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From Tarves to Selfridges - how an Aberdeenshire hot sauce firm is taking the nation by storm

From collaborations with the likes of Innis & Gunn, to being stocked in London’s Selfridges department store, Rosalind Erskine discovers the story of Singularity Sauce.

Published: August 12, 2021
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Mark McAulay’s business, Singularity Sauce, started off as a hobby. Mark isn’t a chef, more a budding cook with a career in design.

Having found a love of making hot sauce, and after a stint on London, Mark returned home to Aberdeenshire as he explained: “I'd love to say that I come from a cooking background and that my years as a chef naturally led me to the world of condiments but that's not how it happened.

"For 20 years I worked in the design industry and I've always had a bunch of "side projects" on the go. Typically these would last a few months then I'd get bored and find a new one.

"I started making my own hot sauce around 2013 and by 2015 it had become a side project and then my favourite hobby.

"I've never wanted to stop since. I'd lived and worked in London for a few years and there I'd had a little exposure to a world of exciting and independent hot sauces.

"When I returned home to Aberdeen at the end of 2003, I realised there wasn't much choice outside the usual brands you'd find in the supermarket.

"It took me another 10 years to do something about that, by which time I'd reached the level of Creative Director and I was a bit lost as to what to do next.

"I needed a change and I decided to take the most difficult option there is by turning my hobby into a day job. It's not been easy and it certainly wouldn't have happened at all without the support of my wife Kathryn.”

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There is now a core range of six hot sauces, each that focus on a particular type of chilli, which is how Mark builds out the flavour profile.

This focus also gave influence to the name, which references the singularity in a black hole in space.

“The name came about as I'm a bit of a space nerd. A singularity in a black hole is the point where everything becomes infinitely dense and the laws of physics break down.

"I was happy with that as something to achieve through the medium of hot sauce but then I looked at the dictionary definitions and also found that singularity can mean the condition of being singular.

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"That fits perfectly with my ongoing mission to explore the unique flavours found in different types of chillies. I tend to work with a single type of chilli in each sauce.

"The definitions all fit and I thought it sounded suitably cool so it stuck,” Mark said.

Once Mark decided to focus all his energy on Singularity Sauce, he decided to collaborate with local businesses who have a similar artisan ethos. So far he’s worked with Innis & Gunn, Fierce Beer and The Coffee Apothecary.

But it was in March this year that he got an email that he wasn’t expecting, thanks to a past stockist.

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“A member of the food buying team at Selfridges emailed in March this year. To begin with, I thought it was a wind up and it took me a day to reply. It turns out that it wasn't a wind up at all.

"Selfridges were keen to review my range with a view to stocking the sauce from June onwards. I had to work backwards a bit to figure out how this happened.

"I'd stocked a small coffee shop in London and it just so happens that the food buyer was in for coffee one morning, saw our bottles on the shelf and thought they'd go well in Selfridges.

"The sort of luck that no amount of planning, strategy or consultancy can buy you. I nervously sent our whole range down to them to try and now, with repeat orders already secured, the relationship is in good shape.”

For now, Mark is working on new recipes and being inspired by chilli growers and varieties, especially in Scotland.

He said: “You might want to look out for a little collab coming soon too. Sheena at Galloway Chillies grows "7Pot Yellow" chillies.

"I've been a huge fan of those since she introduced them to me a couple of years ago. There is a sauce made from them coming quite soon.

"Any chillies I can find being grown in Scotland are going to inspire me. Even if it's a type I've used before. Any Scottish growers out there should get in touch.”

Find out more about Singularity Sauce via their website.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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