Guitarist - - The Wishlist - Con­taCt Ge­orge Low­den Gui­tars Ltd Phone 02844 619161 Web www.low­den­gui­tars.com Words David Mead Pho­tog­ra­phy Joseph Branston

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

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