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Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

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Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby jeffk » Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:34 am

Hey everyone,

A few months ago I was in Dallas and ate at Fogo de Chao - a wonderful Argentine restaurant. Great food, wonderful service, 10+! Anyhow, after dinner, I had a drink - a Macallan 25. It was beautiful! At that moment I knew I had to enter this new world of Scotch.

Fast forward, I finally got a chance to get to some liquor stores that carry a selection of whiskys and I bought a bottle of Glenlivet 12 and Aberlour 10. I'm now trying to learn to discern the different smells, flavors and finishes that I keep reading about.

I'm having a really hard time picking any of the smells, tastes or anything from either of these drams. I read reviews and they talk about wet wood, cinnamon, smoke, etc. and I can't tell any of these - in fact, I'm having a really hard time telling the difference between this and the Jack #7 I used to drink when I was in my partying years.

I'm taking time, drinking only a small amount, swishing it around in my snifter, trying like hell to get a smell I recognize, or a flavor to come through. I've read every webpage about single malts I can find and yet I feel like I must be an idiot for not being able to pull these flavors and smells out.

What am I doing wrong?

BTW, in the interest of learning, my next trip to the store will bring me some new friends - Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig CS, and Lagavulin 16. I figure with those I HAVE TO be able to pull out at least peat :)

Thanks for any ideas...
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Nov 04, 2005 6:27 am

You may find that this doesn't come to you all at once. It took me two years to "get it", although a little tutoring would have helped big time. And a lot of those flavors and aromas may never come to you--it depends a lot on your experience. I still read tasting notes sometimes and think "What the hell is he talking about?" Don't get too hung up on it--just figure out what you need to do to enjoy it.

For me, the big thing was learning to take very small sips--just enough to coat the whole tongue, and barely have to swallow. (Others here have entirely different methods.) Also, I experimented for a long time with water. Full-strength whiskies were more than I could deal with at first, and I had to find the right balance. Later, I became accustomed to tasting even cask-strength whiskies, and now I rarely use water at all. But it was important to me at first.

Those last three you mention may just be make-or-break drams for you--maybe you want to try one at a time. They are all very smoky, and in fact, the three distilleries stand but a couple miles apart on a stretch of road on Islay. Lagavulin was the first single malt that really floated my boat--you don't have to appreciate subtlety to get that. Lots of us here love Ardbeg, because it hits you like a sledgehammer, and yet has incredible complexity and subtlety. One of these may well be your "in", or they may turn you off. Try not to let a bad experience turn you off altogether--chalk it up as education, and try a different direction.

If you do get turned on by the peat monsters, that may well be your thing for a long time. But experience tasting those will prepare you for other things. Once your palate is accustomed to whisky in general, you will find it easier to discern a wide range of other flavors. Keep at it, relax, and have fun.
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Postby kallaskander » Fri Nov 04, 2005 9:47 am

Hi there,

hello Jeff don´t despair. Appreciating whisky (stole that from a very good book on how to taste and experience whisky by the same title) takes its time.
You are about to create new systems of describing smells, tastes and flavours and their interacting results. With each new whisky you sample your frame of reference will change. And Mr T is right, some aromas you read about you will never find nor recognise in a whisky because your way of experiencing and describing it will be very much different from anybody else´s. That does not mean that you should ignore books and tasting notes from the greats in the art of whisky. But do not take them on face value, use them as inspiration rather. And do start by not taking what I tell you here at vace value.
If you are a technical man see it as a long term calibration and fine tuning process of a very sophisticated meassuring instrument - yourself.
That is a journey with an unknown end but very enjoyable and never boring. And by the time you think you have it, you know your favourite whiskies and exactly what you like, why it might just happen that your refference frame and your preferences shift again.
Bon voyage.

Greetings
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby BruceCrichton » Fri Nov 04, 2005 1:44 pm

jeffk wrote:Fast forward, I finally got a chance to get to some liquor stores that carry a selection of whiskys and I bought a bottle of Glenlivet 12 and Aberlour 10. I'm now trying to learn to discern the different smells, flavors and finishes that I keep reading about....


If you have the proper glass, you mention a snifter, that will help. A tulip glass, a Glenmorangie plc glass or a Glencairn snifter glass are my favourites.

jeffk wrote:I'm having a really hard time picking any of the smells, tastes or anything from either of these drams. I read reviews and they talk about wet wood, cinnamon, smoke, etc. and I can't tell any of these - in fact, I'm having a really hard time telling the difference between this and the Jack #7 I used to drink when I was in my partying years....


It does take practice. I was at my third whisky festival and about my tenth tasting when I was given an overdone sherry casked Dufftown 17 and noted 'That tastes like a burnt welly'.

At my next festival, the taster, who was a well-known whisky writer, gave me an overdone sherry casked Glen Rothes which he likened to a tyre used in a Grand Prix. That was the first time I got what someone else was getting.



jeffk wrote: I'm taking time, drinking only a small amount, swishing it around in my snifter, trying like hell to get a smell I recognize, or a flavor to come through. I've read every webpage about single malts I can find and yet I feel like I must be an idiot for not being able to pull these flavors and smells out.

What am I doing wrong?

BTW, in the interest of learning, my next trip to the store will bring me some new friends - Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig CS, and Lagavulin 16. I figure with those I HAVE TO be able to pull out at least peat :)

Thanks for any ideas...


Ardbeg 10 should give you smoke. Laphroaig 10 is perhaps better than the cask strength and should give you phenol. Macallan will give you sherry and the 12 is a great place to start. Aberlour 15 is another great buy for a sherry lover and should give you tastes like toffee/caramel and wedding cake.

Lagavulin 16 is a great whisky but not as obvious to the taste as Ardbeg and Laphroaig because those are bourbon cask matured and Lagavulin 16 has some sherry.

If you tasted Glenlivet 12 and got car battery acid, go to the top of the class.

Bear in mind that some tasting notes are just made up in my view. A whisky writer, I have read, tasted Tamdhu and got all the notes I got plus beeswax. :? Maybe he has tasted beeswax, I certainly haven't.
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Postby jeffk » Fri Nov 04, 2005 3:31 pm

Thanks Gentlemen for the thoughts and ideas.

I feel better now knowing that these are 'acquired tastes' and not something that is immediately obvious.

I will certainly continue to practice and taste different whiskies - to me it's very much like the anticipation of a fine meal prepared by a well-known chef, you know it's going to be good and you know there's going to be many different sensations, you just need to experience it to *know* :)

Thanks again...

Jeff in California
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Nov 04, 2005 4:37 pm

Jeff...here's one other bit of advice. Look around for tasting events at your local retailers and bars...or find a bar that has a good selection of whiskies and see if you can get a "tasting flight". If they know what they're doing, you should be able to get four or five samples from the different regions and learn to recognize the essences from that. That's how I learned what little I know...

Good luck!

Mark
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Sat Nov 05, 2005 10:59 am

Hey Jeff,

Its only normal to not immediately pick up all the aspects of a malt. I dont consider myself an expert (I reckon just the pro blwenders could eb called anything liek that) but I have been 'into whisky' quite a few years now, and I also have problems still from time to time to put my finger on what I am observing ina dram.

More then once it takes me a few drams spread ove rmultiple evening beofre I finally find the correct description for the nose, palate or finish.

Also in the beginning the alcohol might numb your tongue and nose quite a bit. Over time you will get used to the alcohol more, so that becomes less of an issue. Add water to overcome this issue.

A while back I write a little article to help people going. Nothing is set in stone and everyone has their own ways, but it might be helpfull you to get going. You can find it here: http://www.peatfreak.com/art-whisky-nosing-tasting.php

Hope its usefull to you, and welcome in this wonderful world of whisky =D
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Postby jeffk » Sat Nov 05, 2005 4:06 pm

Mark and Jeroen, thank you for the kind words...and help.

I'm feeling better now knowing that I'm not alone and that it will take some time to get to know these drams.

And thanks to peatfreak.com - I got some nice wallpapers from you yesterday - they're beautiful!
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Sat Nov 05, 2005 4:40 pm

My pleasure :)

And always nice to hear people enjoy the website!
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Postby jeffk » Sat Nov 05, 2005 4:42 pm

Very much so, and I just read your article that you pointed me to, and learned a few new things, thank you!
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Postby wilsona » Sun Nov 06, 2005 2:41 am

Hallo, Jeff. I'm new to this, too (my first post!), and I'm having the same experience. I've got:
Bowmore 12
Clynelish 12 (distilled in '84, Signatory bottling, 375 ml, purchased at Park Ave Liquors, NYC)
Glenfiddich 12
Macallan 12
also a set of 6 minis from different places, which I haven't opened

I got the Glenfiddich and the Macallan first, and it took me a few sittings to be able to tell the difference. Now I can tell. The Bowmore, being so peaty, was easy from the start.

Additionally, I'm starting to be able to get specific scents. The fresh fruit in Glenfiddich is starting to come out, a touch of apple in the Clynelish, as well. Peat, to varying degrees. Richer fruit in the Macallan... dried things, like raisins and dates. Toffy, too. The Bowmore? PEAT! SMOKE! ;-)

I went to a tasting at Park Ave Liquors here in NYC yesterday. (Lucky me, having them so close by!) They had some fellows there, I think from Diageo, giving samples from the Classic Malts Distiller's Editions. One of the nice Scottish fellows from Diageo gave me a bit of a lesson... talked to me about each of the 6 different malts they were showing, their characteristics and such. Had me try each of them, then this one and that one right after one another, then this one with and without water. He got me considerably more inebriated than I had expected.

But the point of the story is that I could hardly tell the difference. Part of that was probably because of the less than ideal nosing conditions, but I'm sure it was also due to the fact that I couldn't take the time with them that I could with my own bottles, since I only had small samples. With my bottles here at home, I have dram after dram to notice more and different things.

So, I'm right there with you, Jeff! It was actually a bit of a relief to see your post... phew, I'm not alone!

Cheers,
Andy
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Postby jeffk » Sun Nov 06, 2005 5:33 am

Andy, thanks for chiming in and telling me your story. It really helps to know that others go through the same phases :)

You're lucky to live near a great store...in fact I was just looking at their website today noticing that they've got some fine old vintages there, wish I could get in on some of those tastings!

I wish you the best of luck in finding your way though the water of life :)
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Postby MGillespie » Sun Nov 06, 2005 6:08 pm

Andy:

Are you going to WhiskyFest Wednesday night at the Marriott Marquis...it would be a good chance for you to get some nosing and tasting experience with the experts from the distilleries...

Welcome aboard...

Mark
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Postby wilsona » Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:20 am

By the time I learned of it, it had already sold out. A ticket is/was, what, almost $100? Thinking of paying that much for a single evening would make me very nervous, anyway. :-)

By the time it rolls around next year, I'll definitely be ready.

Andy
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Postby Major Tom » Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:45 am

Another newbie here and same story with nose, palate etc etc. But to be honest, I don't mind as long as I enjoy my drams. It's my tongue, my mouth, my personal taste and my experience so far. If I like what I drink, then I don't care too much, what somebody else has found in the palate or finish. Dramming should IMHO be enjoyment, not sport or hard work.

Of course, I can always pour some Lagavulin to my glass, sniff it and say with sapiential voice: "Hmm, I can smell some peat here... and there's a hint of smoke..."
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby patrick dicaprio » Tue Nov 08, 2005 5:59 pm

jeffk wrote:Hey everyone,

A few months ago I was in Dallas and ate at Fogo de Chao - a wonderful Argentine restaurant. Great food, wonderful service, 10+! Anyhow, after dinner, I had a drink - a Macallan 25. It was beautiful! At that moment I knew I had to enter this new world of Scotch.

Fast forward, I finally got a chance to get to some liquor stores that carry a selection of whiskys and I bought a bottle of Glenlivet 12 and Aberlour 10. I'm now trying to learn to discern the different smells, flavors and finishes that I keep reading about.

I'm having a really hard time picking any of the smells, tastes or anything from either of these drams. I read reviews and they talk about wet wood, cinnamon, smoke, etc. and I can't tell any of these - in fact, I'm having a really hard time telling the difference between this and the Jack #7 I used to drink when I was in my partying years.

I'm taking time, drinking only a small amount, swishing it around in my snifter, trying like hell to get a smell I recognize, or a flavor to come through. I've read every webpage about single malts I can find and yet I feel like I must be an idiot for not being able to pull these flavors and smells out.

What am I doing wrong?

BTW, in the interest of learning, my next trip to the store will bring me some new friends - Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig CS, and Lagavulin 16. I figure with those I HAVE TO be able to pull out at least peat :)

Thanks for any ideas...


forget about the complex descriptions for now. it will take lots of experience to be able to determine these. you should focus on the basics at first. phillip hills book Appreciating Whisky was very good for me in this respect. he has a list (which i dont have handy :( ) of the basic aromas and whether ther are easy or diffcult to detect. just drink as many different ones as you can for ENJOYMENT and try to make notes and eventually you will getthere. good luck!

Pat
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Nov 08, 2005 6:14 pm

:shock: MT, most of us can pick up "some peat" and "a hint of smoke" from a Lagavulin with cotton stuffed in our nostrils, from two blocks away! :P
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Postby MGillespie » Tue Nov 08, 2005 6:37 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote::shock: MT, most of us can pick up "some peat" and "a hint of smoke" from a Lagavulin with cotton stuffed in our nostrils, from two blocks away! :P


And with sinus congestion!

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Postby BruceCrichton » Tue Nov 08, 2005 6:42 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote::shock: MT, most of us can pick up "some peat" and "a hint of smoke" from a Lagavulin with cotton stuffed in our nostrils, from two blocks away! :P


I like Lagavulin. It makes a great aperitif. 8)
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Postby Major Tom » Tue Nov 08, 2005 6:44 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote::shock: MT, most of us can pick up "some peat" and "a hint of smoke" from a Lagavulin with cotton stuffed in our nostrils, from two blocks away! :P


No doubt.
I mean, it's a emergency case. At least two thing, that you can allways find.
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Postby JimHall » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:42 pm

So many newbies.... welcome to you all.

If you have nt done so then look at the nosing course and study the wheel onn this website.. link form home page. i found that very useful and gives you some good information in the notes.
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Postby Matt2 » Thu Nov 10, 2005 5:57 pm

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Postby jeffk » Thu Nov 10, 2005 6:13 pm



Very nice, thank you!
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Postby JimHall » Fri Nov 11, 2005 10:52 am



well done matt

I should have done that......only it would have taken me all day to work out how to.

on the subject matt i had to covert the wheel into a table as I couldnt get it to print onto one page of A4.
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Postby bjorn » Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:11 am

I've found that tasting various whiskies side by side every night (maybe 2 or 3 per night) and slightly watering them really helps to show the differences between them. Then, by recognizing that there are these specific differences, try to figure out what they are. Maybe you can't put words to it the first night, but try a different pairing the next night and so on. I found that method helped me greatly when I was trying to put it into words. Making tasting notes really help too, even if they come out very vague at first.

-bjorn
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby Kernow » Sun Sep 21, 2008 12:12 am

Was just feeling down as there a live tasting going on tonight, that im following with intrest, but at the same time thinking these guys so far ahead of me will never have the confidence to join in.

This thread has at least given me some hope :) thought it was just me not picking loads up.
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby Muskrat Portage » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:09 pm

Kernow:
I just took a look back through this thread and no one mentioned simply training your nose. The tasting course is useful but you need the basic tools to start with.

Unless you suffer from "anosmia", an inability to differentiate odours, you can simply train your nose to pick up some of the more general scents.

Vanilla: Open a bottle of vanilla extract and take a sniff, from about 4 inches above the mouth. That's the scent you'll get.

Iodine: If you are close to the sea, a piece of kelp will impart the odour as well a bottle of iodine, sniffed from a distance of 4-5 inches will do. Think the smell of hospital wards.

Fruity notes: Cut into a fresh apple, peel an orange, peel a banana for some of the varieties you'll find.

Spices: Nose fresh sticks of cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, even sample a cinnamon heart to get both the spicy taste and heat in the finish.

Vegetative: Grab a handfull of clover, that's one of the scents you'll find. Walk past a fresh mown field of hay and inhale deeply. A bit of peat from a peat bog will also give another aspect of vegetation scent.

Peppery: Gently sniff at some fresh ground pepper, not too much or you'll sneeze and taste some just a bit to impart the hot peppery finish to your tastebuds. As well, I can't recommend enough, your doing some cooking and learning the scents of the various foods and spices you can use on a daily basis.

Remember when you are initiating your nose to these scents, too also inhale through the mouth so that all your sensory receptors are learning. Finally, take some whisky, say a Balvenie nose it, then smell the vanilla and eureka!, you have made a connection.

To further educate your olfactory organs, read other people's notes on whisky they've tried. Then, pour a sample yourself nose and taste it. If they smell and taste clover, iodine, honey notes compare your sample to the corresponding vegetative/food samples.

Hope this is of assistance in your personal exploration of Single Malts.

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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby Kernow » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:22 pm

Yeah thanks for the advice Muskrat, will hopefully have some Ardbeg for the next live tasting see if i can get the same nose you all smelling :thumbsup:
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby Muskrat Portage » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:25 pm

Kernow wrote:Yeah thanks for the advice Muskrat, will hopefully have some Ardbeg for the next live tasting see if i can get the same nose you all smelling :thumbsup:
Kernow:
In time you will, just keep on enjoying and nosing. It will come and who knows, you may very well end up making notes the rest of us will be envous of.

Musky
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby Willie JJ » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:49 pm

Kernow wrote:Was just feeling down as there a live tasting going on tonight, that im following with intrest, but at the same time thinking these guys so far ahead of me will never have the confidence to join in.

This thread has at least given me some hope :) thought it was just me not picking loads up.

That's great advice from Musky, but can I just say that you shouldn't be worried about voicing your thoughts on a dram. We aren't trying to get all esoteric and scientific on these tastings, (although we may try). That's impossible. Look at the notes that we put up and you'll find that different people find completely different things in a dram. If you want more convincing evidence then go to the whiskies section of this site and look at the notes of the professional tasters. Whether its Dave and Martine, or Dave and Dominic, or Dominic and Arthur, or any other combination of tasters you will find limited evidence that they are able to pick out the same specific odours and flavours in the dram they are tasting. People just sense things differently.

What a tasting note does for me is to provide a picture of how a person is enjoying their dram and to help give me ideas of what I am sensing myself. It might also help me to decide whether or not I would consider buying the whisky in the first place.

Please do come and join us for the Ardbeg tasting. There is no right or wrong; only what you sense yourself. It is other peoples comments on a dram that really help me to find new things in it that I hadn't sensed before and I'm sure everyone else feels the same. So come along and help us out. The more there are the better it is.

Cheers
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby Muskrat Portage » Mon Sep 22, 2008 3:08 pm

Ardbeg would be a great start, with the Islay character simply oozing out of the dram. It's not for the timid, but once you've tried it, you'll always want to have one in your collection.

And Willie will be there at the tasting 'til the coows come hame, so you can always PM him with a side query during the tasting. If I can make it, feel free to click on the PM button on my posting and start keyboarding your question, then hit send. It will show up on my screen right away.

On a side note, when I'm doing an online tasting, I open a second window expressly for dealing with PMs as they come in. Just click on file, select "open a new window" and leave it on Board Index or Messages. "Minimize" the new window, then after you've posted a comment, if you see "You have 1 new message", "Maximize" the window, take a quick look in messages and respond. Then minimize and you're back to the thread.

There are usually two conversations going on at an online tasting, the thread and then the PMs, except in the case of Ganga and Mikeymad who also use the 'phone on top of the other two. I'm surprised they aren't using "Skype"!

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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby Ryguy » Mon Sep 22, 2008 3:25 pm

Kernow,

Both Muskrat and Willie have given some excellent advice here! And I'm going to second what they have said, there is no right or wrong when it comes to a tasting note. Plus, it can be as simple, or as extravagant as you'd like. If you're uncomfortable posting notes, don't even worry about it, just join in the tasting with us and read along the notes being posted as you're enjoying a dram.

Ardbe is next up, I hope to see you there!!
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Re: Newby having trouble with nose, finish, etc.

Postby LeoDLion » Mon Sep 22, 2008 10:22 pm

My taste buds are getting worn out and my nose too. Most of the time, I do not smell nor taste what those tasting notes says I should. But it does not bother me. I know when I like a single malt, I know when its young, I know when its rich and complex and that seems to be enough for me. I do not concentrate when I sip. I just savor it and take in the whole experience, not separating it into individual distinct categories but as a whole in itself.
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