Less than a year after starting the business, a Ballarat hot sauce maker has won on the international stage for its hot honey.
Big Jims Chilli Co. took home the title of best hot honey for its Bee Sting honey at the recent Mr Chilli awards.
The awards judge the best hot sauces, hot honeys and any other product you can put chillies in from across Australia and New Zealand.
The Bee Sting uses local red gum honey sourced from Dunnstown that then is stewed for three hours with habanero chillies and herbs then strained and jarred.
Miners Rest couple James and Claire Hawkins came up with the idea for the Bee Sting from trying to find a use for the habaneros leftover from their other two sauces.
"When we were ordering our supply, we always had a handful of habaneros leftover and James would always eat them them here at home and the rest would probably get thrown out so we thought we need to make something out of it," Ms Hawkins said.
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"It was just a trial and error, we literally did one batch, put a bit of honey in with the habaneros and the herbs and it worked and we've just kind of run with it and people love it."
Big Jims Chilli Co. also makes two hot sauces, Fire Sauce, which uses habanero chillies, and the Scorpion, which replaces half of those habaneros with Trinidad Moruga scorpions, one of the hottest chillies in the world with the Scoville rating well over one million.
A self-confessed heatseeker, Mr Hawkins said he came up with the idea for the business after getting sick of hot sauce that just tasted like vinegar or salt and spent three weeks working the recipe in his mind before coming up with the Fire Sauce.
"I was in Port Macquarie in New South Wales at the time and I tried habanero chillies, it was the first time I saw them. I knew what a jalapeno was and bird's eye chillies so I tried it and fell in love with it instantly," he said.
"It's very aromatic in its flavor, I describe it like it tastes like what a rose smells like if you cut the flesh and eat it without actually cutting through to the heat and it's sort of the beginning of the super hot chilli range.
"I sat on it for about three weeks having been a baker and a short order cook and I was just working it, working it and working it at a job that I had at the time and came up with a recipe, threw it in the pot and it just worked."
Mr Hawkins said he could see the hot sauce trend starting to build in Australia, much like it already had in the United States.
"I think we're at the beginning of what America has gone through, even though we don't have the population density, the feeling speaking to other people in the industry is that it's been festering as a subculture behind the scenes for quite some time," he said.
"Seeing how it's taken off in the States, hot wings everywhere, it's all starting to come through with hot wings over here... That started to really take off and people are starting to feel that we're five or 10 years off having a massive boom."
The business is still in its infancy, but with stockists in Ballarat and interstate, the couple is already looking at its long-term future, with ideas of turning it into a full-time job in the years to come.
"We're very lucky to have the stockists that we have, not just in Victoria but Australia wide because they've really got our product out," Ms Hawkins said.
"We're not doing it full time at the moment, it may be on the cards in about five years time once we grow the business but I want to build the house out of stone, not out of cards," Mr Hawkins added.
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