Tell us about Vengeful Spirit?
We’re a spooky hot sauce company based in sunny Leith, our aim is to make small batch hot sauce that’s focused on flavour over heat (with a couple of deliberate exceptions). With a burning desire for heavily fruited sauces, it should come as no surprise that we’re continuing to collaborate with our fellow fruit enthusiasts at Vault City. It’s almost our second birthday, having started commercially in late 2020.
In all honesty, the name Vengeful Spirit originally came from a metal band name generator. I had intended to continue down the well-trodden path of hardcore hot sauce branding with names like Colon Cleaner and Satan’s Rectum.
Thankfully I saw the light and went with a more light-hearted spooky cartoon approach, which I think is way more fun and suits the sauce recipes better (as they’re generally not too spicy).
What was your inspiration for starting Vengeful Spirit?
I’ve been a huge fan of hot sauce for as long as I can remember, having frequently brought back loads of American hot sauces from Heatonist on my trips to New York (it’s just around the corner from Brooklyn Brewery, how could I resist?) and naturally I’m an avid viewer of Hot Ones.
While I’ve always enjoyed the endorphins which come from eating very spicy food, I noticed that so many of the hot sauces I tried were aggressively heat forward with very little flavour, usually tasting mostly of vinegar.
There were a few which stood out as bucking this trend; Heartbeat Hot Sauce Co from Ontario, Canada have an array of medium spiced sauces which have a silky texture and the perfect balance of flavour and acidity - their Pineapple Habanero is a triumph. Yellowbird in Texas have a similar appreciation of balance and texture with their pepper-forward sauces, Habanero Condiment is a firm favourite.
In late 2019 I decided to finally try making my own flavourful sauces at home, which involved spending a ludicrous amount of money on a Vitamin blender. Within a few weeks I’d created around 15 recipes with varying degrees of success, including a pineapple hot sauce which would eventually become the base for all of my Sunshine sauces (for example, last year’s Vault City collaboration - Sunshine on Portobello).
Having spent most of The End Times handing out homemade sauces to pals, they eventually convinced me that I simply must start selling them commercially and make a heck of a lot more than 8 bottles at a time. I’m now up to 64 recipes, with quite a few waiting in the wings for a commercial release next year.
What was the first hot sauce you ever tried and what are your favourites?
I can’t usually remember what I ate yesterday, never mind decades ago - but I reckon this would have been Tabasco. As watery spicy vinegar, I must admit that I wasn’t really a fan. My primordial hot sauce education also included a lot of Frank’s Red Hot on buffalo wings and coating every single stir-fry in copious amounts of sriracha. Cholula Chipotle is also an absolute OG of the game, especially on pizza.
Picking a single hot sauce is beyond my capabilities, but I’d say these guys are absolute stonkers:
- Lucky Dog - Year of the Dog (one of the best Thai inspired sauces you’ll ever wrap your lips around)
- Secret Aardvark
- Heartbeat Hot Sauce Co’s Pineapple Habanero
- Clark & Hopkins Assam Pepper Sauce (curry times!)
- High River’s Rogue (blood orange)
- Valentina’s Yellow Label (don’t sleep on this classic)
Tell us about Island Inferno?
The goal for this one was to simply create the best wing sauce we could muster, without limiting ourselves to a traditional buffalo wing format. I took our base sriracha and buffalo recipes and smashed them together, creating an really nice balance of acidity and sweetness, and then layered in an absolute ton of mangoes.
Honestly, I’m so proud of how this came out - the level of sweetness and the addition of mango makes it super moreish, and at moderate spice levels it won’t ruin your afternoon.
How about Purple Pain?
Well, remember how I said we aim for flavour over heat? Well, you can forget that with this sauce. This one is for the masochistic spice heads who crave those endorphins. We get asked a lot for very spicy sauces and we generally don’t comply (with two exceptions in Evil Awaits and Molten Moose).
However, Joe Rodger - Vault City’s head bar honcho and long time beer pal - approached me and asked for a much spicier version of his favourite sauce (spoiler alert: it’s Death Pact) for Porty Vault and I couldn’t say no. This hot sauce is pain incarnate, tempered barely with a truckload of blackberries and maple syrup. Make sure you stock up on ice cream.
What food pairings would you recommend for these two hot sauces?
While Island Inferno is very much designed to be a wing sauce, I find that it’s absolutely incredible on pizza. It also fully bangs on fajitas, tacos and stir fries. It’s exceptionally versatile and you’ll be onto your second bottle in no time.
Purple Pain, on the other hand, is a dipping sauce from hell. Naturally, it’s tremendous on wings - but also as a glaze on some duck breast, venison or in a spicy vinaigrette. If you’re feeling adventurous, try it on ice cream or pancakes.
Lastly, what’s on the card for Vengeful Spirit in 2023?
Oh man, where do I start?
We have an absolute ton of recipes in the pipeline, including a black garlic chipotle sriracha and a few variations on our extremely well received BBQ sauce.
We’re working on a new nano batch format which we’re calling the Hellscape series. For each release, we’ll put out only a few dozen bottles of super experimental sauces. Proper rustic labels and ingredients on gift tags, that sort of thing. The idea is to make it easier to release sauces which use expensive, exotic or fermented ingredients on a smaller scale. There will also be spicier sauces than we’d normally produce at scale.
This is usually the place where people will talk about their grand plans for new premises and scaling up the business. We’re actually planning to stay tiny, it’s where we thrive creatively and it allows us to put out super interesting sauces on an almost monthly basis.
Small batch, big spooky energy.