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Object of Desire: Handcrafted whiskey barrel oak guitars

Bushmills Irish Whiskey  partnered with Legendary guitar maker George Lowden to make 3 very unique guitars made from the Oloroso sherry oak barrels used to age their whisky.

Upon hearing this, serveral questions come to mind…


George Lowden has been making hand crafted acoustic guitars in Northern Ireland since the 70’s.  His attention to detail and selection of fine materials yields an instrument with a rich unique sound that has been highly sought after by classical, jazz, and rock artists.. most notably, Eric Clapton.

George Lowden at the Old Bushmills Distillery

Ok, so not only is he Irish, he’s also a world class luthier (guy who makes stringed instruments) …but why would Bushmills want to make guitars?

Back in June, Bushmills had their first ever Bushmills Live Festival.  It was a two day celebration of both music and whiskey.  Tickets to this event could not be purchased but instead had to be won via a contest on Facebook… whose few fortunate fans of Bushmills Irish Whiskey around the world who won the sought after “Golden Ticket” got to attend the festival at the old Distillery in Northern Ireland.  Snow Patrol, Foy Vance, Iain Archer, DJ Elijah Wood (yes, Frodo), and others were in attendance.  Bushmills commissioned the guitars as a gift to some of the performers of Bushmills Live.

Foy Vance playing his Bushmills Lowden guitar

So what makes these guitars so special?

Aside from the fact they were hand-made by George Lowden?  The wood used to make the guitars were taken from the oak barrels used to age Bushmills Black Bush, Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey and Bushmills 21 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

whiskey barrels in the Old Bushmills Distillery

Cooper handcrafting a Bushmills whiskey barrel


whiskey barrel staves at George Lowden’s workshop

Each of the staves (the curved planks of wood used to make a barrel) were sanded by hand to the desired size and thickness.

whiskey barrel staves being glued together


The staves were then glued together into panels and sat to bond over several weeks before being cut to shape.


George Lowden traces the outline of a guitar on the whiskey barrel staves


Handcrafting the body of a Bushmills Lowden guitar


The oak is transformed into the body of the guitar without losing its identity.  The curvature of the cask and the stain from the bands remain.

Back of a Lowden guitar made from whiskey barrel wood


Adding the tuning keys

“To see barrels that have housed our whiskey being used in this way is remarkable.  Their creation celebrates the handcrafted qualities at the heart of both Bushmills Irish Whiskey and Lowden Guitars and I want to thank George and his team for making them. Like our whiskey they weren’t made for the cupboard and it is great to see some world class musicians putting them to good use. The guitars were the perfect way to thank the musicians who performed at Bushmills Live.” – Colum Egan   Master Distiller at the Old Bushmills Distillery

George Lowden and Colum Egan


“Making any guitar by hand is highly challenging but these guitars presented a few more issues than most. It was an enormous privilege to work with such special wood and it took me and my team a considerable amount of time to create them. However, what we have managed to do is to create something quite special. We enjoyed working in partnership with Bushmills on the project and were delighted that the musicians who received the guitars were so pleased with them.” – George Lowden




For the lover of music and fine Irish Whiskey, this is a unique gift to be cherished.  Cheers.



Images provided by Sara Madden of Smarts 



Founder and senior editor of VODA. Cocktailian, Journalist, Traveler, and the next Robin Leach.

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