After tasting every type of hot sauce he could get his hands on, nothing quite hit the spot for hot sauce fanatic Mark McAulay.
Taking matters into his own hands, Mark decided to create his own range of hot sauces three years ago after being encouraged by friends and family at an annual street party.
Not looking at Singularity Sauce Co. commercially until a year ago, when he met local chef Craig Byiers, Mark now boasts seven fiery offerings in his range.
Exploring an array of heats and chillies, Mark uses a variety of local produce when cooking the sauces in his home in Tarves. Now collaborating with another hot sauce firm in America and working on a number of sauces with local businesses Mark is excited about the prospect of creating more wild and wonderful recipes – some of which are guaranteed to blow your mind.
Featuring flavours including Purple Naga Viper Brain; Blueberries, Reapers and Mangoes and Dragons, Apples and Raspberries, Mark has only scratched the surface when it comes to creating unique and unusual flavours.
You must have a real tolerance to really hot chillies, what was it that made you start your own hot sauce business?
I’d got fed up of all the hot sauces available in the supermarket and I started messing around and making my own.
I made them for myself and I decided to try them out at our annual street barbecue three years ago to let everyone taste them. Everyone was very complimentary and a few encouraged me to make some more to sell.
I spent a long time working on different recipes and bottling different sauces to see how the whole process worked.
I wanted to figure out how long they’d keep, testing acidity and other things like that. I started scaling things up and made 10 bottles of sauce in one go and sometimes made 20. I was giving it away and asking for feedback and I got loads of responses back.
Is it just yourself in Singularity Sauces?
I’m a partner in a design company and Singularity Sauce Co. is a hobby business.
It’s just myself who runs things at the moment. I met Craig Byiers – a local chef – and it was him who really pushed me to start looking at it commercially. We first met in London through a mutual friend when I used to work and live there in 2003. His whole background is in the industry and he was a huge help as I bounced ideas off of him.
Chillies can’t be easy to get a hold of, can they?
There are two growers in England I discovered a few years ago in Bedfordshire and Devon, and one of them supplies Tesco with chillies so they produce a lot. I’ve set up a network of growers now which has been great. I also grow some at home. I grow Scotch Bonnets and Jalapenos myself.
I’ve also made sauces with apples from my mother’s garden in Banchory and plums from my friend’s garden near Blackburn – those are my favourite sauces to make as everything is so local. This year I’ve got a lot more and a bigger variety of chillies growing too which will allow me to be more self-sustaining. I want to be able to grow everything myself.
I use raspberry vinegar from Udny Provender in the Dragons, Apples and Raspberries sauce and I used blackberries from Barra Berries in the Dragons and Blackberries sauce. I’ve used apples and plums in various. I find other ingredients in farm shops and local producers too.
And how do you make hot sauce?
The basic method is mixing fresh chillies with vinegars and any other flavours you want to add in and cook it down and boil it for five minutes. You’ll then simmer for 20 minutes and blitz it all down. That wasn’t enough for me.
I looked at ways of reducing the vinegars in the sauces and I added different fruit juices to bring the acidity down and I also looked into fermentation. Every one of my sauces now has a fermentation stage to it, so I chuck lots of things in jars and ferment them for four to six weeks. I’m making a cherry prototype sauce, I’ll only ferment it for a week as frui fermenting turns it to alcohol.
So how many sauces do you have in your range now?
My idea is to have four sauces in my core range, I’m still figuring out the last one, but everything other than these will be small batch specials. If I do specials it’s usually because I don’t have as much of certain chillies but that means I can keep everything more seasonal, too. I’ve got seven sauces at the moment and five in production.
What flavours do you make? And how do you come up with them? There must be a lot of tasting in your house!
I’ve got a box of archived sauces – there are 27 of them and they’re just the ones I’ve bottled. It’s a case of making a sauce, getting people to try it and gauging if it’s something they’d like. I work on them until I’m happy with them. It’s a lot of trial and error.
I now have a Chilli and Mango sauce, Komodo Dragon Chillies and Blackberries flavour and that’s pretty unusual, it’s just setting myself apart too. I made a raspberry hot sauce with Carolina Reapers chillies recently and I made it specifically for ice cream. I’ve also infused honey from Udny Provender and I’ve used that to glaze the Christmas ham and things.
How many bottles do you make at any one time?
I usually get about 30 to 40 bottles out of one cook. I like to keep things small scale as I bottle everything by hand. The bottles are all sterilised so it can be quite a time-consuming process. One day I’ll hopefully have a machine doing it all for me.
At the moment you can buy bottles of my sauce from Formartine’s, Oliveira’s in Banff and Milton Brasserie. There’s also Hot Burns and Black – a craft beer, hot sauce and vinyl shop in London.
My sauces are featured on the menus in 99 Bar and Kitchen, Vovem and The Fishmarket at Soul and I’m speaking to the team at The Coffee Apothecary to make a hot sauce for them specifically. My hot sauces were on the menu at Musa and Rye & Soda too.
Online sales have been really good since setting up the e-commerce in November and I’ve sent items to Sweden, Portugal and the USA.
You’ve collaborated with a few local businesses haven’t you?
In terms of collaborations, my first was with Udny Provender to make a spicy honey which I infused two batches with superhot chillies. Next up was John Cooper at Formartine’s who handed me a bunch of Scotch Bonnet chillies grown in Lord Aberdeen’s greenhouse. I added them to my own homegrown Scotch Bonnets and made a few bottles of sauce for them and for me. I’m currently working on another two collaboration sauces – one of which is with a sauce maker in Cardiff.
This year is all about growing more chillies myself so I’m more self-sufficient. I’ve managed to do a few different collaboration hot sauces and I’m speaking to Fierce Beer just now to create hot sauces for them with their beers. That’s very exciting. I’m also having some fun discussions with Mike Gaffney from Mike’s Pizza Gaff, so keep an eye out for a collaboration there too.
I’m also working on a collaboration with Luke Lorentz’s Hot Sauce in New Jersey. We met via Instagram and we both love each other’s sauces. We’ll make the same hot sauce and sell it in two different countries – he’s making it in Jersey and I’m making it in Tarves. It’s very surreal.