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A National Historic Landmark
Signal Hill is a blended whisky from Canada. The name comes from one of the country’s most historic and iconic landmarks: Signal Hill in St John’s, Newfoundland. The hill was a lookout spot and fires that were lit there ensured safe passage to countless vessels across many generations. Indeed, the whole area is steeped in history.
Newfoundland is believed to be the location of the first Canadian landing by the Norse people and every bottle of Signal Hill whisky carries the Valknut symbol, said to represent the Viking god, Odin and his Kingdom of Valhalla.
The fort on the hill dates from the 17th century and in 1762, at the Battle of Signal Hill, the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force under the command of Lt. Colonel William Amherst. It was the final battle of the Seven Years War.
In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi, stationed at Signal Hill, confirmed receipt of the first ever transatlantic radio signal. Using a telephone receiver and a wire antenna held aloft by a kite, Marconi and his assistant, George Kemp, heard the letter S being broadcast in Morse code from Cornwall. Signal Hill, therefore represents the dawn of international communication.
Signal Hill whisky is blended and bottled in St. John’s, within sight of the famous Signal Hill. The Canadian whisky industry hasn’t always had the best record where transparency is concerned but the “blended and bottled” phrase tells you that Signal Hill was distilled somewhere else. That would appear to be the Hiram Walker & Sons campus on the Detroit River in Ontario.
Slight reluctance to reveal full provenance aside, Signal Hill is an interesting product. It’s made by combining corn whisky, double distilled in a two column still, with pot-distilled barley whisky. The spirit is aged in three different cask types: new white oak casks, first-fill bourbon casks and Canadian whisky casks. Perhaps most interesting of all is the declaration that the whisky is non-chill-filtered – not something you often see in a dram bottled at 40%. It retails around £30 a bottle.
*I received this whisky as part of my subscription to Whisky Pioneer. For more information on their service and ethical bottling visit here.
Smell: Right from the off, you can pick up both the malt and the corn. There’s also caramel, oak, vanilla and custard. Virgin oak spices. Cinnamon, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and paprika. Toffee. Red Fruits. Orange marmalade with peel in. Tobacco. Oak char.
Taste: Big, oaky flavours on arrival. Dark chocolate. Charcoal. Plenty of spices. Cloves. Ginger. Aniseed. More of the red fruits from the nose. Toffee and walnut. Vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce. Dry, spicy finish. With water the oak parts a little and the spice softens with more caramel and butterscotch notes emerging. Little wave of corn quite late into the finish.
Thoughts: This wasn’t a dram I had encountered or even heard of before but I confess that I didn’t expect all that much from a 40%, £30 bottle. As it happens, I really rather enjoyed it. It’s not a world away from bourbon although perhaps there’s a little more of a malty quality on show and I’m sure the decision not to chill filter has allowed more flavour and more depth to be delivered to the palate.
Value for money: A pleasant dram with some impressive depth of flavour. I’d be perfectly happy paying £30 for a bottle.
You can buy Signal Hill Canadian Whisky from Master of Malt – BUY HERE
*please be aware that this is an affiliate link and I can be paid a small commission on any purchases that you make.
**other retailers are available.
For more on Signal Hill Canadian Whisky visit here.