Well, that's a very good question! As the buying public's appetite for exotic woods (especially post-CITES Dalbergia alternatives) has increased, there has been something of a rush to find the next, greatest, coolest, rarest, oldest, etc woods possible. One choice that has risen to prominence, especially here in the UK where it is more readily accessible, is ancient Black Oak, also known as Bog Oak (not particularly sexy) or Royal Fenland Oak (now you're talking!). This wood is over 5000 years old and has been preserved in the bogs and Fens of Britain's wetlands. There are similarities with sinker woods (Mahogany, Redwood etc) which I personally have very little time for as I find the tone too vitreous, especially in the case of sinker Redwood which is practically glass...
In and of itself a cool story is no guarantee of quality tone and my own long-held view is that any wood is simply a source of potential. A great builder will unlock secret nuances in a humble, plentiful material that a less "in tune" luthier would never be able to caress out of the most exotic of tropical hardwoods. As chicken from KFC is a world away from Chicken at Le Gavroche, so too are tone woods at the mercy of the luthier who will be working with them.
This is a good thing.
When it comes to ancient woods (over 1000 years old for the sake of argument) there have been so few examples that it is difficult to obtain an accurate reading of what might be possible from their use that another wood might not offer up. I have been left underwhelmed by Ancient Kauri from New Zealand, Ancient Alaskan Sitka Spruce, Ancient whatever, there's so much marketing involved that the true purpose (a functioning musical instrument) is often lost.
When it comes to Bog Oak I've been fortunate in that I live close to the Turnstone Guitars workshop where Rosie Heydenrych has made possibly more guitars from this ancient wood than anybody else. Her hands have coaxed some beautiful tones from it and this latest video of a TGE model (all English woods) is no exception. There's a Cedar top on this one too which is nice. Have a listen and let me know your thoughts!
Until next time,