A new pepper three times hotter than the previous Guinness World Record holder hit the market this week.
Pepper X rates at an average of 2.693 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a measure of pungency for peppers and chiles. That's hotter than law enforcement-grade pepper spray, which can reach up to 2 million SHU. It was created by Puckerbutt Pepper Co., which also developed the previous 10-year record holder, the Carolina Reaper.
“The flavor of Pepper X only lasts for a millisecond, and then the heat is just overwhelming,” said Ed Currie, Puckerbutt Pepper’s founder.
Currie is one of only two people who have eaten the full pepper, alongside Danish musician and veteran pepper eater Chili Klaus. The pair sampled the pepper on the YouTube talk show “Hot Ones,” an experience Currie said gave him cramps for four hours.
After he finished recording the “Hot Ones” episode in New York City, Currie said, he walked only 10 feet out of his car before he collapsed.
"I laid down on a marble wall in the rain and groaned in pain for about an hour," he said. "A couple of my friends helped me get up to my room, and they gave me some ice cream, which just caused the cramps to happen again."
Pepper X isn't meant to be eaten on its own. Even when it's included in food, it's not for the faint of heart, Currie said. Puckerbutt Pepper released a variety of products using Pepper X from hot sauce to salsa to “the world’s spiciest chocolate bar.”
Puckerbutt Pepper Co. was initially going to release Pepper X right before Covid hit in 2020, but lockdowns stopped it. Currie decided to release it now because it simply felt like the right time for the company, he said.
Currie said the name "Pepper X" was just a placeholder because the team didn’t know what to call it, but it stuck.
“Someone said [Pepper X] looked like a baby turd in a diaper, so it was known as the turd for a long time — but ‘the Turd’ is not marketable,” he said.
Currie started growing his own peppers when he was a freshman in college in Michigan. He was struggling with addiction, which he said prompted him to look into ways to improve his health.
"I did research, and the only people I could find who had low risks of cancer and heart disease were around the equator," he said. "One of the things they had in common was eating peppers with every meal."
When Currie got clean from his addictions in 1999, planting peppers became a full-time job.
"My wife calls me an idiot every day watching what I do," he said.
Asked whether Pepper X is where Currie draws the line on his pursuit of ever-higher Scoville ratings, he said there's not a chance. Puckerbutt Pepper has two more pepper varieties that Currie said it has started the testing process for, which may end up being even spicier than their predecessor.