Gear talk for the GAS-afflicted.

Review: 2013 Gibson Custom 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue VOS Bourbonburst

Review: 2013 Gibson Custom 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue VOS Bourbonburst

Aug 10, 2014

I tell you what – straight up, this is the best goddamn Les Paul I’ve personally ever laid hands on.

Over the years I’ve owned many iterations of the iconic LP – Studio, Custom, Standard, Classic, you name it. But I’ve never owned a Custom Shop Historic RI, and up until a few weeks ago I’d never really spent a lot of time with one.

Since half the point of starting this website was to get the chance to play mind-bogglingly out of reach gear that I’d never be able to touch otherwise, I called up my friendly Product Manager at NZ Rockshop to tee me up with this beauty…


Man, that word almost tastes good. And as a guitar finish, it looks just as good as you might imagine the word tastes. The guitar in question, of course, is the 2013 edition of what has become known as the R9.

It’s one of the nicest flame top finishes I’ve ever seen. It’s not over the top defined like a PRS Private Stock, but it is ALIVE. The top is just three dimensional in every sense of the word – every time I look at it at another angle or in a different light, there’s a new highlight of the grain to be noticed, or a new depth to the nitro finish to take in.

The body is lightweight mahogany, with no relief holes or chambering hiding under the top. It still has a decent amount of heft to it, which is good. I mean, I don’t necessarily think a LP needs to be a boat anchor, but oddly light ones (Studio Tribute series comes to mind) just don’t feel right to me.


9 for ’59

Okay, before I go on talking about the guitar, it’s time to hit play on the clips! I wanted to do something special for this extremely special guitar, so I cooked up a bit of a medley featuring iconic Les Paul riffs and solos. Check it out and see what you think!

Gibson Custom Shop '59 VOS Les Paul – 9 Iconic LP Riffs/Solos

The clip was recorded through a Mesa/Boogie Mark V (using Ch.2 on Edge mode and Ch.3 on Extreme mode) into a Two Notes Torpedo Live loaded with Ownhammer IRs (V30 and Greenback Studio Mixes).


VOS stands for “Vintage Original Spec”, but in my head I like to think of it as “Very Old Stock”. You know, like “New Old Stock” but 55 years old. The detailing on the guitar isn’t as drastic as, say, a Tom Murphy super-relic LP, but there are subtle touches here and there which make it feel like a worn-in, but extremely good condition, old guitar. The finish isn’t super glossy, the tuners have a bit of rust detailing, the pickup covers are a little oxidised, that sort of thing.




Fit and Finish

…is immaculate. And for a sticker price of $8999 here in NZ, you’d bloody well hope so.

The iconic trapezoid inlays are cut and glued with extreme precision with nary a drop of filler to be seen.


It’s not often that you see a guitar whose back is just about as nice to look at as its front, but Gibson’s “period-correct Aniline” dye sure does look the business.


Here’s a bit more info from Gibson about the correctness of the reissueness of this guitar(ness):

While the 1959 Les Paul Standard retained the classic ingredients of the breed—its solid mahogany body and carved maple top, both represented here in the 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue—the guitar also evolved slightly from its specs of the previous year. Les Pauls made in 1959 also acquired a slightly thinner, though still comfortably rounded, neck profile, which many players consider the sweetest feeling neck shape of all time, along with a smaller neck heel. These are all represented with utmost accuracy in the 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue, while the guitar also benefits from Gibson Custom’s 20th Anniversary Specifications, newly adopted for 2013. These include a one-piece rosewood fingerboard, Kluson™ Deluxe machine heads, hot-hide glue neck fit, a Historic Truss Rod assembly with no tubing, accurate body and fingerboard binding color, new Custom Buckers created in the image of the original PAFs, and period-correct Aniline dye offered in VOS and Gloss.

Interesting to note is that the neck isn’t the baseball bat that a ’59 profile is often claimed to be. It’s beefy and round, but it’s certainly not overkill (and I have tiny baby hands, so if it works for me it should work for just about anyone).

Buck that hum, in a customly manner

Also new on this guitar are Gibson’s Custom Buckers.

Yeah, I know. They could have at least called it something a bit more creative and/or descriptive.

But that’s not the point. This is:

Gibson Custom’s new Custom Bucker accurately recreates the original PAFs of the late ’50s, using Alnico III magnets and unequal turns of 42 AWG wire in each coil for that characteristic PAF “bite.” These pickups clean up beautifully at the guitar’s volume controls, while Bumble Bee tone caps assist in that warm, singing “woman tone” when you roll back the tone controls.

What this means is.. DAMN. From the moment I plugged it into my Mark V, I knew that it was going to be tough sending this one back to the shop (and believe me, I really can’t afford this one!). The pickups just scream classic PAF – balanced, “chewy” with a good bit of bite. Not too beefy but lithe and raunchy. This is THE classic LP tone (not to be confused with the modern impression of LP tone, which is big and beefy and just a little bit muddy sometimes). I especially love the bridge pickup – if anything, I’d like the neck pickup to be just a bit more “hollow” sounding, if you know what I mean.

Both pickups are fairly balanced in output, so you won’t get a big jump in volume switching between the two. But tone… there is tone all day to be had here.

And in testament to the great wood selection that you get by going Custom Shop, this baby sustains like crazy. Literally goes for something like 15 seconds without any vibrato, just ringing sustain for days. It’s quite amazing, really.

Is it worth it?

That’s the $8999 question, really, isn’t it?

If you can afford to drop this sort of coin on a single guitar, then hell yeah it sure is. You get great craftsmanship, the best tonewoods (no weight relief here, kids), great pickups and tone – just an all round kick-ass guitar that’s ready to rock from Day 1.

However, most of us probably aren’t in that boat, so you might just have to keep on looking for that one production Les Paul that sounds better than all the rest. Or save your pennies and see if one pops up second hand.

I’m gonna give the Gibson Custom ’59 VOS LP Standard 4.5 F*ck Yeahs! It would be a solid 5.0 (or maybe a 6.0 out of 5.0, I love it so much) but I’ve deducted half a point for the somewhat unattainable price point.

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Hope you enjoyed the demo, pics and review! And I hope you have mad GAS now, muahahaha. See you all next time!


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