Lexington man's Bourbon Barrel Guitar Company combines love of m - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Lexington man's Bourbon Barrel Guitar Company combines love of music and bourbon

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bourbon barrels aren't just for Kentucky whiskey anymore. A Lexington man is combining his love for music and bourbon by making guitars from reclaimed barrels. The Bourbon Barrel Guitar Company creates more than just mere instruments -- it's creating works of art.

Nothing goes down smoother than toe-tapping blues, except maybe a shot of whiskey. Just ask Mike Mankel, a life-long musician and a lover of bourbon. "People say what's your favorite bourbon? I say whatever's in my hand," he said.

When it comes to pairing the two, Mankel's found the perfect passion project: The Bourbon Barrel Guitar Company.

"I absolutely fall in love from start to finish," said Mankel.

The idea came to him two years ago while he was enjoying his favorite spirit. Since then he's completed 20 of the truly custom instruments that live up to his high standards. "I'm a very picky listener, very picky player," he said.

In a state where bourbon barrels out number people, it's not hard for Mankel to find or buy the materials needed. Barrel parts are piled high in his Lexington workshop.

"These look, feel, taste and smell like they were in the warehouse the entire time," he said.

It takes three heads and two staves to build a single guitar, a challenge for this wood worker.

"The longest piece that's in a head is this. That's not a guitar neck because of the length you need, the angle. So it took some engineering to figure it out," said Mankel.

He will spend 50 to  60 hours on just one piece.

"Oak is a very dense bright wood, so it's been likened to maple," he said.

The guitars come with a pretty hefty price tag. "I joke that no, no they're inexpensive, because guitars have feelings too," he said.

But Mankel says it's worth it for these works of art. "Whenever someone gets one they're going to go wow and they don't want to put it down."

A piece of Mankel's passion in each guitar. "This isn't just about someone buying something I built. Someone's taking a piece of how God created me and they're responsible for it," he said.

The spirit of Kentucky's favorite spirits is now living on through music.

Mankel hopes to release a limited edition historic line of guitars in 2018.

Click here to find more information about the company.

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