The V-L Series is Jalapeno's third range of full-size kits, joining the established Classic and Elite Series. Owner David Nuttall has been making Jalapeno drums since 1998 and personally constructs every drum.
He has over three decades of experience as a drummer, having occupied the throne for Geordie fun punksters The Toy Dolls and also winning 2005's UK's Fastest Drummer title. He's also a talented chef with a penchant for curries, hence the name Jalapeno.
V-L stands for 'very light' and the new range represents a further advancement of David's drum-making philosophy.
"There is very little I do which other makers haven't done," he explains, "but what I have tried to do is to work out what is best for every stage of drum development and apply that knowledge to the manufacturing process."
Like all Jalapeno drums, the V-L Series is made from premium Finnish birch. The shells are truly thin - 6-ply, 3mm thick with additional 12-ply reinforcement rings.
Though the plies are cross-laminated, the grain runs predominantly vertically (four out of the six plies). The shells have obviously been laboured over as they are perfectly round and meticulously detailed, with the 45° bearing edges being precisely cut.
While David happily admits to prioritising the sound of his drums over their appearance, the kit looks absolutely ravishing.
The outer layer of ply of each drum is birdseye birch which has simply been sealed with a clear gloss lacquer to emphasise the beauty of the wood. Inside the shells have been oiled to enhance the tone.
There is little point in constructing light, resonant shells and then fitting heavy hardware, and here David has devised a bespoke solution. Full-length anodised aluminium lugs are attached through single mounting points at each end of the shells.
This design - custom-made to David's specification - ensures that any stress is spread evenly across the shells. The snare drum has shorter, centrally-mounted versions of the lugs.
The emphasis on lightness also extends to the mounting hardware, with high-end Gauger aluminium RIMS mounts and DynaMounts fitted to the tom and floor toms respectively. The single rack tom mount is attached to the lugs rather than the tension rods, so head changes can be accomplished without having to uncouple the tom and put it on a flat surface.
The tension rods themselves are superior TightScrew versions which are reluctant in the extreme to detuning. S Hoops are fitted to all the drums with the exception of the bass drum, which has matching birdseye birch hoops.
The review kit is made up of a 22"x18" bass drum, 14"x6" snare, 12"x9" rack tom and 14"x16" and 16"x16" floor toms, but David can supply a wide range of sizes to order.
Jalapeno drums are normally supplied with Aquarian heads, though David is happy to accommodate each individual's requirements. The Aquarian heads fitted to the review kit were all single-ply and medium weight and so likely to give an honest rendering of the drums.
You'd expect a kit featuring such light, thin shells to be resonant to the point of lively but this is surprisingly not the case.
The bass drum is dark, punchy and full of depth but uncannily controlled. With no dampening other than the minimal sound control rings in the heads, it decays instantly, leaving my ears straining to detect unwanted rumblings. But there is nothing, just a big note and then silence – extraordinary.
This mixture of expansive tones delivered with restraint continues across the toms. They are clean yet warm, aggressive yet balanced, laden with character and naturally resonant. With each visit they seem to sound better and I find myself unable to imagine how they might be improved.
The snare provides a bright counterpoint, cutting through with brilliant clarity. It's a lovely drum – wonderfully crisp, superbly responsive and innately musical – and could fill a review on its own.
A lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into the kit. David does all the work himself so the turnaround time for this size of kit is two to three months, but this painstaking approach has resulted in a set of drums that can truly be described as musical instruments.