While the British Drum Company made big strides this past year in establishing its regular series, big chief Keith Keough is also long renowned for his one-off and limited-run specials.
This English bog oak beauty may be his best yet.
Carbon dating has established that the bog oak used to make The Duke is around 3,000 years old. That is, the oak has been preserved in the peat bogs of East Anglia for all that time before surfacing, harvesting and careful drying out. We’ve only seen stave wood bog oak drums previously, but the Duke is 10-ply and 6mm thick, with two-ply reinforcing rings. Since the timber can be brittle, huge care is taken to ensure the cold-pressed ultra-thin plies are snapped into the mould without damage.
The resulting 14"x51⁄2" shell is open-grained and rich brown, finished with hand-rubbed Satin Oil. The textbook bearing edges are 30 degrees and rounded. Vintage design aspects reflect the ancient timber. Thus the hoops are chromed 4.5mm flat-rolled steel, rounded off for kindness to sticks, held down by mini claws and 24 carat gold plated tension rods.
Contemporary bits are 10 of BDC’s Palladium lugs, Palladium Mark-II strainer/butt and 20 strand BDC brass snare wires with gold ribbon ties. Gold, chrome and brown combine for a harmonious, opulent look. Each drum comes with a certificate declaring it one of only 50 to be built.
This elegant instrument evokes the master wood models of the 1920s/30s, but is thoroughly modern where needs be. The tone is immediately dark, fat and warm. Oaky in a word, but with a slight dryness. Head tuning and snare straining are smooth as butter - the drum remains focused at all tensions. The thick flat hoops allow the drum to breathe, rim shots are epic and ping the shell into life. The mini claws are a slight distraction, but unless you’re wildly inaccurate they’re not an obstacle.
Here is a drum to cherish. Honestly, you could just sit and stare at it all day. It's probably too precious for the road, but for special projects and recording it sounds as dazzling as it looks.