Canadian whisky is something I am really passionate about (gotta support my local drams)! That is why, I am really excited to share with you this interview with Jonathan Hemi, Brian Meret and Kristina Cappellini (collectively abbreviated as HMC going forward) of Signal Hill Whisky. The founders collaborated with one of Canada’s best-known whisky blenders, Michael Booth to create their very first release – something that has been in the works for years.
Blended and bottled kilometers away from it’s namesake, Signal Hill, this whisky is blended with Newfoundland water and aged in 3 different barrels (white oak, bourbon and Canadian whisky casks) to get the deep amber colour. It is non-chill filtered for a fuller mouthfeel and smoother finish. With a composition of 95% corn, 5% barley, it is definitely on the sweeter side of Canadian whisky with vanilla and toffee notes as the highlight. If whisky were sex, this whisky would probably be considered missionary. A very easy drink neat and extremely mix-able if you’re looking for a cocktail.
Hope you enjoy this interview!
Grayce: Good Morning, thank you for chatting with us today! Before we begin, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into whisky?
HMC: Whisky has been a passion for all of us. We have collectively been in the drinks business for a long time and have learned a lot about creating, selling and marketing spirits internationally.
Grayce: I’m sure you’ve tried a lot of amazing whiskies in your day! After a long day of work, do you drink whisky and if so, what is your go-to whisky?
HMC: There are few things better than a whisky after work. Signal Hill neat or as the key component of a Manhattan is our usual go to.
Grayce: What trends do you see in Canadian whisky and where do you see Signal Hill Whisky fitting into that?
HMC: Consumers are looking for more flavourful whiskies and are open to trying new brands and styles. As a generalisation, mainstream brands, while still massive, are losing market share to new innovators.
Grayce: If you could release any type of whiskey you wanted (using any grain, water source, cooperage and distillation method) without having to consider pricing and weather, what would your dream release look like?
HMC: You’ll have to wait and see. We are currently looking at development of range extensions and that’s all we can say for now.
Grayce: Lets talk about water! Newfoundland is surrounded by water – can you tell us a little more about the water source used in Signal Hill whisky?
HMC: Signal Hill Whisky is blended with the pristine waters of Newfoundland. The quality of the water improves the overall flavour profile of this finely blended whisky. Don’t take our word for it, Russel Crowe calls Newfoundland “the #1 tap water in the world.”
Grayce: Tell us more about the name Signal Hill – what does it mean and why did you choose it for your whisky?
HMC: Our whisky is crafted in St. John’s, Newfoundland within sight of Signal Hill, a site that has been of great significance throughout history. It is a place of connections, being said to have received the first reported transatlantic wireless transmission and the waypoint for the first non-stop transatlantic flight carrying airmail. It is these historical embodiments of connection and communication that inspire the makings of our whisky and chose the name Signal Hill. After all, communication and getting together with friends is what social drinking is all about.
Grayce: Currently, Signal Hill Whisky is bottled at 40% ABV. Is there any intention to release a cask strength version of Signal Hill? 🙂
HMC: All we can say is we’re looking at that as an option.
Grayce: One of the challenges when it comes to blending whiskies is re-creating the same flavour profile in future releases. Will Signal Hill Whisky be a single release? If not, what is the process like in sourcing and replicating this flavour profile?
HMC: One of the key concerns in developing the current blend was scalability. We are confident that we can grow as we open new markets. We are currently selling in 14+ countries. We have an extremely talented team that ensures consistency and continuity.
Grayce: What was the blending process like? Signal Hill Whisky is definitely on the sweeter side of Canadian whisky – was this intentional when creating your flavour profile? What about not using chill-filtered whiskies?
HMC: Our intent was to develop a profile that would appeal to a broad demographic: from the novice drinker to the whisky geek. Today’s consumer generally seeks flavourful whiskies with some sweetness. It took two years of development until we came up with the current blend.
Grayce: I love that this whisky also doesn’t contain any rye which is uncharacteristic of Canadian whisky. What was the reasoning for this? Would you ever release a rye whisky in the future?
HMC: Many Canadian whiskies don’t contain rye at all. Davin de Kergommeaux’s definitive book called “Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert” explains why “rye” is the generic nickname that has stuck to Canadian whiskies.
Grayce: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Signal Hill Whisky?
HMC: We are very excited to announce we are double medal winners at the SIP Awards! We won Platinum for Best Canadian Blended Whisky and Gold for Overall Package Design. We are thrilled to be recognized by this prestigious competition in a completely blind tasting. The SIP Awards are the only internationally recognized consumer judged spirits competition, unaffected by industry bias. We have a really strong acceptance by consumers around the world and we are excited for what is to come for Signal Hill. Nothing is off the table down the road.
Grayce: Congratulations! That’s so exciting for you guys. We can’t wait to see what your brand unfolds next!
Like my whisky interviews?
Check out my interview with Darryl McNally of Irish whiskey, Dead Rabbit Whiskey. If you want discover more Canadian whisky, check out the Great Canadian Whisky Tasting hosted by the Toronto Whisky Society.