Gin fit for a Queen (and a Prince!)

You may or not be a fan of The Crown, the latest must see hit mini-series from Netflix. We already know that the Queen is a big gin fan. According to inside reports, Her Maj is partial to a little sharpener of gin and dubonnet before lunch. Her eldest son, Prince Charles on the other hand is more of a G&T lover. In fact, royal insiders confirm that whenever the Prince goes on a royal tour, he takes his own booze with him. According to royal security reports, it’s bottles of gin for Charles and red wine for Camilla. While this might be seen as a touching gesture of frugality from a wealthy Prince, in fact it’s a security protocol to make sure that their drinks aren’t spiked.

Either way, this year saw a royal double. Both the Queen and Prince Charles joined the boutique/craft gin revolution. Each of them separately released their own branded gins, made from ingredients mainly sourced from their gardens. The Queen’s brew is called Buckingham Palace Gin and the Prince’s brand is called Highgrove gin. All ingredients have been sourced directly from his organic kitchen garden.

So, in the battle of the royals, who has the best gin?

Buckingham Palace gin: 42% ABV

This delicious spirit comes in an absolutely gorgeous bottle that would look good on anybody’s drinks trolley. The delicately angled and beautifully decorated bottle is made out of turquoise glass and features a golden wreath on the front, intertwined with a pretty array of wildflowers. Presumably, these are some of the 250 different types that are said to grow in her 16 hectare central London back garden. Most of the time, we only get to see it during garden parties and royal celebrations, but apparently in addition to all those flowers, there are also around 250 species of birds to keep the singing going all year round. Turn the bottle around and the flower theme continues on the back side, framing a beautiful engraved perspective of the Buckingham Palace facade. Enough to make the spirits of any true royal fan soar!

Many of the botanicals in the Queen’s gin have been directly sourced from the Palace gardens including lemon, verbena, hawthorn berries and mulberry leaves. The result is a delicious gin with prominent citrus and herbal top notes to balance the strong juniper base. The good news is that it will be served at royal engagements throughout the year, so get yourself on the guest list now. When it was first launched earlier this year, it sold out online within 8 hours, but it’s back and available for around £40 per bottle (2 bottle minimum). All profits from Buckingham Palace gin will go directly to The Royal Collection Trust which helps to fund the care and conservation of the Royal Collection. We’re not sure how involved the Queen was in developing the gin, but we’re sure she’ll love it with a little dubonnet and ice.

Highgrove Organic London Dry Gin: 40% ABV

Not to be outdone, her eldest son has also created his own brand Highgrove Organic Botanic London Dry gin. It comes in a plainer, less glamorous bottle than his mother’s gin featuring a simple white label crowned with the Prince’s royal symbol, the fleurs de lys. Prince Charles has long been an advocate for sustainable living and all of the botanicals in his gin have been grown in the Prince of Wales’ own kitchen garden at Highgrove, in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside. They include lavender, sage and thyme, delivering a distinctive taste and flavour profile.

While juniper and citrus are the flavours that predominate here, the lemon verbena, thyme and rosemary come through on the top notes to create a delightfully tasting, elegant London Dry gin . The gin has been distilled for the Prince by master distiller Cory Mason who wanted to create a gin with the herbal notes of a traditional English garden. The result is a delicious, versatile gin suitable for any occasion – royal or not. All proceeds from the sales of Highgrove gin go to support the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund to develop meaningful projects in the areas of education, the environment, social inclusion health and wellbeing.

And the winner is…

We really couldn’t call this one (and we didn’t want to upset the royals) so to avoid a diplomatic incident, we’ve called it a draw. On looks and style, Buckingham Palace has the edge for sure, but it’s a little more expensive than the Prince’s version. But on taste, complexity, authenticity and price, Highgrove wins. However, don’t take our word for it, get a bottle of each and try them next to each other while watching The Crown. And let us know which one works best for you.

The Monkey Gland: 1920s Viagra in a classic cocktail

We seem to have developed a bit of a monkey theme this week.  So in that spirit, here’s the bizarre story behind one of the world’s most famous gin cocktails – the Monkey Gland. 

This classic cocktail was first mixed up at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.   Let’s take a step back in time to the 1920s, when legendary bartender Harry MacElhone was starting to build a reputation for himself in the heart of Paris.  He was well known for mixing up fabulous American style cocktails for his glamorous roster of international clients.  In 1922, in a clever marketing move, he thought he’d collect his best recipes and publish them in a book of cocktails which he called “Harry’s ABC of mixing cocktails”.  The book contained one particular drink with a strange name and a bizarre story. 

Building the legend

The art of cocktail making isn’t simply about mixing the right ingredients, there is also the little matter of building a reputation.  Harry knew that and concocted a wickedly strong cocktail by mixing classic London Dry gin with a little orange juice and a few dashes of Grenadine. To top it off, he added the final detail – 3 dashes of high strength Absinthe to guarantee an out of this world experience.  He mixed it all up, shook it with ice and poured it into a Martini glass. It was delicious, but he knew he had to have a name for it if he was to create a classic cocktail.  He called it the Monkey Gland – and he took inspiration from a bizarre source. 

Monkey glands, Viagra and a Russian scientist

In those pre-Viagra days, a Russian scientist called Serge Voronoff was experimenting with ways of maintaining men’s “staying power” and he hit on a very strange technique.  He grafted monkey glands onto men in a bid to boost their virility.  While this was a bit extreme (and there is no evidence that this technique actually worked) Harry was inspired.  He knew that sex sells, so in honour of Prof. Voronoff, he decided to name his new drink “The Monkey Gland” with all the promises and hope that a stimulating drink like this brings to men of a certain age. 

It has been a bartender’s classic ever since.  While we can’t vouch for the medical benefits of this drink, we can highly recommend it for its flavour and strength. For the prefect pour, we recommend making it with a good, classic London Dry such as Sipsmith [paid link].

Handle with care

Beware of the Absinthe – it’s not to everyone’s taste, but it packs a real alcoholic punch, so handle with care.

Bottoms up!

Here’s our classic recipe for a traditional Monkey Gland:

Ingredients:

  • 3 dashes of absinthe
  • 3 dashes of Grenadine
  • ⅓ orange juice
  • ⅔ London Dry gin

Method:

Shake well (over ice) and stir into cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice or a twist of burnt orange peel for a little extra flavour. Enjoy!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.

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A hand introducing coins in a piggy bank

5 of the most expensive gins in the world

Gin comes in all shapes and sizes and these days, there’s something for everyone, whatever your budget. Most of us think that £40 for a bottle of gin is an extravagance. But, as the demand for gin grows and the craft gin revolution uncovers new markets, new techniques and new flavours, there is a new breed of gin appearing, aimed squarely at the super high end of the market. These gins are a bit more “bling” than our normal tipples.

So, here’s a brief look at some of these new, high-end gin brands. Do you reckon any of these might make it into your Christmas stocking this year?

5. Anty Gin

The folks at Anty Gin make this with the essence of “approximately” 62 red wood ants. It also features a selection of hand-picked botanicals including juniper and nettles. The  result: a citrusy, surprising and very expensive gin which will amaze your friends. 42% ABV, RRP: 225 euros. 

4. Grand Cru Gin

If you like fine wine, then Grand Cru gin is for you. Made with 50% Grand Cru Burgundy wine, blended with 50% gin, this little baby has been infused with raspberry, strawberry, black truffle rose and violet for an extraordinary complex and rich flavour. It comes in a fancy presentation box and it’s a perfect gift for you if you want to impress someone you like a lot. Or, alternatively, just drink it yourself. Up to you! ABV 47%; RRP: £495.

Two different Grand Cru Gin bottles next to a box

3. Nolet’s Reserve Dry Gin

This Dutch distillery has been in the same family for 10 generations, so by now they’ve probably got the secret of gin-making down to a fine art. Let’s hope so, since this prestigious gin carries a hefty price tag. And here’s why: it features two of the most expensive ingredients on earth – spicy saffron and elegant verbena – giving it a unique and distinctive flavour with a savoury dryness and a long finish. Nolet’s Reserve Dry Gin bottle can also be hand engraved 52.3% ABV, RRP : 650 euros.

2. Watenshi “Japanese Angel” Gin

Another gin from the Cambridge Distillery, who make this in batches of only 6 bottles. Watenshi Gin features an intensive distilling process that only yields 15ml of spirit per distillation. The result – an intensely exotic gin with notes of sweet citrus and spice. There’s also plenty of juniper leading to a long, complex and intensely satisfying finish. This beautiful concoction is then poured into a hand blown decanter bottle and finished off with silver pieces by jeweller Antoine Sandoz. 45% ABV, RRP: 2250 euros

. Watenshi Gin Beautiful round white bottle

1. Morus LXIV

From UK’s Jamjar Gin team, Morus LXIV  takes more than two years to produce and is made from the leaves of a single, ancient Mulberry tree. Once harvested, the guys at Jamjar dry the leaves before adding them to a selection of generations old botanicals grown in soil nourished by an ancient underground stream. The team then decant the distilled gin into hand made porcelain jars, encased in a beautifully finished leather hide. 64% ABV, RRP: 4495 euros.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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a little monkey sitting in the forest looking at the camera

The Monkey’s Tale: the legend behind the gin

You might have seen our recent post about one of our favourite gins, the deliciously complex Monkey 47, made deep in the heart of the Black Forest.

Every great gin should have a great story behind it, but even by most normal standards, this one stands out. Bizarrely, it involves an RAF pilot, a wild monkey, a watchmaking business and a German distiller.

So what could possibly connect these things and what brought them together in the depths of the Black Forest to create this legendary gin?

The RAF pilot and a monkey called Max

After WW2 had ended, a certain RAF pilot with the very British name of Wing Commander Montgomery Collins moved from the UK to the Black Forest to set up a small watchmaking business.

But when his patience ran out with the intricacies of mechanical timepieces, he switched his attention to running a small guest house, which he named “The Wild Monkey”. According to local legend, it was named after a monkey called Max that he had adopted from Berlin Zoo.

Montgomery kept himself busy running the guest house, but he filled his spare time by making distilled fruit spirits. Inevitably, soon he graduated to gin.

Nobody knows exactly what happened to Wing Commander Collins, but his legacy lives on. Wherever he may have ended up, he left behind a case of gin labelled “Max the Monkey – Black Forest Dry Gin”.

In 2007 a local German distiller called Alexander Stein stumbled across the gin. Stein was intrigued. He tasted it and he recognised a good recipe when he saw one. He spent much of the next couple of years foraging for the ingredients and trying out and testing the ratios. Monkey 47 (paid link) was eventually launched in its distinctive squat, dark bottle with its stunning postage stamp label and an initial run of 2000 bottles.

47: the magic number

Within a year, this intriguing gin had won “Best In Class” at the International Wine and Spirits Championships in San Francisco. The rest, as they say, is history.

Monkey 47 is now one of the most respected gin brands in the world and a prominent feature of any decent bartender’s gin collection.

This complex, beautifully blended and packaged gin has carved out a big space for itself, partly because of the 47 unique botanicals (many locally sourced from the Black Forest) that make it so intriguing. It is also a hefty 47% ABV, so it packs a true punch. For a full review of this delicious gin, check out our recent article, Monkey 47: complex and packed with flavour

Each distinctive brown bottle recreates the old chemist bottles that gin was served from in its earliest days. It also features a postage stamp of Max the Monkey on its unique label, in tribute to the creature from the forest that inspired a gin.

Top tip: always keep a bottle of this in reserve for your special guests. They will love it.

Prost!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Batterd scampi served with mayonnaise

Prawn scampi: made with gin!

Some things are made for each other. Let’s face it, where would gin be without tonic?

Where would fish be without chips? Where would salt be without pepper?

But what if we could have the best of all worlds and use our favourite drink to make one of our favourite dishes. As the current gin boom continues unabated, our drink of choice is appearing in more and more popular recipes – some expected and some not.

Over the years, we’ve tried gin ice cream and gin cheesecake. We’ve nibbled on gin After Eight mints and eaten lashings of gin curry. We’ve had lemon tart with gin, gin pasta and even gin milkshakes.

But this is a new one for us – prawns in gin and tonic batter.

Once again, our dear friend gin plays a starring role in the delightfully light and crispy batter that make these prawns so crisp and crunchy. Plus, we share our recipe for a delicate lemon mayonnaise which perfectly complements the crispy gin and tonic batter and juicy prawns, This is one you might want to try at home. It’s easy to make and absolutely delicious.

This recipe will serve two people comfortably. We’ll leave the chips to you.

Prawn scampi in gin and tonic batter (with lemon mayonnaise)

Ingredients:

300g of raw prawns, shelled and de-veined

200g plain flour

75 ml gin

100 ml tonic

1 pinch of salt

Vegetable oil

For the lemon mayo:

2 egg yolks

1 tbspn Dijon mustard

300ml veg oil

Salt and pepper

1/2 lemon (juice only)

Garnish:

Coriander leaves

Sliced red chilli

Lime wedges

Method:

Pre-heat the fryer to 190c.

Whisk together the flour, gin, tonic and slat. Dip each prawn in the batter and fry for 1 minute.

Drain onto kitchen paper and season with salt.

Whisk together the egg yolks and mustard, slowly add the oil and then add the lemon juice.

To serve:

Place the prawns on a serving plate and drizzle over the lemon mayo.

Sprinkle over the coriander and chilli then dot with lime wedges.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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A woman in a relaxing Spa room with a glass in her hand

Glasgow’s Gin Spa: the ultimate indulgence

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we came across Glasgow’s amazing Gin Spa. We’ve seen gin bars, gin buses, gin cruises and gin hotels. But this is the first time that we’ve ever seen a Gin spa – and we want to book now. If you’re into massage and are partial to a G&T, then this stylish, gin-themed Scottish spa could be the place for you. Situated in glamorous surroundings right in the heart of Glasgow, this is a gin lovers dream.

Massage – with a twist.

As luxurious and professional as any other upmarket spa, this one has built its proposition squarely around the subject of gin. So, while all the usual treatments are in place – reflexology massages, couples massages, facials and the rest, this spa has a gin twist. You can indulge in amazing massages and treatments, before rounding off your experience with botanically infused chocolate. And as if it couldn’t get any better, the final indulgence is a beautifully crafted G&T.

What makes this spa different?

Anybody can add a G&T menu to a spa menu, so what makes this place different? Well, as far as we’re aware, this is the first ever gin inspired day spa. It taps into their intricate knowledge of botanicals to deliver a spa experience like no other. They provide exceptional massages and top levels of service to ensure that you have an experience you’ll never forget. Plus, their partner deals are great.

Botanical massage – yes, please.

You’re treated to an arrival tea before getting down to business. In the relaxing and soothing environment of the spa, you get to choose botanical based aromatherapy treatments. At this time, your consultant offers you inspiration cards to pick from which will help determine the course of your treatment. While sipping on a fragrant herbal tea, you can then discuss the full range of treatments, massages, facials and pedicures with your therapist before deciding on the one for you.

Anyone for tea?

The selections are comprehensive and many of them include afternoon tea with a glass of Prosecco as well as a tailor made gin and tonic – of course. They also have packages that pair their treatments with 5 course tasting menus at their partner restaurant Gin 71. Some of their gin highlights include juniper soaked foot baths and botanically infused aromatherapy oils – what’s not to like?

So, if you’re looking for the ultimate in gindulgence, look no further. Just head to Scotland’s Gin Spa and they’ll look after you in the way you like best.

www.ginspa.co.uk


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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A picture of the front door of Bobby Gin cocktail bar in Barcelona

Bobby Gin: a true Barcelona classic

Hopefully, one of these days this darned Coronavirus will leave us alone. And when we no longer live in fear of new pandemic outbreaks or unexpected travel restrictions, where should we go?

We think Barcelona should be top of the list for your next short gin break. 

Barcelona kicked off the reinvention of the gin scene back in the 2010s. It has quietly led the way ever since with a plethora of G&T combos to taste and innovations galore.  With gorgeous roof terraces to sip your gin on and a massive selection of exotic gins, gin bars and cocktails to enjoy one thing is for sure. Gin is in. 

Barcelona’s gins are always served large and made with loads of love. So, if (post-Covid) you want to escape to a happy gin place for a few days, then Barcelona is definitely the place for you. 

80 gins, bespoke cocktails (and tonics galore!)

Leading the charge since the early days is the pioneering gin bar Bobby Gin. This little bar is located on a side street in Barcelona’s bohemian Gracia barrio.  It is a true Barcelona classic. Bobby Gin’s was at the forefront of the Barcelona gin revolution. It is a tribute to the vision and skills of head bartender, Alberto Pizzaro, who is one of the best (and most respected) bartenders on the current Spanish gin scene.

This stylish and cool gin bar might be small but it features a massive gin collection. In fact, the menu lists well over 80 separate gins. Alberto has also created a further 11 gin based cocktails, especially for his customers. And of course, he stocks a bewildering collection of tonics to pour into those gins. Each of them adds a unique flavour edge to enhance and improve your gin’s character.  If in doubt, just ask – the bartender will recommend the perfect pour. 

God Save the Gin! (Fonk)

But the real star of the show here (and its most famous innovation) is Bobby Gin’s Gin Fonk – a delightfully easy to drink gin concoction that comes in 5 deliciously different varieties. 

So, what exactly is a Gin Fonk? It’s a new and refreshing way to drink your gin, invented right here in this bar – and it’s absolutely delicious! The bartending team smoke, age, infuse, macerate or flavour their chosen base gins with plants, flowers, fruits or spices. The secret is in the preparation and Bobby Gin has 5 different versions available right now.  My particular favourite is the Roku Gin Fonk with its light citrus and herbal notes.

They’ve infused a base of Roku gin with Oolong tea, Umeshu, lemon juice and topped it up with Schweppes Matcha tonic.  Sipped slowly, with loads of ice from a large copa glas, this is a gin drink to be savoured at any time of year. And don’t be deceived by its light, citrus taste. These ginfonks can be deceptively strong. And no stress. If a Gin Fonk’s not your thing, at Bobby Gin’s you have another 80 gins to choose from!

Retro vibe, modern drinks, fun people

So, what about the bar itself? Bobby Gin’s has a kind of retro, 1960s living room feel, with witty gin slogans decorating the tastefully wallpapered walls and funky coasters featuring their critical mission: “God Save the Gin”. They’re open until 2.00am (subject to the latest Covid restrictions) and they also do great bar food. They have everything from guacamole to nachos and from mini-burgers to pulled pork sandwiches. Plus a wider range of well cooked snacks and tasty and affordable street food.  

Bartenders cheerfully mix all the drinks individually with love and care (and extreme professionalism). Snacks start from as little as 4 euros. And while the Gin Fonks weigh in at between 10-12 euros each, they are made with exquisite care. The cocktails are delicious and they are deceptively strong. So, who drinks at Bobby Gin’? Well, it is a mixed crowd with just the right amount of casual style. At the front of the bar, it’s a bit younger with drinkers in their 20s and upwards. Around the back, it’s a bit quieter with a slightly older crowd mostly in their 30s to 40s. The vibe is casual and funky. The soundtrack to Bobby Gin seems to be a mix of rock, jazz and underground music. But the real star of the show is undoubtedly the gin.

Bobby Gin

Carrer de Francisco Giner, 47, 08012, Barcelona


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


RECENT POSTS

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Spirit in the Sky: EasyJet and Fever-Tree team up with “premium gin bar” at 30,000 feet

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin the news | 0

Last month, I found myself on an EasyJet flight to London. I’d paid a few quid extra for some for a front row seat and was dreaming of my first gin and tonic as the cabin crew prepared their service. The nice flight attendant duly came to take my order and I asked what gin they had.

What happened next took me by surprise. “Which gin would you like, sir. I’ll bring you the gin menu”.

Gin menu? On EasyJet? I kid you not!

I was presented with a beautifully produced, well-designed, glossy bar menu featuring high class photos of their in-flight gin selection which included: Bombay Sapphire, Bloom, Hendricks and The Botanist (paid links). All 50 ml bottles. All paired with specially selected Fever Tree tonics. And all priced under 9 euros (including the tonic).

Now I know this isn’t cheap – but it is fun.

They even had a small section devoted to vodka and whiskey (but that’s for another blog!)

So, back to the gin.

I was thirsty, so I ordered two – Bloom and The Botanist.

According to their menu, The Botanist is: a “small batch Islay Dry gin, made with 22 hand-picked local botanicals, paired best with Fever Tree naturally light tonic”.

Despite the plastic airline glass, it tasted delicious – dry and fragrant and the lightness of the Fever Tree tonic gave it just the right amount of zest, while allowing the complex flavours from the botanicals to shine through on the palette. It worked a treat, so I thought I’d break out the second one.

This time, I ordered Bloom, described by EasyJet as: “refreshingly light and delicate, enriched with honeysuckle, chamomile and pomelo, paired best with Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic”.

This was a triumphant combination. The fruity notes from the gin were enhanced and enlivened by the subtle notes of elderflower from the tonic water, making it refreshingly easy to drink and the perfect accompaniment for my short journey between Barcelona and London.

Hats off to EasyJet and Fever-Tree for this aerial tribute to gin! – and for elevating my humble budget airline seat into a true luxury experience.

Who needs a business class seat with a budget bar service like that!!

 


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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5 beautiful gin bottles

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin the news | 0

We all know that gin is a thing of beauty, but beauty exists not only on the inside but the outside too.

Packaging is increasingly important as the gin revolution gathers pace, so here are our top 5 gins that both look good and taste good.

Let us know what you think are the most beautiful bottles out there and send us some pictures.

Here’s our personal top 5.

1. Silent Pool gin

A  true work of art, it reflects the colours of the legendary pool itself, nestled in the Surrey Hills in the south of England.

A pale blue wash on the bottle and a stunningly embossed exterior etched with bronze Autumn leaves (like the pool itself), it’s a real stunner. Plus, they do beautiful copa glasses to match!


2. GINRAW

As befits a city with Barcelona’s design heritage, this bottle breaks the rules with its elegant shape, subtly frosted exterior, hand-made ash wood stopper and aluminium ring to top it all.

This is a modern design classic and will stand out on any gin bar.


3. Opihr 

A bulbous, squat, rounded bottle with a richly coloured exterior with gold and purple and a gold cord around the top, there’s something “fez like” about this presentation.

Eye-catching, exotic and bold, it makes a statement, and that statement is “drink me”.


4. Beefeater 24

Its confident straight lines, heavy glass base and big blob of red glass anchoring its bottom, this is a gin bottle that looks stunning.

With a little light shining from behind and that red blob, it always reminds me of a lava lamp from the 60s.

A bottle fit for a cocktail bar (and a great gin as well).


5. Saffron 

A classic French bottle that feels like it’s been made for an 18th century pharmacy.

But the real star of the show is the golden orange saffron colour of the gin itself. Liquid gold, this one lets the gin do all the talking.


What’s the prettiest bottle of gin you ever saw?

Drop us a line or even better, post a photo in Instagram tagging @barcelonagincommunity and mentioning #myfavouriteginbottle.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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