““ enough black pepper that it’s like you just munched one of those spicy pappadams at an Indian restaurant. The wasabi joins the black pepper and jalapeno in numbing your palate. I wish there was just a bit more wasabi to get that burn reaching up the nose. But the best (or worst) is still to come. While you’re busy being tortured by the walapeno/ black pepper, the Habanero has marched into your mouth unnoticed, and is forming battle lines. Just as the first wave starts to subside, the second wave attacks. It’s a hot pepper tag team! I don’t get any Habanero flavor, but I sure feel its wrath. Sweat points confirm that the Habanero is there in sufficient quantity, even thought it is last on the list of ingredients. This leads me to suspect it is one of the more SHU-intensive varieties.

Taking another look at Bill, or whoever that guy is on the bottle, with his beard and bandana, using organic ingredients, putting a happy label on the bottle, calling it “medium”, I drew on some old stereotypes and kinda thought he was going to be a “pacifist” hot sauce maker. Fooled me good!!!

Bandana Bill’s Blazing
207 Butter’s Hill Rd
PO Box 58
Stoneham, ME 04231
Fax: 866-841-3421