RADS Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve) Review

If you think you’ve had a garlicky hot sauce before, you better prepare yourself. RADS Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve) doubles down on the idea, with pungent garlic and pepper mash that’s been aged in oak barrels to bring even bolder tastes to the table. So, it’s big on flavor, but how usable is a sauce this garlicky? And how spicy is it? Does the heat balance with the garlic well? We break open a bottle of RADS Pepper Sauce to see what it’s all about.

SUMMARY
RADS Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve)
4.1
$13.95

RADS Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve) is at its core a simple four-ingredient hot sauce, though the barrel aging really enhances the flavors. It's big on garlic, though it blends surprisingly well (a blessing or curse, depending on how much garlic you were looking for.) This is a mild sauce with a nice pungent bite. And the label is a standout. 

Heat Level: Mild
Pros:
  • Delicious garlic flavor
  • Oak barrel aging adds interesting smoky undertone
  • Smart design - great label
Cons:
  • Sodium is high
  • Garlic and heat are overshadowed when mixed
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11/28/2021 04:51 pm GMT

Flavor

It should be no surprise what tops the ingredients list here. Yes, chili peppers are first in RADS Reserve, but garlic is right up there with it. The ingredients: organic red chili peppers, organic garlic, salt, and non-GMO citric acid.

That’s a short and simple list. Four total ingredients, and the first three are all very noticeable in RADS Pepper Sauce.

You get that fresh, pungent garlic flavor right up top, even before the chili pepper flavor or heat. Both the chili pepper sweetness and spiciness hit mid-bite, and then comes the salt to round things out. There’s a touch of smokiness in here, too. That’s more than likely from the hot sauce’s time in the oak bourbon barrels, but there could be some natural smokiness to the peppers used and, of course, a hint of earthiness from the garlic.

Now, the garlic is very noticeable when you taste the sauce alone, but the minute you add this sauce to something, it mellows out quite a bit. Then, it balances more towards the pepper mash sweetness. This is especially true if you don’t shake up the bottle prior to use. The sauce is pretty thin, so it needs a good shake to mix up that garlic prior to use.

On the salt: The sodium rings in at 121 mg per teaspoon (5% of your daily allowance), which is high. And being a thinner sauce, it’s easy to use more than you expect. If you’re looking to cut back on the salt, there are definitely better options.

RADS Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve) on a spoon
RADS Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve) on a spoon

Heat Balance

RADS Reserve doesn’t list the chili pepper used, only announcing their color “red”. That could mean anything from red jalapeños or Fresnos to cayenne or tabasco peppers.

The pepper mash is first on that ingredient list, but the result on the overall spiciness is an upper-mild heat level. It’s noticeable, but it won’t overwhelm you.

The heat hits your lips and the tip of the tongue, and then quickly moves to the back of the throat. The linger is short-lived, and the warmth is generally a welcoming one.

Overall, this is a heat level that nearly everyone can enjoy. It could be hotter, though, and balance a little better with the garlic. And, like with the garlic flavor, the spiciness tends to get drowned out more than you’d expect when added to a meal. The delicious pepper mash flavor is still there, just the heat dilutes pretty quickly.

Usability

The Rad’s Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve) label states that it’s great with fish, chicken, beef, veggies, and tofu and I agree. If you want to add a garlicky kick to a meal, it’s a good choice. As mentioned, the garlic tends to blend in with the food, so it doesn’t overwhelm a dish’s flavor as much as you may imagine. It’s sort of a double-edged sword with this sauce.

My favorite use of RADS Reserve so far has been as a wing sauce. It provides a real nice garlicky kick to the wings. And that’s likely because the sauce is sitting atop the wings, not blended. The garlic tends to stand out a lot more.

Take care: The spout opening is the size of a dime, and RADS Pepper Sauce has a watery consistency, so it’ll pour out quickly. While the consistency of this sauce typically works better with a dasher bottle, the fresh pieces of garlic in the hot sauce wouldn’t work with that bottle type. Just keep control of the pour, and again shake the bottle up before use to really get that garlic mixed. Otherwise, the taste can be a bit flat — peppery, but missing what makes this sauce unique.

Collectibility

The small-batch cool factor is here, for sure. As is the unique twist that RADS Pepper Sauce is slow-aged in oak bourbon barrels. That’s not just the pepper mash, it’s the entire sauce that’s aged in this way, which really intensifies the flavor.

I also love the label style. So smart. The label shape uses black line art to delineate the look of an oak barrel. It’s simple and understated, but really appealing. RADS also packs a ton of information in the small label space, without it feeling overwhelming. “Barrel-aged” is also predominantly featured above the brand name, so it catches the eye even when scanning hot sauces quickly. This is label design done really well.

The Score

RADS Pepper Sauce (RADS Reserve) is at its core a simple four-ingredient hot sauce, though the barrel aging really enhances the flavors. It’s big on garlic, though it blends surprisingly well (a blessing or curse, depending on how much garlic you were looking for.) This is a mild sauce with a nice pungent bite. And the label is a standout.

FINAL SCORE4.1
Overall Flavor4
Heat Balance4
Usability4
Collectibility5
X-Factor4
Based on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest)

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on November 26, 2021 to include new content. It was originally published on November 12, 2021.
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