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Should a blanche get a 4 or 5 for color?


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#91 OMG_Bill

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 07:32 PM

Dead leaf to me is not really a bad thing in several cases. The problem with dead lead is when it detracts from the flavor and other qualities. I may grade it a notch lower due to it turning brown so quick but as I understand it.....the coloration step varies. Read DP's post above. Unless you have a huge bale of coloring material that is from the same time, place and harvested on a full moon.....there will be variations. Even if it did come from the perfect place, storage may contribute to variances.

I've seen dead leaf absinthes almost come back to life with addition of water. Amazing stuff this absinthe. The more I read about it, the more I need to learn. From the members here that have gone CO, I've learned quite a bit. The main thing is that nothing natural is guaranteed perfect everytime.

If coloration is done with snowflakes it would be different even though it's snow and all snow is different. There are just no two things identical in nature. Sure they can be very close but dang, expecting each bottle to be exactly like the last you had three years ago.....preposterous.

As for a blanche, I've seen some that looked perfect(?) but let them set a year and see if there may be some ever so slight sediment. It could happen......couldn't it? Honestly I wouldn't know a perfect blanche. I may have graded something a 5 but in my honest opinion......unless it's without fault (walks on water) then it may not deserve a 5.

A very good verte in my opinion may not get but a three from someone else. So the reviews get averaged to eliminate highs and lows to come up with a good number.

In the overall section you can make up for or explain why you gave some part of the review a certain number. I do better when I have company and we discuss the drink. Maybe our reviews are the same and maybe not but each person is tasting something the other person is not tasting.

I feel I can pickout one or two things in each drink. I'm no pro but if you follow the directions, they will guide you. If you've ever set on a jury in a court room, you can understand. You have to see things from all sides.

I apologize for the rant/rambling but gosh, each person can grade a drink as it suits them if it goes by the standards set forth. easy to read but interpretation sometimes gets in the way. Besides, you can always comeback and amend a review if it changes over the time you have it. Make a note though.

Ok, back to whatever you were doing.
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#92 peridot

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 07:51 PM

Unless you have a huge bale of coloring material that is from the same time, place and harvested on a full moon.....there will be variations...

If coloration is done with snowflakes it would be different even though it's snow and all snow is different. There are just no two things identical in nature. Sure they can be very close but dang, expecting each bottle to be exactly like the last you had three years ago.....preposterous...

As for a blanche, I've seen some that looked perfect(?) but let them set a year and see if there may be some ever so slight sediment. It could happen......couldn't it?

The approach I take is not to try to review the brand as a whole, but this one glass. And having many people reviewing it will help take care of variations. Another reason I don't like the Editor's Review: it can't average out the batch/ storage/ preparation differences, etc.

I've done reviews and found later that I disagreed with what I had previously written at key points. I've considered revising them but haven't actually done it. My review of Lucid is the one most divergent from my current thoughts.

I usually rate dead leaf in a young absinthe at a 4. It's still pretty, still natural, but if it has been stored properly it shouldn't have changed that quickly. It's not so much a defect as an imperfection in my eyes. I gave a 5 to Belle Amie when I don't think I should have. If it's an absinthe I haven't properly stored or an old one, then that is a rare point where I'll consider things beyond narrow view of the glass in front of me because that's a known issue from after it left the distillery.

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#93 Ron

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 10:16 PM

So the reviews get averaged to eliminate highs and lows to come up with a good number.

Agreed. And I'm positive that's why Brian has always begged for reviews from everyone. The more feedback for each label, the more the average score for that label is solidified. THAT is a great equalizer, and helps people who casually drop in to read a review before they buy.

I usually rate dead leaf in a young absinthe at a 4. It's still pretty, still natural, but if it has been stored properly it shouldn't have changed that quickly.

I feel exactly the same way. It may not be entirely fair, because it may have looked exquisite when it left the distillery. But as the consumer, if it looks like whisky by the time it gets into my hands, I'm disappointed. I commonly ask myself, "verte means green, right?"

Vieux Carre is one example of that, in my opinion. My bottle is more brown than green, and has a ton of sediment in it. It tastes nifty, but the color is not what I would expect for a verte. Especially a young one.
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#94 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 29 December 2009 - 07:34 PM

Yeah, just what you all need is another cook in the kitchen, but I think this post is worth considering. I think the point is that that which at first appears to be absolutely correct or flawless, may not be. We should all employ every due diligence to be sure, or adequately explain our deviation.
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#95 tayker

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 09:00 AM

Yeah, just what you all need is another cook in the kitchen, but I think this post is worth considering. I think the point is that that which at first appears to be absolutely correct or flawless, may not be. We should all employ every due diligence to be sure, or adequately explain our deviation.

I think you linking to this post is brillliant:

I think it should stay as is. The blanche/verte clarity/color issue was something I gave a lot of thought to when tweaking the system. With either one, it's the visual appearance that's being evaluated by this criteria; if it truly looks perfect, it should get a five, IMHO.

The clarity or brilliance of a blanche shouldn't be taken for granted. Most people don't know that absinthe doesn't always come out of the still perfectly clear; it doesn't just automatically be brilliant and white. We've seen blanches that are bright and clear, yet have a tint of color. It's also possible to get a haze that could easily go undetected in a verte.

I think rather than change the system, it may be more productive to inform people of the errors that can happen in a blanche's appearance.

Hold it up to the light next to a similar sample of distilled water. Is it really clear or does it have a haze? Put the samples in a deep, slender vessel and look down at them over a piece of white paper. Is the blanche truly colorless? Etc.

If you're going to score something as perfect, you should take measures to make sure it really is.


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#96 Brian Robinson

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 09:05 AM

The last sentence being extremely important.
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#97 tayker

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 09:11 AM

I like this one the most:

"The clarity or brilliance of a blanche shouldn't be taken for granted. Most people don't know that absinthe doesn't always come out of the still perfectly clear; it doesn't just automatically be brilliant and white. We've seen blanches that are bright and clear, yet have a tint of color. It's also possible to get a haze that could easily go undetected in a verte."
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#98 Brian Robinson

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 09:13 AM

For those reading this thread, I'm going to split the 'Review Editor' discussion right now, since I think there are two distinct, yet equally interesting discussions going on at the same time.

Review Editor discussion moved HERE.
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#99 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 01:59 PM

I think you linking to this post is brillliant:


First time I've been accused of being brilliant this, this, this....lifetime!

But seriously, your point, and subsequent responses, bring me to a realization that a very potentially informative and educational thread, or series of threads, would be to get the real experts (mostly distillers) together, restrict the conversation to only them, and let them discuss the issues of each component of our rating system. The conversation should include desired and undesired characteristics in each rating area, and the ways and techniques to identify them.

After writing, well, too many reviews, I read this post from a knowledgeable member, and learned that the entertainment value of getting to the louche should not be considered. Makes me feel a little stupaad concerning my comments on louche action in all my reviews (not an uncommon comment in reviews on this site). And yet, one could be led to do so by the guideline criteria, that states;

The "louche" is the swirling, clouding effect which occurs when water is added to absinthe. It should be rich, but translucent, so that light passes though the bottom, more narrow part of the glass, giving warm amber highlights with shots of blue and green. This is the origin of the legendary "opalescence" of absinthe and indicates a healthy but restrained quantity of anise and other oil-rich botanicals in the recipe.

The louche should not be chalky or flat, not too thick and milky, but contain interesting refractory effects. Nor should it be so thin as to be nearly transparent. An overly thick louche portends a taste which is too heavy on the anise and tongue-numbing, while a thin one will lack richness and flavor. Be sure not to over-water or under-water your drink. We recommend a ratio of four or five parts water to one part absinthe for tasting purposes.


Great description, however, if Mr. Stone is right, it should say; The "louche" is the final clouded effect which occurs when water...

And add that any entertainment, along the way, is purely that... entertainment, and should not be considered in the louche rating.



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#100 peridot

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 02:33 PM

I've made the same mistake in the past in regards to louche action, which started being ingrained in my approach when I first began doing reviews. It's a difficult habit to break, because under the exact same conditions (outside of the precise angles of impact of water droplets or the possibility of dish soap residue on one of two identical glasses or other infantesimal things) absinthes will often louche dramatically differently and I end up wanting to give them props for that. :)

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#101 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 05:08 PM

... If the producer has managed not to capture heads and tails in his distillate, then the resulting ethanol is clear. It can't be anything BUT clear.

Not true:

Attached File  marteau_fractions.jpg   69.74KB   17 downloads

That is the entire run of the pilot batch of Marteau, except the heads and tails. Notice that the whole run was tinted pretty much from the beginning. This is not a flaw in production, it's a result of the source and quantity of wormwood used. My comment at the time: "I'm going to have to get me some new wormwood if I'm ever going to do a blanche." The good news is that in the weeks between distilling and coloration, most of the tint had gone. Don't ask, it's magick.

If a blanche is yellow, or anything but clear, it's flawed.

Guess blanchette was flawed then. I thought it was pretty good.

It was, and it was.

Of course not. But you can't deny that it takes additional effort and skill to color an absinthe properly.

A different effort, a different skill.

I disagree that 4 fits with the WS Evaluation Sheet.

How? Does every diamond get a rating of perfectly clear? No. So, why should all clear blanches automatically get a 5?

Maybe this is where the misunderstanding comes from; I'm not sure how the idea got started that a blanche should automatically get a five. Like diamonds, they can be flawed in color and clarity. Like diamonds, they should be judged with the full range available.

I'm not getting in your shit, Brian, because I know you rarely give fives anyway. I just want to clear up some of the misconceptions I've read in this thread.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a blanche, too. Tint is one, haze is another, especially since blanches are often bottled at a lower proof, sometimes coming dangerously near the louche point if they have a big load of anise, fennel, coriander and so on. And if you look at the historic recipes, you'll see that blanches tend to have far more ingredients in them anyway.

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#102 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 05:26 PM

Now this is great info. Exactly the kind I would hope for in my comments in post #99. I'd still like to see this in a defined area of this forum, as I suggested.
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#103 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 05:52 PM

After writing, well, too many reviews, I read this post from a knowledgeable member ...

The "louche" is the swirling, clouding effect which occurs when water is added to absinthe...

Great description, however, if Mr. Stone is right, it should say; The "louche" is the final clouded effect which occurs when water...

Mr. Stone also wrote the Review Guide. ;) But I get your point.

Now this is great info. Exactly the kind I would hope for in my comments in post #99. I'd still like to see this in a defined area of this forum, as I suggested.

Only a minority are disposed to discussing such things in detail. Many would never have posted that picture or admitted that it even happened.

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#104 peridot

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 06:22 PM

Thanks for the info.

As someone who has never made absinthe, hearing about mistakes, flaws, oddities, and just general variations is equally as helpful as hearing about how perfect stuff is. There were absinthes I loved before I learned to detect their flaws. Some I still loved but others I found increasingly distracting and eventually undrinkable.

And I also just like knowing process stuff. It's neat.

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#105 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 06:29 PM

Mr. Stone also wrote the Review Guide. ;) But I get your point.


I figured. :twitchsmile:

Only a minority are disposed to discussing such things in detail. Many would never have posted that picture or admitted that it even happened.


Too bad. More knowledge amongst fledgling reviewers could only help the cause of artisanal product.
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#106 scuto

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 09:43 PM

That Marteau pic is fascinating. Thanks for posting it!

It seems the Swiss had to work to make their la bleues truly clear to escape "detection."
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#107 leopold

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 09:56 PM

Only a minority are disposed to discussing such things in detail. Many would never have posted that picture or admitted that it even happened.


That tint has an awful lot to do with the brilliance of the coloring, imho. I've colored vodka to check.

My tint is about between your second and third carboy after a month in a spent barrel. We're obviously using different raw materials. And stills.

FWIW, I've tried to be as open as possible about my processes (including my somewhat infamous coloring gaffe). It's just that no one asks me questions anymore.

#108 scuto

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 10:45 PM

I've come to understand absinthe from distillers' posts on the boards far more than I would have if they were silent about things. Unfortunately, I don't have any questions! Better drink more, no?
"The Saint when he is drinking/Is also pleasing God/As if he were praying and singing." - Angelus Silesius, quoted in Simmel's On Individuality and Social Forms, p.391. (Yay for classical sociology!)

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"I've an absinthe factory in my head" (jcbphd, 2009). [Liberties taken. -ed.]

#109 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 01:18 AM

My tint is about between your second and third carboy after a month in a spent barrel. We're obviously using different raw materials. And stills.

Funny thing is the last batch I did was made with the same wormwood source, only a different harvest, maybe with fewer flowers. It was clear as water through the entire run. I was using a different still, but both were copper alembics. Stuff happens.

Here's the whole batch in one tank:
Attached File  distillate2.jpg   22.85KB   2 downloads

and after coloring:
Attached File  after_coloration.jpg   24.38KB   7 downloads

FWIW, I've tried to be as open as possible about my processes (including my somewhat infamous coloring gaffe). It's just that no one asks me questions anymore.

You're one of the fortunate exceptions and we're all grateful. :cheers:

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#110 OMG_Bill

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 04:56 AM

It's just that no one asks me questions anymore.



I can help with that. The reason I don't ask more is that I've seen you in action and honestly don't know how you have time to sit down and participate in this forum. I'll try to limit my queries to one at a time. ;)

To your continued good health and success, :cheers:
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#111 Joe Legate

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 05:18 AM

FWIW, I've tried to be as open as possible about my processes (including my somewhat infamous coloring gaffe). It's just that no one asks me questions anymore.

About that formula question I asked you a couple of weeks ago...? ;)

#112 bksmithey

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 06:36 AM

And I also just like knowing process stuff. It's neat.

At the risk of getting way off topic here, I have to say "me too". I know I've had process-related questions from time to time, but usually didn't ask as I didn't want to approach what might sound like hobbyist distillation questions. I still haven't wrapped my head around my feelings regarding the review issues being brought up in this thread, but I've been fascinated by the comments related to process.

#113 Gruene Fee

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 08:00 AM

Attached File  after_coloration.jpg   24.38KB   7 downloads


That's a 5, IMO!
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#114 leopold

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 08:27 AM

It's just that no one asks me questions anymore.



I can help with that. The reason I don't ask more is that I've seen you in action and honestly don't know how you have time to sit down and participate in this forum. I'll try to limit my queries to one at a time. ;)


There are 5 minute pockets of time between tasks, and since I'm here 6 or 7 days a week over the holidays, I have to maintain my sanity somehow.

#115 leopold

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 08:29 AM

About that formula question I asked you a couple of weeks ago...? ;)


Aw, crap.

Send me a PM.

#116 Joe Legate

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 08:51 AM

Done. :laugh:

There are 5 minute pockets of time between tasks, and since I'm here 6 or 7 days a week over the holidays, I have to maintain my sanity somehow.

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#117 Ron

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 09:43 AM

the resulting ethanol is clear. It can't be anything BUT clear.

Not true:

Attached File  marteau_fractions.jpg   69.74KB   17 downloads
The good news is that in the weeks between distilling and coloration, most of the tint had gone. Don't ask, it's magick.


Funny thing is the last batch I did ... was clear as water through the entire run.

Attached File  distillate2.jpg   22.85KB   2 downloads

Gwydion, I'm not arrogant enough to presume to tell you what your results should look like, believe me! But ethanol, by definition, is colorless. At the temperature that you harvest the ethanol hearts, the distillate should be colorless, no? In my very, very limited viewing experience, the results were crystal clear. Love the picture, by the way.

And if you look at the historic recipes, you'll see that blanches tend to have far more ingredients in them anyway.

Coloration aside, and just out of curiosity, do you mean on top of having to put into the still some of the herbs that would have been used in the coloring step? I've not looked at any historical blanche ingredient lists.
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#118 Ron

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 09:56 AM

It's just that no one asks me questions anymore.

Where do you leave the keys to the distillery?
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#119 Brian Robinson

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 09:58 AM

At the temperature that you harvest the ethanol hearts, the distillate should be colorless, no?

Keep in mind that the distillate isn't 100% ethanol.

Grim actually had a great post about this the other day at the FV. For ease of use, I'm copying it here:

The essential oil that comes over from certain wormwood cultivars can be yellow from other parts of the plant or seeds, Donnie.

I know this idea of A.a. seeds contributing yellow distillate singularly got pushed some years ago, but all you need do is cull 100% leaves from certain A.a.s (especially wildcrafted/or A.a. brought recently into commercial attention) and it can provide the same yellowish distillate absent of flowering tops… moreover, the onset of yellowing distillate almost piggy-backs the "lourdes" contribution from anise at the end of the heart (i.e. the back-end of a run). Sources throw out there that during the budding and opening of wormwood, there is a transition of volatile oils from the leaves of an A.a. plant to its flowers.

Yellowing… Kirk's A.a. does it. There's Texas A.a. that exhibits it. Significant amounts of Montana A.a. does it. I have A.a. from the Doubs that does it. The Nep. Wildcraft had yellow essential oil in spades.

Curious thing is, the yellow character almost pre-sages or coincides with the cut… but that will move forward or backward depending on your approach. So we definitely know something about the relative solubility and volatility of that character of wormwood essential oil.

You can get the same effect on a modern columnar still (Christian Carl/Arnold Holstein calls them potstills); I've seen distillers on the west coast and all the way to the east coast get the same result with their A.a., but: it always arrives during the latter part/lower degree of the heart; becomes pronounced to a serious extent in the queues; and sometimes adds an appreciable tint to the blanquette.

You can induce some subtle rectification to drop out some of the heavier/more undesirable volatiles that carry coincident with that tint (hence the tint on the first Blanchette)… but the goal is not to avoid any hint of yellowing in the distillate - it's to balance the absinthe with the cleanest herbal notes for the amount of aging intended. Yep, that's what I said.


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#120 Ron

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 10:23 AM

At the temperature that you harvest the ethanol hearts, the distillate should be colorless, no?

Keep in mind that the distillate isn't 100% ethanol.

Grim actually had a great post about this the other day at the FV. For ease of use, I'm copying it here:

True. And that is a great post. It's a shame I haven't been over to FV in a while. But something it reinforces is that some of the tint issue can be resolved based on sources, stills and processes (as evidenced in Gwydion's last picture there). Rectification can also help, but may come at a cost in the flavors and aromas, as would any secondary distillation. In Gwyidion's fractional photo, I would guess that the tinted carboys have varying degrees of non-ethanol in them. The first couple carboys in that picture could be kept and used, and all the rest dumped back into the still for another run, I would think (and perhaps they were).
Every hour is green hour. -Hedonmonkey

Sometimes bad just gets so bad that it breaks thru to the other side and becomes good. - Phoenix


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