An oak cask from Lagavulin distillery on Islay, one of Scotland's famous whisky islands, has been given a second life in the form of three hand-crafted guitars built by Manne Guitars, Italy. They will be unveiled at this month's Frankfurt Music Fair (12-15 March, Frankfurt am Main, Germany).
The cask was donated by the distillery, and arrived in the Manne workshop earlier this year still drenched with the complex peat-smoke aromas that are the hallmark of this single malt whisky. The weight and rigidity of the cask oak, so different from the standard guitar materials, posed several technical challenges for Andrea and his team. The flat round ends of the cask were carefully dried, treated and sanded and became the backs of the guitar bodies, preserving much of the distinctive distillery identification markings. The curved staves, which originally formed the sides of the cask, were flattened and glued together to form the tops and bodies of the guitars. Andrea was careful to preserve some of the distinctive charring marks from the inside surface of the staves: all whisky barrels are toasted and charred on the inside before being filled with whisky.
Three instruments have been built from the one whisky cask: two Guitars and one Bass. The two Guitars incorporate the cask heads, while the Bass is made entirely from the oak staves.
The guitars have been finished with an oxidised patina and typical rust marks from the hoops of the barrel, and the wood was finally treated with a preparation containing some Lagavulin Distillers Edition from 2007, which won the ultimate Whisky Trophy at last year's International Wine and Spirit Competition. This ensures that the guitars will always preserve some of their native Lagavulin fragrance.
Andrea Ballarin had visited the distillery in 2007 during the annual Islay Festival of Malt and Music. He said "Tasting a great whisky is a creative experience that incorporates the world of flavours and tastes, and leads us to memories and sensations. These, like music, are something that transcend words and explanations — they are both universal languages, both complex and at the same time deeply simple. You just have to feel it!"
In due course, two of the guitars will be put on sale, and the third will go back home to Lagavulin in time for this year's Islay Festival. This is an exclusive collaboration — no further instruments using Lagavulin wood will be made. The special edition guitars have been built by long-established Italian bass and guitar maker and whisky lover, Andrea Ballarin, who founded Manne Guitars in 1987 in Schio, in north-eastern Italy.