Sonoma, CA-based company Lucky Dog Hot Sauce is what Scott Zalkind started after his 6-plus-year hobby began to flourish. Zalkind fire-roasted chile peppers and garlic and combined them with other fresh ingredients into, in his words, “thick, savory and extremely versatile hot sauces” (that sounds good already!). He doesn’t use pepper mash at all; and although he employs a bit of dried chiles, most of the flavor is derived from the unique, quasi-smokey tones of roasted peppers.
I was eager to try these because of that fact. So were my friends Brian and Marilyn Meagher of Hot Sauce Daily, who agreed to post a review of their own of Lucky Dog Hot Sauces. So, after you read my take on these fiery products, I urge you to jump on over to their website to read what they have to say about Lucky Dog.
Label and Packaging:
2 out of 5. I usually save mention of the label(s) for last, but I had to bring this up immediately with these Lucky Dog Fire-Roasted Hot Pepper Sauces.
First, the positives. The graphics are clean, sharp, and the artwork itself looks modern. It looks like they have something great to start off with. Second, the grossy and metallic look of the horseshoe really stands out.
I hate it when hot sauce manufacturers don’t include some easily way of removing the shrink wrap atop the bottle, forcing me to dig out a steak knife just to get the dang bottle open. My preferred way of doing this is perforations, but Lucky Dog has a cool little zip strip on each one. Kudos to them for thinking of the customer in this way!
Now the negatives, and there are plenty. The text on the front of each of the three bottles of Lucky Dog are identical. Yep, the colors are vastly different, signifying that these are somehow three distinct sauces or heat levels. A simple “HOT”, “MEDIUM” or “MILD” plastered somewhere on the front of the label would help out tremendously. As they are now, these are nothing but baffling to the average consumer if they were to glance at these sitting on a store shelf.
Ah, but turn the bottles around to see the back of the labels, and we get heat scales using images of a thermometer. This may help. But we get an almost Medium level for the Green Label, a dead-on Medium rating for the Red Label, and a Medium-Hot for the Orange Label. Even though I love the fact that Lucky Dog are trying to be honest with their heat assessments, there’s not much of a distinction here to clearly tell the customer what the difference is in this regard.
There is written on each label a little explanation of what’s in each one: Green Label – Jalapeño & Serrano peppers with roasted garlic; Red Label – Habanero, Jalapeño & Serrano peppers with roasted garlic; and Orange Label – Habanero, Jalapeño & Serrano peppers with roasted garlic. You’ll notice that the Orange and Red Labels mention this same peppers. But where this kind of all falls through is that in the actual ingredients lists (written directly below in this review), none of these chile peppers are broken down (they’re only given the generic descriptions of “roasted chile peppers” and “chile peppers”), and also each one also contains Cayenne Peppers, which of course are not mentioned in those brief little explanations.
Lastly, the ascending heat levels of Lucky Dog Fire-Roasted Hot Sauces are in the order of Green, Red and Orange. Before looking at the thermometer graphic on the back, I probably would have guessed that the Red would have been the hottest out of the three. I’m sure I would not be the only one to make that incorrect assumption.
I would advise Scott Zalkind and Lucky Dog to completely rethink the way they package these. Because if a savvy hot sauce buyer would get so flustered and confused trying to guess what’s what, just imagine how baffled the average joe would be.
Green Label: Distilled Vinegar, Onions, Roasted Chile Peppers, Roasted Garlic, Water, Carrots, Chile Peppers, Sugar, Sea Salt, Lime Juice From Concentrate, Cayenne Pepper
Orange Label: Apple Cider Vinegar, Onions, Roasted Chile Peppers, Roasted Garlic, Carrots, Chile Peppers, Water, Sugar, Sea Salt, Cayenne Pepper, Lime Juice From Concentrate
Red Label: Apple Cider Vinegar, Onions, Roasted Chile Peppers, Carrots, Roasted Garlic, Water, Chile Peppers, Sea Salt, Sugar, Cayenne Pepper, Lime Juice From Concentrate
4 out of 5. Each one has an oniony, peppery zing with a dash of sweetness to the nose.
Appearance and Texture:
4.5 out of 5. The Green, Red and Orange are almost dead-on target with a thick, pulpy consistency that I love. Each one is packs terrific density and stickiness, yet is wonderfully pourable.
The sauce from the Green Label bottle is more of a dirty Orange tint, while the contents of the Orange and Red Labels are an almost identical dirty orange/light brown hue.
Taste Straight Up:
Green Label – 3.5 out of 5. There’s a strong, fresh kick coming from the onions, jalapenos, and serranos. The carrots, sugar and lime juice given the flavor depth with a hint of sweetness. The garlic, although lays in the background, plays an important role in rounding out the overall taste.
Red Label – 4 out of 5. Similar to the Green Label sauce in most ways, but I get a more earthy, grassy kick and a touch more heat.
Orange Label – 4.5 out of 5. Close to the flavor profiles of the other two, but this one is sweeter than the slightly milder Red Label (I think the apple cider vinegar smoothes out the harsh edges more in this), with a more pronounced garlic and oniony presence as well. The heat was a tiny bit higher, too.
Taste on Food:
I gave each of the three some testing out with Mexican. Chicken chimis were on the lunch menu.
All three of the Lucky Dog Fire-Roasted Hot Pepper Sauces did more than fine on my meal, adding great flavor and a smidgen of heat without being distracting.
Another time it was pizza night at Casa Del Roberts, and I once again used all three Lucky Dogs. The Green label sauce did not hold up quite as well as the other two, yet was still excitably good.
Green Label – 2 out of 5. Probably due to the serranos and cayennes, this does swing a bit of heat around.
Red Label – 2.5 out of 5. A tad more heat than the Green Label. This would be on the level of being a good, all-purpose, everyday heat for most chileheads.
Orange Label – 3 out of 5. Nice and toasty! This wasn’t enough to numb my tongue, but I enjoyed the light flamage going on because of the habaneros.
Green Label –
Red Label –
Orange Label –
Once the labeling confusion is sorted out, I believe that Lucky Dog Hot Sauces have a real chance at biting into the competition. Readers of this review shouldn’t let that deter you from looking into buying some of this. All are above average, and the winner by a hair is the Orange Label sauce; it’s one of the best I’ve tasted so far this year.
You can order a 5 oz. bottle of any of them for $4.99 plus shipping at http://www.luckydoghotsauce.com.
Read more of Scott’s coverage of the fiery foods and BBQ world at his hot sauce blog, ScottRobertsWeb.com.