A horticulturist in Wales has created Dragon’s Breath, the newest unreasonably hot chili pepper to stake a claim as the world’s hottest. To be honest, it doesn’t look terribly menacing — it’s kind of tiny, in fact — but creator Mike Smith claims careful breeding, with help from scientists at Nottingham Trent University, has yielded a variety that registers 2.48 million Scoville heat units, which, if true, amounts to a pretty sizable lead on the current Guinness record holder, a Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper that clocked in at 2.2 million units. (Tabasco is about 2,500.)
According to the BBC, Smith says his chili can’t be eaten; instead, it’s meant only for use as a topical anesthetic. The oil, which is just oozing capsaicin, numbs the skin so much that a person will essentially feel nothing. He wants it to be used in developing countries where normal anesthetics are too costly.
This hasn’t stopped some media from casting the heat’s danger in a more extreme light. “Man Develops Weapons-Grade Chilli So Hot It Could KILL You,” the Welsh paper Daily Post declares, arguing the potency could close up the airways in anyone foolish enough to eat one. In reality, pepper spray is (as the name suggests) essentially just straight bottled capsaicin, and its Scoville score varies from around 2 million units to more than 5 million. Not that its use isn’t hugely controversial, but swallowing some is unlikely to kill you.
Still, Smith says his Dragon’s Breath has “not been tried orally” yet — and, in fact, recommends that never happen because it “would not be a pleasant sensation.” He once tried touching one to the tip of his tongue, and tells the Daily Post that “it just burned and burned.” Naturally, he’s done what anybody would do who never wants people eating this pepper: immediately sent in paperwork to get it recognized by Guinness as the world’s hottest chili.