Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Fylde Single Malt Alchemist

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Built with oak from reclaimed whiskey casks, this mid-size steel-string has a distinctive look and sound.

by Teja Gerken
April 30, 2018

British luthier Roger Bucknall started Fylde Guitars in 1973. Since then, his shop has grown to include a small team of builders, and his guitars and mandolin-family instruments have become highly regarded around the world. While most Fylde instruments are built using traditional woods such as spruce, cedar, mahogany, and rosewood, the company also offers a unique line of guitars and mandolins made of wood from reclaimed whiskey casks. San Francisco Bay Area guitarist Bruce Victor (who plays in the duo Noctambule, with his wife, Peghead Nation Irish Mandolin instructor Marla Fibish) found a one-of-a-kind Fylde Single Malt Alchemist built in 2005 on eBay several years ago, and in this video, he demonstrates the guitar.

Bruce was initially fascinated with the concept of using the wood of whiskey casks, and also liked the guitar’s appearance. But once he got the guitar, he discovered that it also had a great sound that was different from any of his other instruments. “The sound is such that it produces a kind of resonance with each note being more distinct than I have ever heard with the usual wood combinations,” he says.

Most Single Malt model guitars are built with Fylde’s parlor-size Ariel body, but this guitar has the company’s larger Alchemist body. The cask wood used for the back and sides is oak, and the six-piece back reflects the width of the individual strips used to make the cask. The guitar’s top is made from Oregon pine, sourced from distillery washback vessels. The guitar’s neck is laminated using pieces of the oak and Oregon pine.

Although Bruce loves the guitar, its rich tone works better for solo playing than his current work with Noctambule, and he sold the guitar a little while ago. The guitar is about to change owners again, however, as it will be part of an auction benefiting the San Francisco Bay Area’s nonprofit arts organization Bread and Roses on Thursday, May3, 2018. For more info on the event, please visit


Category: Instruments & Gear

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