BUSHMILLS X LOWDEN F-50 LIMITED EDITION
The connection between musicmaking and alcohol is, of course, well established, but the folk at Lowden Guitars and Bushmills Irish Whiskey are celebrating it in a way that might not have crossed your mind. The association here is not only the craft and experience that goes into making both whiskey and fine acoustic guitars, but wood as well – oak, to be precise – and, even more to the point, the oak from which whiskey barrels are made.
There’s a further link, too, in that most of the wood used in the manufacture of the guitar has, at some point, been immersed in liquid. Take, for instance, the soundboard timber: sinker redwood has been submerged in river water and reclaimed, dried out and used as a premium tonewood. Its life under water has given it a unique look, with dark stripes amid the grain of the russet-coloured wood.
“Typically,” George Lowden tells us, “when you dry it out it’s quite stiff and has that bell-like tap tone… It has that ability to vibrate a bit more quickly because it’s stiffer. Also, because it’s lightweight, the degree of excursion when you pluck the string gives it a little bit of extra volume as well.”
So much for the top wood, but the submarine story doesn’t end there because the back and sides are made from bog oak – wood that has been engulfed in peat bogs for 5,000 years meaning the trees that yielded their timber for these guitars were growing before the pyramids were built. To top it off, the wood from the whiskey barrels has been used for the back inlay, soundbox bevel, bindings, rosette and the 12th fret inlay.
We were curious as to whether the barrel wood – known as ‘staves’ – still carries the fragrance of the liquid it once embraced? “The aromas coming from those staves was amazing,” George confirms.“It takes a long time for it to leave the staves completely. I remember when I was bringing the individual parts of the barrel back to the workshop, I had the back of the car filled up and if I had been stopped by the police I think they would have impounded the car, never mind me!”
2. Bog oak, used here for the Lowden’s back and sides, has been reclaimed from peat bogs and is estimated at being 5,000 years old 2
3. Each guitar in this extremely limited edition comes with a specially designed label 3
1. The sinker redwood used for the Lowden’s top has a distinct belllike tap tone and the timber’s stiffness gives the guitar a little more volume, too 1
4. The Bushmills logo, made from superfragrant whiskey barrel oak, is inlaid at the guitar’s 12th fret 4
5. A cooper’s hammer and luthier’s chisel are crossed on the instrument’s back to signify the collaboration between the two crafts 5
6. Barrel oak is used once again for the bevel at the guitar’s lower bout in order to significantly enhance player comfort 6