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Family Dispute Dept: Matusalem's "Secret Formula"
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:04 am    Post subject: Family Dispute Dept: Matusalem's "Secret Formula" Reply with quote

Yet another CJ Exclusive...


This all started when Sailor22 raised the issue of his Matusalem label reading "...produced and bottled in Lake Alfred, Florida". Now let two things be said: first, that I once engaged in a respectful interchange with the good distiller located there and second, that this does not change my opinion or our rating of this spirit. What you read here is fact.


A Brief History...


Matusalem originated in Cuba in 1872. Fact. In 1944 a company named Alvarez, Camp y Cia obtained a United States trademark registration for the trademark Matusa. Fact. Claudio Alvarez Lefebre, majority owner, wrote down his secret formulas for making rums sold under the trademark Ron Matusalem, and after his death his children escaped Cuba, taking the secrets with them, to Miami.

In the early 1960's the family divided into two entities: Matusa (in the US) who owned the trademarks and secret formula and the other half of the family as Ron Matusalem, Ltd., headquartered in the Bahamas and who owned the rights to produce and distribute the rum.

They got along fine and essentially operated cooperatively, with Ltd. making and distributing the rum in the US, and Matusa collecting 10% royalties.


Two things changed...


First, Ltd. was able to get approval to sell Matusalem in Canada (not covered by the franchise agreement) and refused to give Matusa any royalties for those sales. Matusa - family, mind you - was furious and then sought to cancel the agreement and find a new distiller on the basis that Ltd. had materially - I stress, materially - changed the formula. And then - like the Preacher and The Rum Queen - went to court. The stakes were huge!

If Matusa won, Ltd. was out of business. If Ltd. won, the Canadian market was there. No more Thanksgiving dinners, I guess.


The Court Speaketh...

The lawsuit was filed in August of 1983. Obviously the key issues were (1) did Ltd., in fact, change the formula and (2) if so, was it "material", ie serious enough to allow a breach of contract. Note: a breach of contract must be serious or "material" enough to justify a cancellation. Otherwise, the dispute can be settled for simple damages, if any.

Seven long years later on appeal and on May 23, 1989 in case no. 88-5042 in the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit ruled against Matusa and found that the alteration of the "secret formula" was NOT material. As a matter of public record although the exact proportions were not revealed, the key ingredients and basic method were!!


So Capn, would you kindly STFU and get to it?


You bet. Without further ado, the father's secret formula involved a typical Cuban profile rum with the addition of - drum roll - a maceration of real prunes and real vanilla beans. An infusion no doubt occuring sometime after distillation. The remainder of Daddy's method included a very, very early use of an actual solera system, withdrawing about 1/3 of the lowest level about three times a year.

The Court's findings, in part:

Quote:
"Assuming that Inc. substituted commercial extracts for the natural prune and vanilla bean macerations required to make its rums, it is impossible to establish from the record any time frame for these events.

Federico Abascal (Vice President of United and son of Ricardo Abascal) testified that Inc. began making its own macerations at the beginning of 1983, using "the beans and the prunes" (R13-1119), and that this continued until about one year before trial. Gerardo Abascal testified that when the formula bought from Limited ran out in 1983, Inc. began to make its own formula.7

James Hammond, the general manager of the bottler, Jacquin-Florida Distilling Company, testified that Jacquin had equipment and facilities for macerating whole prunes and vanilla beans on its premises, but could not recall if the equipment had been used. (R9-307, 308)."


And...

Quote:
"The district court found that Inc.'s deviation from the letter of the secret formula was so minor as to render any finding of injury to Matusa negligible:
20

With regard to the use of the formula, the only evidence or the only conclusion that I can draw is that the formula used by Inc. and United was substantially similar to the formula, the original formula that the grandfather put in the book. Both parties have exchanged these formulas and I have heard nothing to indicate that they are not similar.
21

With regard to the substituting of extracts for the original vanilla and prune macerations, it's difficult to tell from this evidence if there is any change in the ultimate results."

(Source: http://openjurist.org/872/f2d/1547/ron-matusalem-matusa-of-florida-inc-v-ron-matusalem-inc-a)

Bottom Line:

1. You won't read this shit anywhere else. Yet another Capn Jimbo OCD Exclusive.

2. This in no way changes a our opinion or rating of RM, keeping mind our long held position, namely "We love pure and honest rums, or those that are so well executed that we can't tell the difference". You may either quote me, or grind this into my face with yer hobnailed, leather lined Italian combat boots.

3. As far as the 8th Circuit is concerned "We also affirm the district court's denial of damages to either side. We agree with the court's holding that any award would be speculative based on the lack of evidence of measurable damages. (R7-160 Ex. 1-17)"

My remaining question: will they still exchange Christmas cards? You decide...
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da'rum
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great information. Nice work!

Don't like this much though,

Quote:
"We love pure and honest rums, or those that are so well executed that we can't tell the difference"


Dishonesty is dishonesty even if it's artfully done.

Getting conned is getting conned even if you get cuddled after.
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sailor22
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good work Mr. Cap'in Jim Sir!! That is some mighty fine searching right there! I love that they had to put that in the public record.

Kind of lends credence to my long held belief that NEARLY ALL Rums are have been fornescued with in some way or another.

If you sample enough single malts and bourbons you develop a pretty good idea of what flavors the barrel can possibly give the juice. Vanilla is one but used barrels have had the vanillins almost completely depleted by the time the Rum manufacturers in the islands get hold of them. And yet we get these over the top vanilla bombs. No mystery how it happens. Pineapple? Prune? Roasted nuts? No way, unless it's infused.

That's why I tend to like the Rums with a soggy wood character - I have a feeling that's the most likley outcome of aging in used barrels in the tropics.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right on!


da'rum is absolutely right. Our (in)famous position "We love pure and honest rums, or those that are so well executed that we can't tell the difference" remains true in that - unlike in the instant case of RM - we had no proof, and RM was so well done that it really was hard to tell. Obviously that has changed, but for the worse?

In one sense yes. We now know the RM is NOT a pure rum and the label is NOT honest. In another, it was notable that the old man's formula included real - real - prunes and real - real - pods of vanilla. Those are very real, very expensive components. Then to have to create expensive and proprietary equipment to macerate these natural elements, to infuse them skillfully into the rum, and then to filter them out.

Although not pure in the sense most of here would like, it was miles ahead of the distillers whose additives are cheap and artificial. Note too that there was no mention of glycerol or sugar. From this viewpoint Ron Matuasem does an arguably purer and more natural job - not to mention an honest solera process and aging much beyond the averages of the usual cheap shit young and artificially altered dreck.

Skipping back to the former viewpoint, the lawsuite was based in Ltd.'s deviation from the original completely real and expensive additives to replace them with "extracts" purchased from a 3rd party. This is a trend toward the kind of rum we despise.


Back and forth...

...and back and forth, but still right is right, and da'rum is correct. Ron Matusalem has now been revealed as a distiller that indeed uses added flavors - however pleasant - and to be fair of a assumed lesser quality and lower cost than the real McPlums...
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great work Capn. I am disappointed that one of my favorite rums is altered. I am also now convinced that another of my favorite rums has also been altered. Westerhall Plantation Rum has some scents and tastes that are a little over the top. The only reason that I had thought it wasn't altered is that there were some similarities to the Ron Matusalem (which I had thought was pure).

Westerhall no longer distills their own rum. They purchase their rum from Angustora.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are still some questions that need answering.

When were the Prunes and Vanilla added? As a flavoring agent in the barrel while the Rum aged? After aging and blending?

If the fruit and vanilla was added to the barrel while it aged or after then it's a cocktail in a bottle, not Rum, and should be labeled as such.

Or possibly in the mash? If it was in the mash and the proof off the still was low enough I suppose the flavors would be subtly added to the Rum.




*******
Capn's Log: According to the recipe published by the 8th district, the rum is "infused" with prunes/vanilla (or extract thereof). I take this to mean after distillation, but at what point in the aging is unclear.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent contributions all, thank you.

Sailor, in a few words, it doesn't matter. Additives are additives and unless traditional (this is another discussion), in general all should really be labeled as "flavored", or the ingredients should at the least appear on the back label, no matter when or how they are introduced (see "gin" below)


Years ago Sue Sea and I spent some time with Richard Seale who'd just fooled a roomfull of afficianados. Back then a more friendly, bubbly, poor Robert Burr had introduced Richard at one of his hotel tastings where Richard was to introduce a "new and exciting rum". The crowd was excited. Richard offered a bottle of Seales Ten to anyone who could answer three questions:

1. cane juice or molasses based
2. column or pot stilled
3. approximate age

A 1/3 shot round was poured in Burr's cheap plastic cuppettes and the audience responded. The consensus: molasses, maybe pot stilled and about 7 years old. Richard laughed and then the reveal...

"This is a brand new, column stilled, molasses rum that I phonied up to taste like a complex pot stilled, aged rum."

He'd had us all, and there were some tasters there who thought quite a bit of themselves. With a little chemical manipulation he was able to turn a very inexpensive new rum into what passed as a quality aged rum by adding the color, complexity, smoothness that the raw young distillate lacked. The point he was trying to make, as he put it: "It's a Wild West show out there - anything goes". And anything does, in fact, go.

What is particularly disturbing about RM is that it was widely believed to be what it said on the label - a fine Solera rum. And it tasted like one. "It's what a solera should be" we all thought, I'm sure. And to be fair (and unlike most Cuban styles) it was indeed a well made rum, and honestly aged in a good solera (15, 18, 23) for honest average ages of say 8 years. And top quality, real ingredients were used and very, very skillfully.

It is also disturbing that I know of no one who'd caught on, and today we are certainly shaking our heads and doubting our own abilities. We even made Ron Matusulem our reference rum for the Cuban style (based on both style and availability). And it really put the others in this category to shame. A very, very respected resource - El Machete - an extremely skilled Cuban reviewer from Miami had this to say:

Quote:
El Machete: The beautiful brown-amber pour is as classic as its bottle and label. Rich aromas of vanilla, smoky caramel, and alcohol. The first sip is a velvet-gloved jab to the tongue and teeth - piercing yet smooth all at the same time. And the first sip is merely gentle foreplay for the second and third. But once the soft bite from the alcohol and spice settles, the tastes are pure rum: wood, molasses, vanilla, smoke, caramel, alcohol. Further tastes reveal a bit of an earthy tone (leather?) followed by a subtle buttery fruitiness. Slightly dry with a medium-to-full body. Long, sultry finish. Neat or on the rocks, the sipping is superb and in the right setting, yearns to be shared with a cigar.

This probably shouldn't be mixed, though a sacrilegious splash of coke with lime does taste near divine.

Since its roots are in pre-castro Cuba and it is still made in the Cuban style (whatever that may be), this is considered to be as close as you can get to available Cuban rum until that rat bastard fidel kicks it. I feel its rich and somewhat buttery, sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavors are more signature Dominican than Cuban, though certainly this is as close to the real thing without being the real thing as I've yet had.

Bottom line, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva is among my personal favorites; it's classically delicious and a treat for special occasions. Highly recommended."

(Source: El Machete's Blog)

In sum, Ron Matusalem was masterful, and is still a wonderful, dangerous rum - but pure it is not. Even its once very expensive ingredients have been replaced by extracts, and we can only guess that the artificials are next depending on the ownership.


Note to Sailor:

Did I digress? Is the Pope catholic? You've raised some excellent questions to which I'm sure da'rum especially may comment concerning the differences in time and place to add the extracts. I'll start by discussing what F. Paul Pacult calls the great white spirit: gin. Gin as you know is based on juniper and any number of other herbs, spices, seeds and you name it. The question is when and how.

At the lowest level is what was called "bathtub gin" which during Prohibition was exactly that - some very creepy white spirit made - yes! - in bathtubs or big tubs by adding and soaking flavor components (but not for long) and then simply filtering them out on the way into the bottles. Cheap, dangerous stuff.

Anthony Dias Blue sets forth the three methods:

Cold Compounding

1. Cold compounding v 1.0: the spices and botanical are crushed, left to soak for about a week in the carrier neutral spirit, then filtered and bottled. The modern bathtub method.

2. Cold compounding v 2.0: The "Tea Bag" method. The goodies are encased in a fine mesh cloth and yup, dipped and left in the white spirit until - well - it tastes right. The tea bag is remove, the spirit allowed to rest a bit, diluted, and bottled, etc.

3. Circulatory method: the least used according to Blue. The botanicals lay in a fine mesh tray, and the alcohol is pumped and reciculated over and through it, like a garden fountain until - yes again - it tastes right.

Essential Oils


This time the botanicals are crushed and cooked to obtain their essential oils, which are then added to the alcohol to taste.

Gin Head Method

This is the Rolls Royce, most expensive method. Most of the others use column stilled, industrially produced neutral spirit purchased from god knows who. And it really doesn't matter. Toss in some oils or botanicals and you're done. OTOH, although the gin head crowd may use purchased spirit (or make their own) their addition of flavor is more subtle and far, far more expensive.

A special pot-based still with a gin head is used. Normally a pot still is exactly that - a pot - and the distilled alcohol vapors rise and pass out of the lynne arm and to the condenser where the vapors return to liquid form and are captured. The "gin head" is a compartment just above the pot which is filled with the botanicals and through which the hot vapors pass and are infused with their "essence". Believe it or not, the product is so "pure" that in many cased it is condensed and passed directly to the bottle - no filtration or resting needed.


Does this answer your question?


Nope. But the distillers who continue to go to great expense to continue to use the Gin Head method and their customers believe that it makes a difference. Still - gin by definition has additives and the quality becomes evident in the quality of the botanicals used, the method of introducing them and as always - the final product.

And around and around we go, and where we stop...
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sailor22
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand all that but thanks for the detailed response. All the Gin descriptions you mentioned are adding botanicals after the Neutral Spirit is produced, so that makes the flavors infused.

My point is that to make whiskey or rum or nay spirit you need a mash or beer to ferment and then you distill it. If fruit and vanilla is part of the fermented mash before it's distilled then it shouldn't be considered an additive but part of the mash bill.

As an example Bourbon typically uses corn, rye and barley in different ratios to get different flavors when fermented with different yeasts. Some substitute wheat for rye. As long as it's at least 51% corn the end result can be called bourbon -- as long as it meets the storage and aging requirements. The ratios are fungable but it's still bourbon. A manufacturer could substitute figs and old running shoes for the rye and barley and if they could get the goo to ferment they could make bourbon.

If you start with sugar, sugar cane, cane juice, molasses etc. you end up with Rum. What if some small% of the mash was prunes and vanilla instead of cane? Would it change the classification of the final product?

It could possibly change the classification of the final product. If you start with mostly cherries, ferment them and then distill them you end up with cherry brandy.

Without a codified description of Rum we should expect to get this wild west production crazyness you describe.
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"What if some small% of the mash was prunes and vanilla instead of cane? Would it change the classification of the final product?"

Yes.

Quote:
US Regs, Section 27cfr5.22

(f) Class 6; rum. ‘‘Rum’’ is an alcoholic distillate from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses, or other sugar cane by-products, produced at less than 190° proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum, and bottled at not less than 80° proof; and also includes mixtures solely of such distillates.


Of course this does not mean it isn't done, just not legally. Nor does it address misuse or misinterpretation of the "additives", 2-1/2% escape clause. Nor does it address lax enforcement. And as far as bourbon, a subclass of whisky, also from 5.22:

Quote:
(b) Class 2; whisky. ‘‘Whisky’’ is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190° proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whisky, stored in oak containers (except that corn whisky need not be so stored), and bottled at not less than 80° proof, and also includes mixtures of such distillates for which no specific standards of identity are prescribed.

(1)(i) ‘‘Bourbon whisky’’, ‘‘rye whisky’’, ‘‘wheat whisky’’, ‘‘malt whisky’’,
or ‘‘rye malt whisky’’ is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125° proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes ixtures of such whiskies of the same type.


Bourbon especially is very tightly defined and allows no additives whatever - at any time or in any amount. It is the poster boy for purity, closely followed by single malts. Further affiant sayeth naught...
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da'rum
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My inconsequential opinion;

I will say it doesn't matter on a few fronts and it does matter on a few others.

It doesn't matter or, I don't have a problem with;

Them adding prunes and vanilla to the rum.
In the mash or post distillation.

It does matter or I do care when.

It is not labelled as such. There is no excuse. They know and we know what people are expecting when they buy rum and that is a spirit distilled from molasses or cane juice.

If it's a secret recipe so be it, but the rum creation must be labelled as 'infused' or distilled from a unique mash.

They then MUST say, on the bottle, whether the additives are botanical or chemical.

It is up to them to distinguish their products from each other with quality or technique (ie infusion,distillation etc etc).

It is imperative that the differing style is labelled and the consumer given every opportunity to make an educated decision with as much information by comparing bottles on the shelf.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Count me in...


I'm with da'rum 1000% on this - to the point that I must rethink Ron Matusalem as the reference standard for the Cuban style. I trust El Machete on his observation that RM exemplifies the Cuban style, but like da'rum I really have a problem with any altered rum as a reference standard. It's the way it is.

Any suggestions?
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is normal Cuban style rum with added vanilla and prunes?
Or is it more just a treacly sweet rum?

If it is not normal that it has added vanilla and prunes then it can't be held as the standard surely?
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good question...


I've known El Machete for some years - his family escaped Cuba in the Mariel Boatlift and he really knows Cuban rums. He has an exquisite palate. In his review of RM he stated:

Quote:
"The beautiful brown-amber pour is as classic as its bottle and label. Rich aromas of vanilla, smoky caramel, and alcohol. The first sip is a velvet-gloved jab to the tongue and teeth - piercing yet smooth all at the same time. And the first sip is merely gentle foreplay for the second and third.

But once the soft bite from the alcohol and spice settles, the tastes are pure rum: wood, molasses, vanilla, smoke, caramel, alcohol. Further tastes reveal a bit of an earthy tone (leather?) followed by a subtle buttery fruitiness. Slightly dry with a medium-to-full body. Long, sultry finish. Neat or on the rocks, the sipping is superb and in the right setting, yearns to be shared with a cigar. This probably shouldn't be mixed, though a sacrilegious splash of coke with lime does taste near divine.

Since its roots are in pre-castro Cuba and it is still made in the Cuban style (whatever that may be), this is considered to be as close as you can get to available Cuban rum until that rat bastard fidel kicks it. I feel its rich and somewhat buttery, sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavors are more signature Dominican than Cuban, though certainly this is as close to the real thing without being the real thing as I've yet had.

Bottom line, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva is among my personal favorites; it's classically delicious and a treat for special occasions. Highly recommended."


On this basis it should remain, although we will make sure our review is modified to include the quality additions.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was a fabulous piece of writing and research done, many thanks to the Captain!!

Makes me sad to think that the makers of Matusalem decided to hide the facts. So typical - they forget to mention Jorge and Juan in the niteshift, flavouring the rums..! The process description they presented omitted neatly this - as most likely many other rum makers omit also. It is a pure lie to their fans, and consumers everywhere. No excuses there guys.

If they had understood to use it as a tool of their marketing instead (as they should have), this would have been completely acceptable.

As is, their cover is blown, and thats that. I for one am collecting a list of "proven to be altered" rums, and making a note of their makers too. I will never again promote Matusalem as a rum for that matter of fact.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem arises when rum is altered by essences and artificial flavouring as well as copius amounts of sugar to mask the fact that it is just plainly not well made rum.

Just because a practice of altering a spirit has been going on for a long time doesn't mean that it should not now be brought into line. No one is saying that the altered rums should not be sold, just that the consumer should be aware and has the rigfht to the information of what he/she is ingesting.

In the example of Matusalem, it may well be liked and appreciated by many and those who really like the product may well not care once informed of its ingredients. However there will be those that do care and want to know and as long as the ingredients aren't going to seriously damage health will also drink and continue to enjoy it. And of course there will be those who choose not to drink chemically altered rum.

From a taste standpoint it doesn't matter how the flavours end up in a glass but from a quality standpoint it means the world.

The observation: "Don't hold your breath waiting for manufacturers to add wording that would be detrimental to sales." is really an admission that honesty on the label may effect the sales of some rums that are masquerading as something they are not and consumers would not be impressed to know the truth.

This is the crux of the problem, the customer has the right to know regardless of dubious history or how the industry would like it to be. The manufacturers must make a product that is exactly high enough quality and or creates market demand to justify the price asked. That product must be labelled with additives and ingredients just like 99% of ALL food and drink available on the market today. The few exceptions to this is alcohol because they have strict guidelines on manufacturing standards, so the ingredients are are set and the process also, it's only the skill of the maker that sets them apart. As the rum producers have flouted the strict process and are happy to make a spirit that can have anything added then their exemption is null and void. They now belong in the food stuffs category and must be labelled accordingly.

Rum can continue to be a hodge podge spirit for all I care. Just give it to me straight.
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