It all started with a Swiss Army Knife; a simple symbol of creativity and design which would inevitably mesmerize Rory Dowling with the endless possibilities of imagination in woodworking. Inspired by landscape, music, and an indefatigable drive to make art in this world, Dowling would soon become irresistibly curious about luthiery. Moreover, the ineffable beauty of Scottish nature would inject Dowling’s designs with equally boundless spectacle. Today, in our Topshelf Luthier Series, we admire Taran Guitars and their stunning line of instruments as gorgeous and powerful as the views from Dowling’s hillside Scottish factory.
Rory Dowling – A Man of the Hills
Rory Dowling is an artisan who takes inspiration from all the beauty that surrounds him. For that, I guess you could say we’re all lucky he lives in one of the most exceptional landscapes on Earth – in the rolling hills of infinitely lush and gorgeous Scotland.
In his youth, Dowling would wander the outer Hebrides on Scotland’s West Coast, where along those cool, pensive, undulating hills, he would compose the triumphant rhythm that would score Taran Guitars’ march to world acclaim. The most resounding and exceptional peak in this range was Taran Mhor – ‘Taran’, the Gaelic word for thunder, perfectly encapsulates the electrifying ambition and design incumbent of the Taran Guitars Legacy.
Dowling went on to found Taran Guitars in 2007 in the East Neuk of Fife, where he works from a bright, spacious converted dairy farm nestled in the Scottish Countryside. This verdant workspace is the inspiration for the 5 Dowling-original, flagship guitars, named for the Scottish peaks he can see from his workshop window: The Taran, Tirga Beag, Tirga Mhor, Oreval, and Ulladale.
Taran Guitars – Specificity, Focus, Discipline – Beauty
Dowling has achieved his acclaim in luthiery through an unrelenting dedication to specificity, both in craft and in focus. Taran Guitars, although tailored to each potential customer, are narrowed down to 5 total styles:
The Taran is the smallest of Dowling’s lineup. Designed to play primarily as a finger-style instrument, it boasts an uncannily large “bell-like” voice at even the lightest touch.
Conversely, the Tirga Beag is a bit larger in size and “is designed with volume and headroom in mind”. Its shape and design strategy give it a distinctive voice in otherwise loud jam sessions, all the while, offering a ‘rich tone’ to perfectly score smaller audiences and solo play.
The mighty Tirga Mhor is designed for an open voice, utilizing a 12th fret bridge position with lots of ‘spit’ to enhance ‘its powerful attack.’ As with its sister model the Tirga Beag, the Mhor has good separation across a very dynamic range.
For the Oreval, Dowling is straight to the point, noting on Taran Guitars’ product page:
“The Orveal is based on the acclaimed Tirga Beag Mk II shape and has a classic Taran style. Stripped back detailing gives it an austere, clean and striking look. Its own unique bracing pattern and greater depth give the Oreval a big voice, perfect for noisy sessions. At home, solo, the Oreval offers a large dynamic range. Best enjoyed with something at room temperature…or chilled! “
Finally, the Springwell is a Celtic mandolin designed in collaboration with Kevin MacLeod, a fantastic traditional folk player from Edinburgh. An archtop, flat back mandolin it boasts a Portuguese or Sobell style neck joint and has full bright trebles and a solid mid-range as well as a good amount of sustain. Additionally, the strong bass has great balance across the range.
All are composed from a combination of Indian Rosewood, Scottish Sycamore, European Walnut and/or Mahogany and none leave any room for disappointment.
Taran Guitars is the beauty of Earth and humanity harmonized to the tune of 6 strings. His delicate touch and his relentless drive are propelling his brand of breathtaking guitars to heights higher than the hills on which they are based. Rory Dowling, unlike any other luthier, harnesses the beauty of Earth itself to enhance and uplift his craft.