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For Coloradans who haven’t already caught on to Hot Ones (First We Feast’s hit YouTube interview series in which A-list celebrities are tortured with chicken wings slathered in fiery sauces), now’s the time. The Centennial State makes its Hot Ones debut this month with Fort Collins–based Burns and McCoy’s Exhorresco, a tongue-scorching marvel that will be the second hottest sauce on the show. In anticipation, we sat down with Burns and McCoy founder Jay Turner to find out how his three-year-old company beat out the competition to be ranked among the tastiest—and more torturous—hot sauces in the world.
5280: How did you get started in the hot sauce business?
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Jay Turner: Burns and McCoy is a family-run company: It’s just my wife, my mother, and me. My whole goal was to help my mother with her retirement. We’re from Leadville, the highest town in the U.S., and the name came from the old Burns and McCoy mine there. We had our first dollar in our pocket in June 2015, and we’re now in over one thousand locations, which include Europe, New Zealand, and Canada, and grocery stores throughout the Front Range.
How’d you get chosen for Hot Ones?
They’re very selective with who they bring in. We have a decent online presence, and there’s videos of people who drink a whole bottle of Exhorresco on YouTube, so that might have helped.
Tell us a bit about how you came up with the recipe for Exhorresco?
Exhorresco means “dread” in Latin. The whole goal of the sauce was to get it as flavorful as we could, and make it as ruthless as we could. I chose to go with a 7 Pot Primo pepper, grown by a horticulturist in Louisiana named Troy Primo. It’s got an average Scoville Heat Scale rating of 1.2 million, compared to a habanero which has something like 235, so it’s super hot. It’s a really flavorful pepper with a nice sweetness, and I added agave to bring out it’s subtleties. For acid, I chose apple cider vinegar that had been aged with oak chips, because the tannins from the oak actually make the capcaisin bind to your mouth in a way that a normal hot sauce wouldn’t and make the sauce even hotter. It also adds a whole different complexity and mouthfeel. I added some black garlic, which has a great sweetness and savory quality, and pairs nicely with the sweetness from the peppers. I brought a little bit of brightness by adding yuzu juice, and then some coriander seeds just to round it out.
What makes your sauce stand out amongst the fifty-plus sauces that have been on the show, and the dozens of others on grocery shelves?
Flavor is a big part of it. What we felt was lacking in the hot sauce industry was the flavor profiles. We wanted to put high quality ingredients into our products. Our sauces are all natural, we don’t use xantham gum or fillers like other places. We try to make our stuff a high percentage of peppers, and use mostly fruit and vegetables as sweeteners rather than relying on unnatural sweeteners. We also support the U.S. as much as we can—ninety-nine percent of our products are sourced from the U.S.
Which celebrities will be on the show?
I can tell you Chrissy Teigen is on there. I’ve been sending her pictures of the Madusa on the Exhorresco label, through Instagram and Twitter, and saying, “I hope this haunts your dreams for the next few months.” I’d love to see somebody like Elon Musk on there. But my dream guest would probably be someone from the past like Abe Lincoln.
What sort of reaction are you hoping for?
For obvious marketing reasons, I want someone to vomit. No, really, I’d like to have people just give their honest opinion. I don’t want someone to tiptoe around what they really think about it. It’d be cool of one of the celebrities reached out to us and said, “Hey, I really liked your sauce.”
You’re going to be the first Colorado company ever on the show. How does it feel to be representing your state?
It’s pretty cool. I think that Colorado had a severe lack of culinary taste until about five to ten years ago, and now our palates are expanding. I hope that when people look at our sauce and see the ingredient list, they may be more willing to check out some local products. Or, people out of state might be more inclined to say, “Hey, if they did this, maybe someone in our area is doing something outside the box.” With every company that has been on there, we’re talking about some of the world’s best. To be considered among them is very flattering and humbling.
Watch it: New Hot Ones episodes air every Thursday through December.
Try it: Burns and McCoy’s sauces are available at Safeway, Whole Foods Market, King Soopers, and other Front Range grocery stores.