By: Lauren Laubach
The Guinness Book of World Records now lists the Carolina Reaper as the world's hottest pepper. It is grown in the upstate of South Carolina.
Ed Currie is the founder and self-proclaimed mad scientist of the Puckerbutt Pepper Company, and The Reaper is his creation.
Currie's fascination with peppers began in college when he started doing cancer research.
"The Carolina Reaper is a cross breed I did for part of my cancer research. I believe that the sub-capsinoids in peppers are what has the cancer-curing properties," Currie says.
No medical experts have confirmed Currie's theory, but he says his research work with peppers gave him an appreciation for their taste and heat. Ever since then he's been hooked.
Currie has pepper farms in York and Chester Counties with plans to expand to Lancaster County.
Currie's Puckerbutt Pepper Company moved into a storefront in downtown Fort Mill in 2012. Since then the company has grown quickly.
"When we moved in I was still making my own hot sauce. We were bottling and labeling under the rules we were under at that point. Since then we've grown to 29 employees and sold to 68 countries. We've done about 180 times the volume of business since we walked in the door," Currie says.
Currie says the Reaper sauce, made with the Carolina Reaper, is the top-selling item at the store.
The Carolina Reaper measures in at over 1.5 million Scoville Heat units. Currie says that's 1,500 times hotter than typical cayenne powder. He also says it's hotter than most pepper sprays.
He has a simple answer when asked what would happen to the average person trying the Reaper for the first time.
"You'll be crying for an hour. Literally crying for an hour," Currie says.
The pain of eating a Carolina Reaper doesn't phase Currie at all.
"For someone like me the pain lasts two to five minutes. I happen to be able to go through it and still be able to talk and act normal," he says.
Currie enjoys the heat rush so much he eats the Reapers all day every day.
"It's just something I do. I start my day with peppers, and I end my day with peppers. Literally my wife calls me an idiot," he says.
Currie has plenty of crazy stories about people's reactions to trying his Carolina Reaper. The strangest, he says, came at the New York City hot sauce show in 2013 when a young woman tried the pepper.
"She put it in her mouth, looked at me and gave me the finger, took five steps back and planted herself flat on the concrete. For twenty minutes straight the string of expletives that came out of her mouth was unbelievable. After twenty minutes she stopped, came over and gave me a big kiss and said 'I love you let's do it again'," Currie recalls.
Most of Currie's staff at the Puckerbutt Pepper Company store in Fort Mill won't dare try the Reaper.
"I don't feel like dying. I like my insides. It's way too hot," one employee says.
Currie says he hopes to grow the Puckerbutt Pepper Company to 160 employees by August 2014. That would make them the largest small business in York County.