Hot Ones Season 23 Tasting Notes

We’ve made a fun family event out of doing the seasonal tasting packs for Hot Ones here at the house. Last weekend we did a Season 23 tasting event. You can find the list of sauces in Season 23 along with the tasting notes for each sauce here. I won’t repeat any of that, these are just my notes from the tasting event.

I’m more about flavor than I am raw scoville units. A sauce has to have dimension, not just burn, for me to really like it.

#1 Buffalo Hot Sauce | Hot Ones Hot Sauce

Yea, it’s nicely done Buffalo wing sauce. A little spicier than Tabasco or Franks. They got the consistency really nice with this one. I tend to find the Hot Ones sauces are pretty watery, but this one was more viscous.

If I was making a batch of wings for a party occassion this would be a good sauce except…

…who pays $10 for 5 ounces of Buffalo wing sauce? When you Buffalo wing sauce you BUFFALO WING SAUCE. Nothing short of several liters of Buffalo wing sauce would be appropriate for a wing feast here. So: A for effort Hot Ones, but you get an F for knowing your target market with this one.

#2 Smokey J Hot Sauce | Sam Sa’House

Tons of smoke in this with. With a strong sweetness from the agave and jalapenos. This is the kind of sauce I’d slather liberally over scrambled eggs or some pulled pork or even a nice grilled hotdog. Depth of flavor is great and evolves nicely as the heat comes on. There’s a nice heat here but nothing that’s challenging. It comes on slow as well but doesn’t build to something that’ll make you sweat.

#3 Stellar Fuzz | Funky’s Hot Sauce Factory

Very, very sweet. I didn’t really get the savory notes at the front that Hot Ones calls out. It was mostly about the sweat and then a quite bit of burn from the habenero. I personally find sauces that are vinegar-forward hotter than they would seem to be based solely on their Scoville rating and this one definitely felt hotter than 19,000 Scoville to me. But its a heat that fades pretty fast. Which is the opposite of what the tasting notes for this one said it would do. Odd. I liked the garlic notes here but did find “sweet” over shadowed everything.

#4 Los Calientes Verde (and Roja and Barbacoa) | Hot Ones Hot Sauce

Full disclosure: these three sauces are staples in our house. We all put them on literally everything. They’re amazingly flavorful and just hot enough that you know they are there but not so hot that the heat is the focus of what you’re eating. I usually buy the three pack every month or two to keep the locals sated. I ordered the three pack with the Season 23 sauces so we sampled all three at this phase in the tasting and…

…AMAZING! No surprises there. These taste lake mexicali in a bottle.

#5 Queso Sin Queso Hot Sauce | Good Heat

Wild! The tasting notes said it’d taste like queso but that it didn’t use any cheese and sure enough it tasted like a lovely, spicy queso! I have the same problem with this as I did the Buffalo sauce: no one eats queso in 5 oz bottle quantities. If they could make an actual queso like this, using that weird queso cheese, but spice it with the same stuff in this and give it the same heat it’d be INCREDIBLE. It’d be one of those chip dips where you start eating and 30 minutes later you’re scraping the dregs off the bottom of a wide-mouthed glass bottle wondering where the time went and who ate all the queso. So yea, fanatastic taste and hate but unfortunate in how it’s delivered.

#6 Morita Bourbon Maple Reaper | Cantina Royal

The first sauce we thought was actually starting to get spicy for us. Lots of maple, not a lot of bourbon in the tasting notes though. Vinegar-forward so it had that extra pop to the Scovilles, for me. And the Carolina Repear they use brings a fair bit of that heat with it. It wasn’t a bad sauce, but there are plenty of maple-forward hot sauces out there and this one didn’t do enough with the bourbon to really distinguish itself from that pack. Fine, not fantastic.

#7 The Forbidden Fruit Hot Sauce | La Pimenterie

It was like picking a fresh bell pepper from the dirt of a home garden. Standing in the warm sun on a late summer afternoon with the breeze at your ankles and the smell of mowed grass in the air. Biting in to that bell pepper and getting all that delicious, sweet pepper taste and the finding out that, holy shit, it’s actually pretty fucking spicy too! I love it! The heat comes on slow and it’s strong but it never takes away from that amazing vegetable flavor that this sauce has in spades. I’d put this on a lettuce-heavy salad to make it unboring. Or maybe in a bloody mary or a proper cesar to really bring the hair of the dog to sunday brunch! This one is up there for my favorite of the hotter sauces.

#8 Da Bomb | Evolution Hot Sauce

Fuck everything about this sauce. Fuck the people who think it’s fun to make shit like this. Fuck First We Feast for continuing to carry it in the line up.

I don’t even order it now. Once was enough.

Never again.


#9 Chili Monoloco | Matasanos Hot Sauce

Mono – one. Loco – crazy.

This sauce is aptly named.

It has one tasting note: awful bitter.

And it hit HARD with the heat and would not let go. There was nothing pleasant about this at all. It wasn’t quite the battery-acid-rage that Da Bomb is, but it gets pretty close. The one-note taste means there’s no redeeming qualities that make the crazy heat it brings worth suffering through. There have been far, far better #9 spot sauces in past seasons like Unique Garlique.

This was a waste of the penultimate spot if you ask me. There could have been a hot sauce here that had actual flavor to it instead.

#10 The Last Dab: Xperience | Hot Ones Hot Sauce

We didn’t order this one.

I still had a bottle of Apollo kicking around so we did another dab of that. Cried our eyes out. Drank a ton of milk to try and abate the pain. And then agreed that tomorrow was going to suck from eating that last dab!

And that’s it! Another Hot Ones season tasting in the bag.

Definitely some extreme peaks and valleys in the flavors this season.

In terms of top three favorites from this bunch I’d go with:

  • The Forbidden Fruit
  • Smokey J
  • Los Calientes Verde

No surprise Los Caliantes takes the top spot for me. I love that stuff.

It was a fun evening all around. Even one of the cats got into the fun this year.

Luna and the Hot Ones

Written on February 6, 2024