The Jerky Connection.
The "7 Gates of Hell" is a series of 7 really hot jerky varieties, starting with Gate 1, and getting hotter as you go up the 7th and final gate. The Jerky Connection has the entire story about this, but to make things simple, those who manage to pass through all 7 gates will be sent to Hell, never to return.
Gate 7 is described as being made from 8 different chile peppers, including Ghost Peppers, Scorpion Peppers, Habanero Peppers, Scotch Bonnetts, just to name a few. This Gate 7 jerky won 2nd place in the 2013 Scovie Awards in the beef jerky category.
The first thing I taste from the surface of these pieces is a meaty flavor, with a noticeable burn already beginning to build. The flavor of chile peppers becomes easily noticeable.
The chewing flavor starts with a light natural meat flavor, while the flavor of chile peppers picks up definition. The chewing also reveals a little tanginess, perhaps that of vinegar.
For being the 7th Gate in the "7 Gates of Hell" series, and having been made with some of the world's hottest chile peppers, it seems to hold up to its billing. I do indeed get a good deal of heat, but even better yet I also get a lot of the chile pepper flavor, including a vinegar flavor that may stem from a chile sauce.
As for the level of heat, I'd rate this on my personal heat scale as "hot" (level 5 out of 5). I immediately get a nice burn right away from the moment I put a piece into my mouth, and it builds quickly into a good sear. My scalp is getting sweaty after a few pieces and I can feel droplets running down my neck.
Otherwise, the flavors that seem to define this jerky are the flavor of chile peppers in a bouquet of floral, sweet, and pungent tastes. The tangy, vinegar flavor seems to have the next strongest flavor, with the natural meat flavor taking the third nod.
The level of saltiness in this feels light to moderate.
These are slices of whole meat, sliced medium thickness, and sliced into small strips large enough to accommodate one or two bites.
This is a dry jerky with a semi-moist, lightly oily, surface feel. The strips are flexible but still somewhat stiff. Chewing seems somewhat easy.
The chewing texture starts out feeling pliable, with a light amount of initial chewing resistance. A few chews into a piece, and it immediately takes on a meaty feel. By the time it's rendered into a soft mass, it feels just like eating a piece of steak.
I don't see any bits or streaks of fat on these pieces, it all looks to be quite lean. I didn't encounter any stringiness, but I did find a few pieces of unchewable tissues.
As for clean eating, my fingertips pick up a light amount of oil, but not quite enough to require a licking and wiping.
The Jerky Connection sells this Gate 7 Jerky variety from its website at a price of $22.00 for a one pound bag. Add to that $5.00 flat rate shipping, and it works out to a price of $1.69 per ounce.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $1.69 per ounce price, it's a great value. I'm getting a great overall flavor, a great meat consistency, and good chewing texture. Compared to major brands of jerky sold in stores, this is priced considerably less, but offers far better snackability.
As for a hot beef jerky, at the same $1.69 per ounce price, it's a great value. I'm getting a good deal of heat along with a lot of chile pepper flavor, much more so than what you'd get from major brands of hot jerky.
I'm giving this a best rating.
This Gate 7 jerky from the 7 Gates of Hell offers up plenty of chile pepper flavor and lots of good heat to match. It also puts together a really tasty blend of chile pepper flavors, bringing out the floral, sweet, and pungent qualities of the world's hottest chiles.
But is this the hottest beef jerky I've ever had? Not quite, I've had hotter. But then again, this Gate 7 is not The Jerky Connection's hottest offering, they still have another up their sleeve. However, for me, it's not about how hot you can be but how good it tastes.
The nice thing in particular with this Gate 7 is that I can still taste the natural meat flavors, staying true with what I think good jerky should be. There's also a little vinegar flavor creating a tangy chew.
My recommended beer pairing for this, go with a smoky porter, such as the Stone Smoked Porter, or the Deschutes Black Butte Porter.
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