The Carolina Reaper has been usurped. Long known as the world’s hottest chili, it has this month been dethroned by the mysteriously named Pepper X, which the Guinness World Records has recognized as having an average rating of 2,693,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
To put that into perspective, your standard jalapeño pepper scores between 3,000 to 8,000 SHU.
The same man was behind both record-breaking creations. Ed Currie, who breeds and grows peppers on his farm in South Carolina, began his pursuit as a hobby after battling drug and alcohol addictions. He says that growing the chilis provides a natural high.
Despite his high-profile status in the extreme spice world, little was known about Pepper X until its release on the popular Hot Ones YouTube series. It took Currie and his team over ten years of development and cross-breeding as they aimed to overtake their most famous prior creation, the Carolina Reaper.
“This was a team effort. We knew we had something special, so I only let a few of my closest family and friends know what was really going on,” Currie said in a statement.
Pepper X was analyzed in laboratory tests at Winthrop University in South Carolina. In the end, the new concoction blew the reaper out of the water. Compared to X’s 2,693,000 SHU, the reaper only averaged 1,641,000 SHU.
The Scoville Scale was established in 1912 by the pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. It measures how many times capsaicin, the chemical that gives chilis their burning sensation, needs to be diluted. Although most people think the spice from peppers comes from their seeds, the capsaicin is contained in the placenta, the tissue that holds the seeds. Due to Pepper X’s large, bumpy exterior, there is more area for the placenta to grow and higher doses of capsaicin, according to the Guinness World Records.
Unlike the Carolina Reaper, which is sold and marketed (in thousands of cases without Currie’s permission, his lawyer said) Pepper X will stay as a proprietary pepper, meaning its pods and seeds will not be sold. This is an effort to protect his intellectual property and see profit on his creation, the BBC understands.
As it stands, Currie is one of only five people to have eaten an entire Pepper X. “I was feeling the heat for three and a half hours. Then the cramps came,” he told the Associated Press. “Those cramps are horrible. I was laid out flat on a marble wall for approximately an hour in the rain, groaning in pain.”