Smokin Ghost BBQ Haunted Heat
Paul Buob, the owner of SmokinGhost BBQ, found his way into barbecue a bit by accident. This Chillicothe, IL native saw a need to help the Illinois Valley Central High School athletics program raise money, and he jumped in to help by taking on responsibilities for concessions. Paul began cooking and his food found much love, which led him to take the next step in forming a barbecue team with his wife Sarah that they named SmokinGhost BBQ after the the high school's name and mascot, the Grey Ghosts. After honing his recipe skills through competition, the team brought their steak and brisket rub to market, which enjoyed enough success that they continued to add to their public offerings with a pair of barbecue sauces as well. Their products are now available online as well as at numerous places in Illinois and additional select shops throughout the United States.
A pretty equal billing of tomato, molasses, and vinegar define the upfront aroma of this sauce. These three top players are in good balance with each other, creating a ubiquitous sweet, fruity, and tangy barbecue profile. A deeper whiff adds in smokiness along with a variety of spice notes that range from garlicky to earthy to spicy. Neither the tang nor heat is enough to really impart much of a burn on the nostrils, but their presences are both certainly accounted for.
Thickness & Texture
This dark, reddish-brown sauce has a glossy sheen and such a plethora of spices that the plentiful small specs of white, red, and black bits give the otherwise smooth sauce a slight texture. The sauce's thickness hits just at the medium mark, while it has a very syrupy consistency. From a suspended spoon, the sauce falls in a fast and even pour that only changes to a few slow drips right at the end. Once the sauce has stopped releasing, only a thin coating is left clinging to the silverware.
Out of the Jar
A wave of molasses imparts a hefty sweetness at the outset of this sauce, while tomato quickly mixes in with a ketchup-like taste that's more subdued than the molasses. The tomato and sugar then both take an upward turn for a couple seconds before the spices and a mellow tang enter the party and provide a lot of complexity all at once. The spice layer is deep, but melds well, making it difficult to pick out individual players, but there's definitely oniony, garlicky, smoky, and earthy components. It's only as the sauce exits the mouth that the sweetness dies down a tad, letting the spices come more into the forefront and allows a medium heat to be unleashed. Then, in the final aftertaste, that spiciness ramps up a couple notches, along with the tartness, to leave a tangy and spicy finale.
Slathered & Cooked
This sauce coated the chicken in a thin and even layer that baked down well over indirect heat. When moved over the hot fire, there was fast caramelization, but the sauce never overly blackened, burned, or became lost. The flavor profile walked a very similar path as what was tasted out of the jar. The first few bites were mostly of a sweet molasses. Then, a few more bites in, the tomato and spices entered the party, with vinegar following close behind that. By the time the leg was done being consumed, a mellow heat also was playing its part, albeit in a less prominent way than in the sauce's raw state.
Put to Use
I knew nothing of this sauce's origins when I purchased it, but I added it to my cart thinking that it was going to one of those mega-spicy recipes—I think the terms "Ghost" and "Haunted" in the name are what gave me that impression. So I was a bit surprised when I took my first bite and found a more universally enjoyable heat against a sweet molasses background that I suspect would be a pretty crowd pleasing combo. I did enjoy this sauce, especially with its heavy spice layer that melded incredibly well to form a unique complexity that was more interesting than the standard sauce. While I have nothing but good things to say about this sauce, it still didn't reach those higher heights of the best of the best, so I recommend this as something that's going to do you no wrong in your backyard, but it might also not wow as much as some other sweet and spicy sauces I've reviewed over the years. With an overall flavor profile that's neither too bold or too delicate, this sauce would be well suited for those middle of the flavor road items, mainly all things pork—ribs, chops, pulled, etc.