Written by Singularity Sauce Co. Owner Mark AcAulay
My name's Mark and I run Singularity Sauce Co. I'm a Scottish sauce maker based in Aberdeenshire. I create sauces using local and seasonal produce, wherever possible.
You want to know more? Great! Read on.
My dad used to talk about a friend of his, "Big Jim". Here in Scotland, the term "big" in front of your name either means you're quite short or that you're not to be messed with. Jim was the latter of these. One day Jim ate some fresh chillies and they brought a tear to his eye. I knew then that if I could eat fresh chillies, I'd be considered a tough guy too. I was 13 years old and that shit was somehow important.
My first encounter with hot sauce was Tabasco. There was no hot sauce scene here back in the early 90's. Tabasco was the only hot sauce we knew of. More brands appeared over time but it wasn't until I moved to London in 2000 that the world of chillies and hot sauces really opened up for me. My years in London opened my eyes and my mind. I was hooked.
I didn't consider making my own hot sauce until 2012/13 and I didn't get around it until 2015. As a family, we'd moved out to a tiny housing development in the Aberdeenshire countryside. Every summer there was a BBQ in the street for the residents. That was where I plucked up the courage to let others try what I was making. I made a few batches of sauce leading up to the day of the BBQ in 2015. By the time we'd all opened a beer, I nervously presented a small plastic container of homemade hot sauce for everyone to try. It was extremely hot, vinegary and made with three ingredients: Komodo dragon chillies, Apple vinegar and lemon. Nobody died and that was a win.
I spent the next two years working on recipes (I still have a bottle of each of them), preparing for the 2017 BBQ. I arrived with a 38% Carolina Reaper based sauce ready to terrorise my neighbours. It was suggested that I make enough to sell and so that's what I tried to do. Only, things aren't that easy (hobbyists looking to create a sauce business, take note but don't be put off!).
To have a food business in Scotland, you have to first register with your local Environmental Health office. Then, get inspected by an Environmental Health Officer and have your processes signed off. You also have to have certification in food hygiene and insurance in place. That stuff all takes time to discover, learn and put in place. It was November 2018 before I was signed off. I could now sell hot sauce. I'd already sourced some chilli growers and I'd started making a bit of noise on social media.
The biggest lesson I learned during this period was there's always something else you need. That something costs money. Whether it's packaging, bottles, ingredients, equipment, a website, all the stuff you need for a farmers market…it's a lot. If you believe in it, it'll happen though.
When others believe in what you're doing, that's when you know you're doing the right thing. There's a small deli/restaurant/farm shop close to home. I'd visited for years to find interesting and local ingredients. One day the owner asked if they could stock my sauces and I just felt so honoured! They were my first stockist and have continued to stock our sauces ever since.
In 2019, I won the "one to watch'' competition run by the local newspaper and the regions largest food & drink event, Taste of Grampian. That really put the sauce company on the map locally. Exhibiting at Taste of Grampian was an unbelievable experience. I learned a lot about scale and networking that day.
There aren't many commercial hot sauce makers in Aberdeenshire but those who are here, tend to do a pretty good job of it. We're not in a sun drenched corner of the world where chillies are abundant. We all have to be a bit more inventive about sourcing ingredients and partnering with growers elsewhere in Scotland and England. That's not to say there aren't chillies growing here.
I grow a few varieties of superhots and others have various varieties of chillies growing too.
I'm happiest when smashing superhot chillies into different fruits/vegetables/berries. I like to focus on seasonal produce from our area so carrots, blackberries, raspberries, apples, plums and blueberries have all featured prominently. I also love collaborating with other local food & drink producers which has seen creations of spicy honey and ice cream. I also collaborate with Fierce Beer on a a range of sauces built around three of their beers and I have a collaboration hot sauce with Lukes Handcrafted Hot Sauce in Elmer, New Jersey.
I have a special fascination for fermentation. Originally I used a lot of vinegar in the sauces. Over time, I discovered how to reduce the PH of sauces by fermenting ingredients and learned that I could achieve better colour and more interesting flavours. Fermentation has become an obsession. To this day, I have a room full of jars and tanks bubbling away in various states of readiness.
For anyone out there doing this as a hobby and wondering "maybe this could be a business?", don't overthink things, don't labour too much on the "what if". Your passion for this thing got you this far. Now it's time to trust that you can take it further. Make decisions and stick with them, even if they turn out to be wrong. You can do this, even if people tell you you're nuts…and they will.
Oh, and you're going to need a lot of freezer space. The growing season doesn't last all year so you'd better be well stocked for those colder months. In Scotland, that's lots of months.
Want to see what I'm up to? Want to say hello? This is where you can find me:
Website - https://singularitysauce.co/
Social - @SingularitySauceCo
Tarves, Aberdeenshire, Scotland