Taste Test

We Try 6 Brands of Worcestershire Sauces; Can Any of Them Match Lea & Perrins’?

December 3, 2018

Say it with us: wuhs-tuh-shir. However you pronounce it, this English brown sauce’s mix of sweet, sour, deep, spicy, and umami adds a distinctive depth of flavor to meats, cocktails, stews, sauces, and more. First concocted by chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins (who would go on to create the Lea & Perrins brand) in the city of Worcester and first sold in 1837, the sauce is said to have been adapted from a recipe rooted in India and is purported to be made with fermented anchovies, tamarind, aromatics, salt, and/or sugar (though the exact recipe is kept a closely guarded secretsort of). Having created and defined Worcestershire sauce’s very identity, Lea & Perrins remains to be beaten, but we wanted to know anyway: how do the new players compare?

Lea & Perrins

The OG Worcestershire sauce (which we thus take to be the definitive version) takes on a generally dark yet somewhat translucent color and a bright, acidic scent, perfumed with what seems to be allspice or clove. It’s not too salty, allowing the said acidic zip—lent complexity with a grassy, celery seed-like note, and the pungency of anchovies and the distinct tang of malt vinegar)—to come through in the flavor. Though rather sweet, it goes for a complex, spice-filled finish that lingers long on the tongue and perks up anything you add the sauce to.

Saltiness: 2/5 | Sweetness: 4/5 | Tanginess: 4/5 | Heat: 4/5

American Garden

American Garden’s has an aroma as deep, dark, and rich as its almost-jet black hue; in particular, we detect allspice or clove, and the slightly grassy echo of celery seed, similar to Lea & Perrins’. This brand flaunts a tanginess that isn’t as specifically vinegar-y but is clear and bright nonetheless, evened out with a mid-level sweetness. And though barely salty, you get great depth of flavor, with the said warm, woodsy profile of clove and a good amount of heat emerging amidst its long finish.

Saltiness: 2.5/5 | Sweetness: 3.5/5 | Tanginess: 4/5 | Heat: 3.5/5

French’s

French’s version looks and smells very close to American Garden’s with its warm, gingerbread-y scent of clove, but with a touch more of a Japanese soy sauce-y aroma. As expected, it’s also saltier, but it delivers on ample tang, sweetness, and umami depth nonetheless. The sensation ends on an especially spicy, heat-filled finish that lingers long on the tongue and goes especially well with rich, fatty meats.

Saltiness: 3.5/5 | Sweetness: 3.5/5 | Tanginess: 3/5 | Heat: 4/5

Lasap

This local brand’s version emits a more straightforward, pungent, toyo (Filipino-style soy sauce)-esque aroma that ends with the slightly warm hint of spices to indicate its being a Worcestershire sauce. Taste-wise it’s not as salty as it smells, instead leaning toward being on the sweet side, with a finish that isn’t too long or spicy (though it’s the spiciest among the local brands), but is distinctively black pepper-y, evoking Filipino BBQ.

Saltiness: 3/5 | Sweetness: 5/5 | Tanginess: 2/5 | Heat: 2.5/5

Mother’s Best

Another homegrown player, Mother’s Best gives off an intriguing scent that loosely evokes that of curries, with what we can best identify as coriander seed, clove, and cinnamon in the aroma. The said spices don’t come through as clearly on the actual taste front but among them, it’s the clove that we detect the strongest. This brand interestingly goes for a flavor profile that’s significantly less sweet and less sour than all other brands, instead going for a more salt-dominant character—but without being too salty overall. Sadly, it falls short on the heat and doesn’t linger as long on the tongue afterwards.

Saltiness: 3.5/5 | Sweetness: 1/5 | Tanginess: 2/5 | Heat: 1.5/5

Old English

Manufactured by local soy sauce company Silver Swan, Old English has the darkest, opaque-black appearance in the group, with a scent that evokes the toyo-suka (Filipino soy sauce plus vinegar) combination of tokwa’t baboy plus a hint of cinnamon and/or clove. This is also a heavily sweetened take on the sauce, with ample tanginess but much less heat and a short, simple finish.

Saltiness: 3/5 | Sweetness: 4.5/5 | Tanginess: 4/5 | Heat: 1/5

The Verdict: American Garden

Lea & Perrins’ distinctive malt vinegar-y zip and gradual buildup of flavor is hard to beat, but relative newcomer American Garden comes close with its the sweet, tangy front and complex profile of spices that epitomize Worcestershire sauce—just conveyed in a more assertive light. It’s worth noting that the local players (Lasap, Mother’s Best, and Old English) generally take on a flavor profile that’s different, with a more of a sweetened toyo-esque character yet less emphasis on heat, acidity or spices. This does not make them any less delicious; but if you’re looking for a more Western-style sauce among them, Lasap’s got your back.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

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