Posted January 10, 2006 by John in Reviews

Review: Defcon Zero

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I was pretty excited when a little package arrived from Defcon sauces today. There has been a lot of talk at the Hot Pepper Forum of how Defcon uses a proprietary, non-ketone based extraction method, and I was very interested to try it.

I tore into the package and admired the attractive bottle. It’s a very limited run of bottles, 23 in total if I understand correctly. The number starts with batch 1, and I got bottles #107 and #123.

#107 is going on the shelf for keeps, and #123 is for consumption.

Upon ordering my Zero, I got a warning from the Defcon Creator to be certain to keep it off my hands – “you’ll have to go to the bathroom eventually.” So I decided to step up my precautions a bit, and to cover the counter in plastic wrap (to avoid an unpleasant surprise for the wife), as well as opening and handling the bottle with latex gloves.

I was surprised upon opening the bottle to find a plastic dipstick attached to the cap. The extract smelled like a cross between vanilla extract and grain alcohol, resulting in a pretty decent aroma. The consistency is very thin and liquid like, with viscosity similar to water; it doesn’t want to stick to the dropper, and seems to get absorbed into a toothpick rapidly.

I wasn’t quite sure of the heat level, as to my knowledge a scoville rating hasn’t been established yet. The bottle separates very quickly, so I gave it a good shake, used a toothpick to put a few drops on some American cheese, and gave it a try. The heat came on very slowly, building over a course of 5 minutes to a reasonable crescendo. It left as slowly as it came, and after a total of 10 minutes the burn was gone.

The taste was definitely unique, and not at all bad. It doesn’t taste strongly, but is definitely lacking the chemical taste I usually associate with extract sauces. All in all, it’s pretty palatable stuff. A little braver, I decided to try a reasonable sized amount on a tortilla chip, to see how hot the stuff really was.

The heat came on more quickly this time, and built for a solid ten minutes. It was hot, but a different sort of hot than I’m used to with extracts. It was almost as if, in building so slowly, your mouth gets a chance to adjust the heat gradually, sort of like slipping into a hot whirlpool a bit at a time. Still, this is not a test I’d advise for novices. All said, the burn lasted a solid 20 minutes, but never put me into serious pain, and there was no sweat to be found.

Still curious about the heat level of Defcon Zero, I decided to put my engineering degree to use and run a little test, comparing it to a known sample. So, I broke out the Blair’s Mega Death, rated at 550,000 scovilles, and gave it a taste on a tortilla chip. The initial burst of heat from the Mega Death was appreciably hotter than the hottest point of the Defcon Zero; however, the Mega Death burnt out for me in less than 5 minutes. As a control, I tried another similar sized drop of Defcon Zero, and had the same experience as the other try: slow building, lower heat that lasted a good 20 minutes.

This raises an interesting question that I’ve always wondered: does a higher scoville rating necessarily manifest itself as a hotter peak sensation, or can it be that a hotter sauce just burns longer? Is it the maximum heat point, or the integral of heat over time, that makes a scoville rating?

Defcon 0 is a great option for those looking for the heat of an extract without the chemical taste. The flavor is pleasant, and the heat level is significant. This is not a sauce for those looking for the maximum heat possible at the cost of all taste; rather, this is a sauce the serious heat lover can enjoy the taste of. Add to that a limited edition, nice looking bottle that’s hand signed and numbered, and you’ll have a real quandary on your hands: open it and taste the goodness inside? Or save it and appreciate the collectible? Buying two turned out to be a great decision.

Overall Rating: 8.6 out of 10 – Heat and inoffensive taste; what more do you want from an extract?

** The first batch of Defcon 0 is now sold out **
P.O. BOX 720