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Bushmills rolls out barrels for venture with guitar maker Lowden

By Ivan Little

Ireland's oldest licensed whiskey distillers, Bushmills, have added a spirited new string to their bow in the shape of a brand-new guitar made from their whiskey barrels and ancient bog oak.

Co Down-based Lowden Guitars, who count Ed Sheeran, Eric Clapton and Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody among their customers, have created eight of the new limited edition guitars which cost £8,500 each.

The company's founder George Lowden has been making guitars since 1974 and he is now passing on his skills to his sons to ensure the Lowden legacy lives on.

At the Old Bushmills Distillery, the Kane family have also been handing down their coopering skills in the making of whiskey barrels for four generations

And the latest addition to the clan, Chris Kane, recently became the first person in Ireland to graduate as a cooper in 30 years.

George Lowden teamed up with the coopers to choose three types of wood for his new guitars.

Bushmills whiskey barrel wood was picked for large sections of the guitar including the back inlays and bindings, while ancient bog oak was selected for the back and sides of the guitar; and Sinker Redwood for the soundboard.

It took George and his sons more than 40 hours to design and produce the first in the series of guitars which also include a cross symbol, formed of a cooper's hammer and the chisel of a luthier - the name for a person who makes stringed instruments - representing the coming together of the two crafts.

On the back, two lines echo the staves found in a Bushmills whiskey barrel and represe nt the passing of skills from one generation to the next.

George Lowden, who has a workforce of 20 craftsmen, said: "We scour the world for the best tonewoods which are the real 'stars' of our guitars, determining how they sound, feel, and play.

"So my sons and I relished the opportunity to work with the coopers to select the best Bushmills barrel wood for the guitar.

"It was a great opportunity to see up close how the barrels are formed and how they give the whiskey its colour and flavour.

"The three woods used to create the guitar play an integral part in making the 'Bushmills x Lowden F-50' guitar so unique.

"The barrel wood complements the other tone woods with the bog oak offering a mellow, warm sound.

"And when paired with Sinker Redwood on the soundboard, it helps extract a clarity and sparkle from each and every note the guitar produces."

Colum Egan, the master distiller at Bushmills, said: "Lowden Guitars are famous for their workmanship and quality, and we are proud to join forces with George and his sons on this exciting collaboration which celebrates how specialist hand-crafted skills are not bought, but perfected over time and passed from generation to generation.

"At Bushmills, our coopers' craft and skill are as fundamental to Irish whiskey-making as the oak barrels they work with, ensuring we produce the same premium-quality whiskey we began making over 400 years ago.

"It has been an honour to work with Lowden Guitars, who like us, understand the important role wood has to play in making their guitars so unique."

The production of the new guitar is part of Bushmills' #AnswertheCall initiative to encourage creators, artists, entrepreneurs and adventurers to celebrate their stories and inspire others to fulfil their true calling.

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