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Ardnamurchan: Release 2: AD/01.21.01 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 5 Years: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Light pale gold with quite fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Sherry soaked raisins. Vanilla. Lime cordial air. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust. Water makes sooty and adds crumpets notes.

Body: Honey. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust and charred wood. Raisins to fruitcake. Dry sherry. Vanilla fudge. Water adds Madeira. Pink lemonade and menthol.

Finish: Charring. Burnt meat ends. Dust. Fatty butter. Slightly dry. Sultanas. Water makes more fruity to fruitcake. Light crushed peanuts. More soot. Pink lemonade.

Conclusion: Well, a bit of time to air has really opened this one up. As you can see I’m in the second half of the bottle as I’ve had it a while, and generally I find that a few weeks to let a whisky air can often really help. As mentioned in the background, I’ve been a bit rubbish at this recently.

But! This is not about me, this is about whisky. So, how is it?

When I first tried this the thing I noticed most was that it was kind of fatty butter thick and slightly harsh in its soot character against the vanilla background. It was ok, interesting – especially in the texture, but generally not one I would recommend.

As mentioned, time has really opened it up. From far more raisins coming out in the aroma, to a more balanced level of fatty character in the body, to Madeira notes coming out. This now has a lot more dark fruit balancing out the dry, sooty smoke character that initially made the whisky quite harsh.

The fatty character is still there, especially later on in the body and into the finish. It gives a lot of weight and grip which is good, but the flavour of it is not quite for me. The flavour becomes a lot more evident with water, so bear that in mind if you are of similar mind.

Even odder, but more favourable to me, is that the water adds a kind of lemon and raspberry sweet note that I can best describe as pink lemonade like. Which I think is a new for me in tasting notes. Probably. I have done a LOT of notes by now. Anyway, you end up with smoke and soot, over a fatty thickness, into sweet raisins and citrus sweet pink lemonade over dry sherry. It is a weird mash up.

I think I prefer it neat though. The fatty character is more balanced, the sherry influence pleasant and still a solid vanilla character against the soot. With water is admittedly far more interesting, but also far less balanced.

A good chewy whisky, not a must have at this point as it is either solid or super interesting but never manages to marry the two. It is still a very good start for this distillery.

Background: So, I had nearly completed my attempt to try whisky from every active malt whisky distillery in Scotland (and a fair chunk of silent ones). Anyway, a whole bunch of new ones have opened up and a reasonable amount of them are actually putting bottled whisky out now. My task is never done. This is one of them, Ardnamurchan’s second release which I managed to snag from Independent Spirit before their stock vanished. As you can probably tell from the bottle I have had this a while. My taste note taking skills are dropping with ever month of this darn virus outbreak, but I am trying to keep lethargy from setting in. In good news, had my first shot now, half way to full vaccination! There is no age statement on the bottle, but a bit of googling gave the five years listed here. Similarly it told me this is aged in 65% bourbon wood and 35% a mix of PX and Oloroso sherry casks, which is nice information to know. Went with the ever haunting David Bowie: Black Star as background music when drinking.

Beavertown: Lazer Crush Alcohol Free IPA (England: Low Alcohol: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Lightly hazy, pale and clear lemon juice colour. A very thin white head.

Nose: Flour. Light lemon juice. Squeezed lime. Kiwi touch. Dried banana.

Body: Iced tea. Lemon juice. Squeezed lime. Light prickly hop character. Vanilla. Dried banana.

Finish: Squeezed lime. Flour. Some wheaty bitterness. Dried banana. Moderate hop character.

Conclusion: Ok, this concentrates heavily on the fruit juice side of things it seems. It is basically a big burst of lemon juice and lime as a base, with some banana and kiwi notes at the side.

So, as you may have guessed, the first impressions are not overly beer like. This is heavily because of that fruit juice character, but is also backed by that common low alcohol beer character of an iced tea kind of feel to the whole thing. The only really beer like counterpoint is a vanilla touch to the base that hints at a malt character, and a wheaty hop bitterness that can prickle away. Nothing too heavy, but that moderate prickle does say “beer”, and does grow heavier in the finish.

So, in general not very beer like, it reminds me of a low bitterness New England IPA, but minus the more hazy look, and with all those noticeable low alcohol characteristics. So, with that established, is it any good?

It is, eh, not bad. The fruitiness is well expressed but the base lemon and lime is a bit generic. Though I will say the odder side notes do bring some interest out.

Overall it is a light bit of fluff, with a dash of beer style, but generally just a fluffy citrus burst. So, not really beery, not terrible, but just doesn’t really grab me as being more satisfying that just having a juice drink. It feels just like a hopped juice drink and not really special as that.

So, kind of average, does the job, but average.

Background: Saw that Sainsbury’s had another batch of new low alcohol beers when I was in there so decided to give a few a try. Beavertown tend to be pretty decent and are much easier to get hold of these days so grabbed this one for a quick go. Not much else to add, no music as backing this time, was doing notes as I chatted with friends. Hope you are all holding up ok in these still odd times.

Pilot: Barrel Aged Double Mochaccino Stout (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12.3% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still and opaque. Brown rim of bubbles around the glass and a grey dash over the centre.

Nose: Full bitter coffee to coffee cake with walnuts. Vanilla. Rye whisky undertones. Peppery. Carrot cake. Some low level rum notes. Whisky air.

Body: Smooth. Cherries. Palma violets. Black cherries. Milky chocolate to chocolate liqueur. Very light liquorice. Rum. Fruity whisky notes. Orange jelly sweets. Peppery. Coffee cake.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Milky coffee. Coffee cake. Light liquorice. Apple clean spirity notes. Cocoa. Seville orange. Pear drops.

Conclusion: You know, if they haven’t had stated that this was Speyside whisky barrel aged I would have sworn that it had spent some time in rum wood as it has some light rum spiciness in under there.

Anyway, there is a noticeable alcohol character to this, which is to be expected given the high abv and barrel ageing, but despite that it isn’t a “boozy” feeling drink. Instead it is very smooth, and dangerously easy to drink from that. In a way it is a good thing that it is in a tiny 250 ml bottle at this abv or a could quaff a lot of it, with bad results for my health.

It starts off very cake driven, with coffee cake, carrot cake, a whole cake kind of thing going on giving a very thick and often coffee led aroma. Which is part of what makes that smoothness of body such a surprise.

The body therefore starts smooth and sweet with a lot of cherries and black cherries giving a very fruity front. It is easy drinking and delicious here. As time goes on the rum like spiciness and more rye like spicy character rises to make it a slightly more savoury and complex beast that the fruity burst at the front.

The whisky ageing shows itself more late on as a subtly fruity whisky character that floats in the background. It is a clean, slightly spirity and fruity sheen that clings to everything but never dominates.

So this is a beer with a great start, lovely progress and is smooth as silk but with so much progression.

I would say, if you see it, grab it, but I don’t want more competition for getting hold of the remaining bottles!

Background: I’ve had this a few times and kept meaning to do notes, so finally I have. In a tiny 25 cl bottle, this is taken from four speyside whisky casks that were filed with Double Mochaccino Stout. So pretty much exactly what it says in the name. Grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with IDLES: Brutalism again as drinking music. Still listening to them a lot, and looking forwards to when I finally get to see them live again.

Portmeirion : Cwrw Du Rhif 6 / No 6 Stout (Wales: Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large caramel brown head.

Nose: Roasted. Cashews. Generally nutty. Clean cocoa notes.

Body: Smooth. Smoothed out chocolate liqueur. Cream. Milky coffee. Roasted nuts. Cashew.

Finish: Menthol. Mint leaves. Charring. Black cherry. Cashews. Chocolate bourbon biscuits.

Conclusion: This is a very solid stout, with a few nice touches that make it definitely a bit better than the average. Though I will admit that as a The Prisoner fan I am probably biased.

Though I am also biased in many other things.

At its base this is a very nicely roasted and gently nutty stout with that sort of slightly savoury sour green flecks and cashew nuts character, and that extends into a generally savoury sour style that permeates the whole thing.

Early on there is a strong cocoa and smoothed down chocolate liqueur flavour that hints at a much sweeter beer. The flavour is like the chocolate liqueur in that creamy smoothness, but with none of the accompanying liqueur intensity

As time goes on the more savoury elements become heavier in the body, offsetting the initial sweetness. Similarly, on the way out in the finish, it initially has an unusual menthol to mint leaves touch under the charred style. But again the nutty savoury notes take over as time passes, in an inverse progression to the main body.

It is a solid stand-alone pint. A bit of sweet shine up front, savoury solid over time. Due to that savoury presence it doesn’t feel like one to have several pints of, the flavours would get wearing, but as a stand-alone it is a bit above the norm.

So if I asked “Who is number one?” what would I reply? Unfortunately not “You are Number Six”, as this ain’t that good, but it ain’t a number two either if you get my drift.


I’m saying its not shit.

I case I was being too subtle.

Background: So, this was gifted to me by my friend Will, much appreciated thanks! As a The Prisoner fan a set of beers based on the series was something I did not want to miss – and number 6 was of course the perfect pick. Though I am disappointing to find out number 1 and number 6 are not, in fact the same beer. (one for fellow Prisoner fans there). Not sure if Portmeirion have their own brewery for these, as some sites suggest so, but others indicate Bragdy Nant at least used to brew it. Though that version is listed as 5.5% abv. So I don’t know. Portmeirion was the village where The Prisoner was filmed, hence the connection. Music wise I went back to the Celeste OST while drinking as it is such chilled tunes that reminds me of good gaming time.

Westmalle: Extra (Belgium: Belgian Blond Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Straw coloured, lots of carbonation. Medium sized white bubbled head.

Nose: Hay fields. Lightly earthy. Very crisp. Palma violets. Lightly peppery. Lemon cakes. Doughnut dough.

Body: Good bitterness. Earthy and doughy hop character. Mineral water. Vanilla. Dry fudge. Greenery.

Finish: Good bitterness. Slight granite touch. Mineral water. Lemon cakes. Greenery. Good hop character. Dry honey.

Conclusion:So, this is the for so long hidden Trappist. I will admit this is not like what I expected. For on thing, mineral water like notes? What is up with that?

I guess that that odd character may be part of why this is viewed as the session Trappist beer, so now I just need to work out if that is a good thing or not.

Ok, so let’s warm up gently and start on the more standard side of the beer; The body is gentle in the malt styling with vanilla and dry fudge character. It is nicely attenuated, not too heavy. It is flavoursome but sessionable. A good start.

The hops character is probably the strongest point of the beer. This is heavily hopped for a Belgian beer and done in a crisp way that is very drinkable. Starts out very crisp on the nose, then lightly earthy and peppery. It manages to give a real solid bigger character and a doughy hop feel that adds character and heft without an accompanying weight that would ruin the sessionable character.

There is also some light citrus counterpoints that keep it fresh, but the more bitter hops are what keep my attention.

So after all that, mineral water character. This is very minerally. Initially I disliked it, it felt watery, and intrusive. Now, after a few bottles tried on separate occasions I actually find it interesting. I’m not 100% sold, but the mineral side of it adds flavour and the water side seems less intrusive, which means I am interested enough to grab a few more and see how I find them. It is different, and not unpleasant now.

Right now it is very good, and interesting even if I am not 100% sold on it. Well worth a try to see how it suits you. Probably not the “ultimate Belgian session” in my opinion though. Possibly got hyped up due to how hard it was to get.

Background: Oh this is something I was very excited for. I first heard of this in “100 Belgian Beers To Try Before You Die” Where it is described as “The ultimate Belgian session beer”. At the time it was only available to the monks in the monastery, and occasionally to visitors to the monastery. So, pretty unlikely to get hold of. It only just got a general bottled release so I jumped on that as quick as I darn could. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, my old faithful during lock-down, I drank this while listening to Billy Nomates: No. A quirky, politically active album, which still warms my heart. Worth noting, the 100 beers book lists it as 5.5% abv as opposed to the current 4.8% so it is likely the recipe has changed slightly over the years. Also the book lists it as having “like mineral water” elements, though it seems to view them more favourably than I did.

Big Drop: Fat Lizard: Rye’d Said Fred: Juniper Rye IPA (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly amber touched gold. Clear main body with not much evident carbonation, but a very large mounded off white head.

Nose: Rye crackers. Slightly watery. Peppery. Musty. Subtle peach.

Body: Grapefruit. Muggy bitterness. Brown bread. Slightly watery. Lemon cakes. Soft vanilla. Cream. Juniper.

Finish: Lemon sorbet. Sour dough. Peppery. Clinging hop feel. Some bitterness. Juniper berries. Smoke wisp.

Conclusion: This is an interesting mix. Initially it came across a tad watery when it was chilled down, but warming up up allowed it to open up in aroma and flavours, and also thicken up in body.

On the nose it is fairly rye led, not a heavy character but generally spicy and savoury with an emphasis on the peppery character. The body follows in a still spicy and rye style, but with tarter notes. Strangely the first tarter notes I got wasn’t juniper, but instead grapefruit like and fairly clean. As it warms it becomes creamier, smoother and more evidently juniper touched.

It has moderate bitterness in the finish, but is never really hop led. What hop character it does have is muggy and slightly leaden. There is a wisp of smoke there as well, which feels very fresh hopped, but I presume that isn’t the case here.

So the main play of the beer is lightly tart fruit versus rye spice. It is fairly gentle, which is unusual for rye led beers, but still enjoyable. It is a bit different from the usual low alcohol beers, and fills out the low abv with enough flavour for an easy drinking one. It is, again, not a special stand out beer, but is still a nice twist on the low abv fare.

A decent one that is well worth a try.

Background: The final of the four pack of collaboration beers from Big Drop. This one a collaboration with Fat Lizard from Finland. Another one I have not run into before, so this is my first experience with them. This seems an interesting one, not just a rye IPA, but also infused with juniper – which admittedly I’ve had mixed experience with in beers. It has a decently varied hop load with Azacca, Chinook, Citra and Magnum – the last of which seems to have turned up in most beers in this set. Don’t know if the pun of the beer name travels – it is a reference to the musical act “Right Said Fred”. Do people outside the UK know them? No idea. Went again with SOPHIE: Oil of Every Peal’s Un-Insides while drinking. This set was grabbed from Independent Spirit. I also grab alcoholic beers from them. Will do notes on those one day.

Big Drop: Hop Notch: Fläderlätt Elderflower (England: low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold body with a large white head that leaves suds – along with moderate amounts of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Grapes. Elderflower. Slight honey. Light fluffy hop character Flour. Fresh white bread.

Body: Elderflower. Elderberry. White grapes. Slightly tart. Flour. Fluffy hop character. Vanilla. Moderate bitterness. White bread.

Finish: Elderberry. Low but present hop character and bitterness. Tart grapes. Peppery. Pineapple.

Conclusion:Ok, yep definitely elderflower in here, or possibly elderberry. I definitely have a different mental image for both, which seems to match to what they should taste like, but I am aware I could be full of shit. It’s not like I shove a bunch of flowers down my gob regularly to check.

Anyway, a very berry influenced beer in flavour – lightly tart, with some tart grapes and a general fresh, clean feeling to it. It is a real palette cleanser of a beer for the most part, but then, after your mouth has been freshened it then lays down its own beery layer. That layer is a fluffy, flour and hops feel that is moderate but not excessively sticky. It is kind of slightly sweet, with some higher vanilla notes, while also bringing weight to the character.

The flour like, nicely bitter hops stop it from being a super refresher of a beer, as they hang around a long time – but overall I feel it benefits the drink by giving it a good solid beer character so it doesn’t end up feeling like an elderflower soft drink.

It is not super complex, but it does its base idea well in a fresh, beery, easy to drink way that goes down easy. It is welcome and fits its low abv perfectly with its drinkability. I could do with having a few of these to hand for general drinking.

Background: Third of the beers from the second low alcohol collaboration box. This uses Mozart hops, which are apparently a new experimental UK hop which should be interesting. I presume it is made with elderflower – the ingredients list “Natural Flavouring”. Anyway, a tart aimed IPA, should be up my street. Hop Knotch is from Sweden, or so a quick google says. A new one to me. Went back to the ever classic At The Drive In – Relationship of Command for drinking music. Because it is great. Anyway, another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Glenury Royal: 1970 – 40 Year Old (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40 Year: 59.4% ABV)

Visual: Moderately darkened gold, with very slow puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Cooked apple pie. Honey. Golden Grahams. Almonds. Cinnamon apples. Vanilla toffee. Cherry pocked biscuits. Wisp of smoke. Clotted cream. Water makes spicier. Peppery. Thai seven spice jars. Crushed hard boiled sweets or the aroma of old style sweet shops. More clotted cream.

Body: Treacle and honey. Becomes warming if held but never burning. Fudge. Clotted cream. Thick. Scones with raisins. Cherries. Water adds apples. Cinnamon. Lots of vanilla fudge. Crumpets. Fatty butter.

Finish: Dry oak. Tannins and tea bags. Malt chocolate. Chives. Very drying. Water adds a rum touch. Makes spicy. Plums and red wine. Fatty butter. More chives. Almonds.

Conclusion: Ok, pretty much the most important thing early on with this was that I was really nervous about adding water. Despite in coming in at nearly 60% abv it somehow doesn’t burn at all. I guess 40 years in the oak can do that. Most of my, admittedly very limited, experience with 40 year old whisky found them to be generally very light. You really had to take your time and dig in to get the complexity from them – which is why I generally prefer to max out my whisky at 30 years. I prefer the extra umph.

This, well this is smooth, but very full flavoured and thick mouthfeel which both grabs my attention and makes me wonder if it is already at the sweet spot without adding water.

It is solidly sweet, rocking lots of honey and even some treacle mid body. Give it some time to air and it brings out a lovely, thick clotted cream character which I adore. The aroma has light, sweetly spiced apple notes, and the finish is very dry, though packed with a bit too much oak and tannins. Generally though, especially main body, this is big, rewarding and sweet with lots of subtler side notes to examine as well.

Ok, let’s take a risk. Water play time!

Water makes it a lot spicier, with more peppery notes and some Thai seven spice character – though the release from the high abv also lets more subtle sweetness come through mid body. It also makes for a much better finish – the simple dry tannins and oak now gain complex spirit and red wine notes along with spice. It is a genuine improvement, but also adds a fatty butter character which isn’t as complementary as the previous clean sweet body. Despite that both neat and with water are very good.

A very impressive whisky. Complex, deep, weighty for a 40 year old and smooth for a 60% abv one. Ok, this is a rare case where a 40 year old whisky earns it’s place beyond its slightly younger cousins. I adore this.

Background: So, how I came to pay attention to this one was noticing it was nearly 60% abv at 40 years old. With the angels share I would have though this was damn near impossible, but after contacting my better informed whisky friends it turned out it is true. Was distilled at a very high abv and probably had many other evil magic tricks to keep it this way. So, while looking I noticed that The Whisky Exchange sold it by the measure. Not just a chance to try a dead distillery that I have never tried before, but a 40 year old one. So yes I treated myself. Think that is my silly expensive whisky money gone for a long time now! Anyway the distillery was closed 1985 and has since been sold for housing development so I don’t think we are seeing this one coming back. Went with the ever awesome Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues for background music when drinking.

Kininvie: 23 Year: Batch 3 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 23 Year: 42.6% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellow. Some very small particles evident in the whisky. Fast and thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Light. Some alcohol. Oak. Barley biscuits. Peppery. Dry fudge. Water adds light lime and kiwi. Shortbread. Light sulphur. More fudge.

Body: Smooth. Tingly. Vanilla. Fudge. Peppery. Oak. Honey. Vanilla toffee. Menthol touch. Water makes very smooth. Brings out grapes. Thicker feel and more honey. Toffee style ice cream syrup. Kiwi. More menthol. Light strawberry.

Finish: Peppery. Caramel. Dry fudge. Sour dough. Water adds toffee syrup. Light sage and onion. Menthol. Brown bread. Liquorice touch.

Conclusion: This is a gentle, subtle yet complex one. Neat it has just a touch of the alcohol showing, but nothing too heavy. Water both cleans that up and also somehow makes the whisky feel heavier and more doughy.

Neat it is generally sweet notes played in quite a clean fashion, though the sweet notes vary quite well from standard toffee to sweeter honey character. It uses a peppery base to savoury it up. So, smooth, tasty, variety to the sweetness and savoury underline – enjoyable but nothing too unusual or special.

Water, as mentioned, makes it feel thicker, darker and with slight sulphur notes giving a lot more weight and character to a still smooth whisky. Similarly a touch of green fruit comes out, low at first and increasing with time. There are the not uncommon green grape notes, but also a more unusual kiwi kind of savoury-sweet character. In fact the whole thing now feels more savoury and more stodgy. The sweetness is always there as a contrast against what is now a bready main character. It feels like it makes the brighter fruit notes have to work to push through, but they are even more enjoyable for that when they do show.

It is really good, slowly revealing a whole mix of notes beyond the main ones we have already discussed, the only thing it lacks is that inexplicable element that turns a good whisky into a favourite whisky. It feels like a toffee syrup covered dessert with a bready core and green fruit high notes and somehow pulls it off.

Definitely a worthwhile whisky.

Background: Another whisky from a distillery I have not tried before – if I remember rightly it is part of Monkey Shoulder blended malt, but that is probably the limit of my exposure. Anyway, had heard good things about this, being a half bottle it was expensive for what you get, but not bank breaking to try, so I did a quick google around and found it available at Whisky World so grabbed a bottle. From my research it looks like this distilleries’ bottles were originally only available through duty free, where I have seen them a couple of times, but they are now in the wider market. Wanted something atmospheric to back trying this whisky, so went with Ulver’s Flower’s of Evil. Probably their best album since Shadows Of The Sun in my opinion. Great stuff.

Big Drop: Einstok: Arctic Beach Coconut Stout (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still and opaque main body. About a centimeter of browned head.

Nose: Coconut. Milky chocolate. Almonds to marzipan. Hot cake sponge.

Body: Milky chocolate. Lots of coconut. Cake sponge. Mild iced tea. Occasional light black cherry. Good texture – fluffy cake sponge like. Slight sulfur.

Finish: Clean. Coconut. Almonds. Light charring. Light bitter chocolate. Iced tea.

Conclusion: Ok, you all probably know by now that I love coconut notes, and this is a literal coconut stout, so I have to love it, right?

Well, love it may be too strong a choice of words, but in general, yeah, this is my jam. The coconut is super present in a very clear, slightly dry way. So, in case you hadn’t working it out yet, make sure you are a coconut fan before coming in on this one as it DOMINATES!

The main body is fairly simple. Basically working moderate chocolate and heavy coconut. Chilled down it is slightly, but not overly, thin. A it warms it gets a surprisingly fluffy cake sponge kind of thicker texture which really helps the stout feel.

As always the aroma promises waaaay beyond that the body can deliver. Lots of thick cake sponge and almond to marzipan like notes. Somehow the air itself has a wonderful thickness to it. One day we will get a low abv beer that manages to live up to wonderful aromas like this.

For now I’m just happy this is decent. Not really complex, but has a bit of nuttiness and a few hints of other flavours that show it is trying. On the down side there are occasional tells to the low abv in iced tea notes, but the darker beer style means that they are rare.

An ok low abv stout that utterly rocks the coconut and so pushes itself higher than it would otherwise.

Background: Second beer tried from Big Drop’s second world Collaboration box – the Nordics. This one is done in collaboration with Einstok. I’ve had a couple of their beers before. Nothing stand out but nothing terrible. This one definitely caught my eye as a stout made with coconut. I adore coconut notes in my stouts. Looking at the can this was made with Magnum hops, which seems to be a common choice for their non hop led beers, as well as lactose, cocoa nibs and, of course, coconut. Had been playing the free 5th chapter for Ultimate Doom – known as “Sigil” recently, so went with Buckethead’s soundtrack for that as background while drinking. That version of Doom: Sigil cost’s around seven pounds, unlike the midi sound version which is free – but the tunes are awesome and well worth it.

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