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Why Every Drinker Should Know What Bottled-in-Bond Means

Why Every Drinker Should Know What Bottled-in-Bond Means
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  • Why Every Drinker Should Know What Bottled-in-Bond Means

    Post #1 - April 29th, 2018, 10:31 am
    Post #1 - April 29th, 2018, 10:31 am Post #1 - April 29th, 2018, 10:31 am
    Spirits maven Wayne Curtis, author of the fantastic, And A Bottle of Rum . . ., has a really informative piece at Daily Beast's website . . .

    at dailybeast.com, Wayne Curtis wrote:These criteria included a lot of asterisks of scant interest to the general consumer—the spirit had to made by a single distiller during a single distilling season, it had to be aged in wood for at least four years, and it had to be bottled at exactly 100-proof. But what was of interest to the consumer was that the bottle contained what the label promised: an unadulterated spirit.

    Why Every Drinker Should Know What Bottled-in-Bond Means

    In this cash-grab era of disappearing age statements, it's nice to know that when buying bonded bourbon, you're getting at least 4 years of aging in the barrel, as opposed to the minimum 2 years required for the distillate to actually be labeled as bourbon.

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - April 29th, 2018, 3:49 pm
    Post #2 - April 29th, 2018, 3:49 pm Post #2 - April 29th, 2018, 3:49 pm
    One more reason I really respect Heaven Hill and their line of products. Far more are bottled in bond than any distillery I'm aware of. Hell...Mellow Corn is bottled in bond!

    We can debate how much of a quality signifier it is, but it absolutely guarantees a certain amount of aging and I also think that it speaks to a distillery's appreciation of history and doing things a certain way, even when they might not be necessary anymore. I like that in almost every industry in which I am a consumer, but particularly whiskey which seems to be rapidly evolving and moving further and further away from its roots in a lot of ways (some good, some not so good).
  • Post #3 - July 21st, 2018, 9:12 am
    Post #3 - July 21st, 2018, 9:12 am Post #3 - July 21st, 2018, 9:12 am
    Ronnie, you are the first to be cordially invited to my inaugural Col. E.H. Taylor Birthday Party, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019. We'll be celebrating with BiB pours and I've already stashed away some bottles from the Taylor line for the date. Thank god the Col. fought for the Bottled in Bond act, because it didn't just give our grandparents assurance of quality, it gives us a bit of clarity now, over 100 years later, in a market flooded with product being passed off as "craft."

    Sometimes reading a label on a bottle of bourbon can be as confusing as reading a German wine label. Lots of times this is because the brand makes it confusing. Angel's Envy's "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished In Port Wine Barrels" is not bourbon, full stop. Port barrels = not "bourbon". We can't find marketing from AE that doesn't add the "...finished in..." because they can't simply call it "KY Straight Bourbon." At the bottom of their website, under "Our Whiskey" we can click on "Port Finish" or "Rum Finish" (their rye aged in rum barrels) but we can't click on "Bourbon" or "Rye" and they can't, by labeling laws, tell the lie that the products are "Bourbon" or "Rye." But who do we know who refers to Angel's Envy as "Bourbon finished in port casks" and not "bourbon"? It's a good little twist they've got going, considering they sell that bottle of manipulating the truth for $50, which is $15 more than a bottle of Russell's Reserve 10 Year.

    This isn't as egregious as the Templeton lie. It's not as strange as the idea that Charles Goodnight Bourbon--labelled "Kentucky Straight Bourbon", named for a Texas Ranger, and per its label bottled in California--is anything other than a massive distillery selling juice to a California company with gimmicky marketing. The Angel's Envy thing is a small one, a dance around what the product is to charge a premium to cover start-up costs for the first 10-15 years until you have something truly "craft" and worth the premium....maybe, we'll see how it turns out.

    On a more innocent level, for years Willett has been releasing bottles with generic DBAs on the back of them. There is no "Johnny Drum Distilling Company." But they used that on those bottles because for a long time they didn't want any perception of their non-Willett labels to impact the image of the Willett name. That will change in the very near future as they are reaching the point where they've made enough juice not to source, and bottles will start to have the DSP-KY-78 stamp and be labelled as coming from Willett. They're selling Old Bardstown Bonded, only in KY, with their DSP and stating that it's from Willett. It's quite good.

    On a very generic level, most things that say they are "Distilled and bottled in Kentucky" have a wide range of possibilities and it's very easy for a customer to be confused. The same juice is probably in Luxco's Ezra Brooks 90 ("Distilled and Aged in Kentucky, Bottled in St. Louis" on the label), Heaven Hill 6 Year 90 proof ("Distilled in Kentucky" on the label), and Heaven Hill 6 Year Bonded ("Bottled in Bond. Distilled and Bottled by Heaven Hill, Distilleries, Inc.; Louisville KY DSP-KY-1; Bardstown, KY DSP-KY-31.")

    The Ezra, the label could mean the distillate comes from anywhere in KY, and 99.9% of the drinking population doesn't know that the Heaven Hill 90 proof and the Ezra are likely the same thing--it's widely believed that HH is the distillery from whom Ezra sources their distillate. That bottle of Ezra is probably a two-year younger brother to the HH 6 Year 90 proof, and most folks would never know that. How would they? How do they know better than to not spend a couple more bucks on the Ezra, which is the same juice but younger?

    But the BiB act gives us the clarity we have for the third item in the paragraph two up from here. To call it that, it must pass a certain handful of checks, and state certain things on the label, and as a result the label gives us all the information we need about the product. Without the BiB Act, and Col. Taylor fighting like hell for it, we might have even worse clarity on what's in our bottles today, which would be awful in this sea of misleading marketing.
  • Post #4 - July 30th, 2018, 11:12 am
    Post #4 - July 30th, 2018, 11:12 am Post #4 - July 30th, 2018, 11:12 am
    jhdouglass wrote:Ronnie, you are the first to be cordially invited to my inaugural Col. E.H. Taylor Birthday Party, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019. We'll be celebrating with BiB pours and I've already stashed away some bottles from the Taylor line for the date.

    Sounds awesome and many thanks. It's on my calendar. Is there anything I can bring? Any special garb required or requested for this shindig?

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #5 - August 3rd, 2018, 3:15 pm
    Post #5 - August 3rd, 2018, 3:15 pm Post #5 - August 3rd, 2018, 3:15 pm
    Ha, between the Sazerac guys and the Heaven Hill guys I think we're going to be pretty well covered. But thanks.
  • Post #6 - August 5th, 2018, 12:36 pm
    Post #6 - August 5th, 2018, 12:36 pm Post #6 - August 5th, 2018, 12:36 pm
    jhdouglass wrote:Ha, between the Sazerac guys and the Heaven Hill guys I think we're going to be pretty well covered. But thanks.

    Outstanding. The only thing I enjoy more than drinking whiskey is drinking someone else's whiskey! :lol:

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #7 - August 23rd, 2018, 3:52 pm
    Post #7 - August 23rd, 2018, 3:52 pm Post #7 - August 23rd, 2018, 3:52 pm
    Here's a link to an informative, thread-related video, produced by Bloomberg, that was sent to me by a friend. It's a bit dated but still very relevant . . .


    The Bourbon You Are Drinking Might Not Be What You Think

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #8 - August 23rd, 2018, 5:01 pm
    Post #8 - August 23rd, 2018, 5:01 pm Post #8 - August 23rd, 2018, 5:01 pm
    With the decline of age statements and the the proliferation of mysterious sourcing, not to mention (well, OK, I will mention) rising prices for relatively modest, over-marketed products, it's never been a better time to be a bourbon producer but it's possibly the worst time to be a consumer (or at least collector) in years. Just so much so-so stuff clogging the shelf.

    Counter argument: the only really bad bourbon is no bourbon, and most bottles share more similarities than they do differences, so it's hard to complain about all the options, even if bargains and hidden gems are few and far between, and the fabled good stuff gets relegated to back rooms for those that know the secret knock.
  • Post #9 - September 10th, 2018, 4:03 pm
    Post #9 - September 10th, 2018, 4:03 pm Post #9 - September 10th, 2018, 4:03 pm
    There are still plenty of values. You can walk into Binny's any day of the week and grab an Old Grand Dad Bonded or an OGD 114, a Four Roses Yellow Label, an Evan Williams Bonded, a Wild Turkey 101, a Maker's Cask Strength (I'll take it in place of Weller 107 if there's no 107), an Elijah Craig, an Old Forester 100 or any number of other things from one of six groups: Sazerac, Turkey, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, BeamSuntory, Brown-Forman. They're all very reasonably priced for what's in the bottle and their provenance. What's funny is if you're in the Binny's in Lincoln Park, you can't find Very Old Barton Bonded right now, because a lot of Binny's customers know it's great and that at $16 it's an amazing value, but you can find plenty of VOB 100 (without the troublesome "limit 1 per customer" tags Binny's has) collecting dust 2 blocks away on the bottom shelf at Whole Foods for like $15, right below all the shiny fresh-off-the-truck bottles of NDP/Craft stuff that can't hold a candle to VOB 100 but that WF customers snatch up at 3X the price of VOB100.
  • Post #10 - September 10th, 2018, 4:09 pm
    Post #10 - September 10th, 2018, 4:09 pm Post #10 - September 10th, 2018, 4:09 pm
    I wasn't aware that the VOB 100 was also bonded. Either way, at $16/bottle, it's a nice value. Good to know it's bonded, too.

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #11 - September 11th, 2018, 5:43 pm
    Post #11 - September 11th, 2018, 5:43 pm Post #11 - September 11th, 2018, 5:43 pm
    Very Old Barton is a great example of general bourbon shadiness. It used to have a white stripe on the neck with "Aged 6 Years." Then it was changed to just the number "6." Now it's just a black band (I think?). Anyway, used to be aged 6 years, now no age statement, though I guess to be BOB it has to be at least 4.

    But yeah, there are still plenty of cheap, reliable bourbons. Just few that top the 10/12 year old mark, which is sort of bourbon's sweet spot, imo.
  • Post #12 - September 11th, 2018, 6:06 pm
    Post #12 - September 11th, 2018, 6:06 pm Post #12 - September 11th, 2018, 6:06 pm
    Vitesse98 wrote:Very Old Barton is a great example of general bourbon shadiness. It used to have a white stripe on the neck with "Aged 6 Years." Then it was changed to just the number "6." Now it's just a black band (I think?). Anyway, used to be aged 6 years, now no age statement, though I guess to be BOB it has to be at least 4.

    No need to guess. Unless they're being outright dishonest in their labeling, VOB 100 Proof is bottled in bond and, therefore, aged at least 4 years in barrel (my guess is not a single day longer than that) . . .

    Image
    Very Old Barton 100 Proof KY Straight Bourbon Whiskey - Bottled in Bond - 18.0827

    I bought this last month and at $16, it's a very good value but yeah, all the specific age declarations are now long gone.

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #13 - September 11th, 2018, 6:09 pm
    Post #13 - September 11th, 2018, 6:09 pm Post #13 - September 11th, 2018, 6:09 pm
    Vitesse98 wrote:Very Old Barton is a great example of general bourbon shadiness. It used to have a white stripe on the neck with "Aged 6 Years." Then it was changed to just the number "6." Now it's just a black band (I think?). Anyway, used to be aged 6 years, now no age statement, though I guess to be BOB it has to be at least 4.

    But yeah, there are still plenty of cheap, reliable bourbons. Just few that top the 10/12 year old mark, which is sort of bourbon's sweet spot, imo.


    Agree with all the the above. Continuing to use the number, but dropping the word 'years' is extremely shady. And this has happened with several bourbons. And is Ronnie's bottle really BOB if it doesn't say it? I just checked and my VOB 6 bottles state BOB, but haven't bought any in over a year at least. Words tend to disappear from bourbon bottles...

    And 4 years is only benefitting the distilleries, not my palate. 9 to 12 years would be preferred.
  • Post #14 - September 11th, 2018, 6:11 pm
    Post #14 - September 11th, 2018, 6:11 pm Post #14 - September 11th, 2018, 6:11 pm
    I was posting at the same time Ronnie was with his photo :D
  • Post #15 - September 12th, 2018, 6:59 am
    Post #15 - September 12th, 2018, 6:59 am Post #15 - September 12th, 2018, 6:59 am
    I also think the bottled in bond designation is kind of debatable in value. I understand it's a certain guarantee of a few relatively minimal requirements, but again, to my tastes it's the aging that really enhances bourbon's character, and 4 years just doesn't quite do it for me. I mean, it's better than nothing, and good for mixing, but I would much rather have a variety of 12-year old bourbons available on shelves than an array of (mostly harsh) mediocre BOB bottles.
  • Post #16 - September 12th, 2018, 9:26 am
    Post #16 - September 12th, 2018, 9:26 am Post #16 - September 12th, 2018, 9:26 am
    Vitesse98 wrote:I also think the bottled in bond designation is kind of debatable in value. I understand it's a certain guarantee of a few relatively minimal requirements, but again, to my tastes it's the aging that really enhances bourbon's character, and 4 years just doesn't quite do it for me. I mean, it's better than nothing, and good for mixing, but I would much rather have a variety of 12-year old bourbons available on shelves than an array of (mostly harsh) mediocre BOB bottles.


    The BIB laws aren't accountable for the lack of 12 years. The people who buy bourbon to stick it on a shelf and not open it because "someday I'll pay for my new deck with this" are the ones to blame for us not having 12 year whiskey readily available.

    The BIB law is inclusive of just a few basic things but it precludes the BS "distilleries" who can't meet those simple handful of basic things from calling their bourbon BIB. The law came because Col. Taylor found himself competing with people putting GNS or other non-bourbon products in their bourbon, or watering it down substantially, or manipulating it in another way. The BIB law meant Taylor and his ilk could label their product as something others could not. Today, producers of real bourbon find themselves competing against a bunch of BS too. Angel's Envy is not "bourbon." New makes like Koval and Journeyman are not very good and they are hurried to the shelves to keep cashflow moving--they can't wait long enough to call them BIB. Charles Goodnight bourbon is 100 proof and is not labeled as BIB: why? If we care about age statements then we should care that a law that says something has to be 4 years is keeping stuff that is 2 years from sharing the same labeling so we have clarity. The BIB law means that Koval can't call itself the same thing Evan Williams can and that is a good thing as far as the integrity of age in whiskey.
  • Post #17 - September 12th, 2018, 9:47 am
    Post #17 - September 12th, 2018, 9:47 am Post #17 - September 12th, 2018, 9:47 am
    The fact that fewer definitively-labeled, age-declared, older bourbons are available (or, that they're no longer available) is an entirely separate issue from the BIB designation and its actual value. You can chalk the former up to the good old-fashioned desire for profits. For me, in the current marketplace, BIB means more than ever, though, admittedly, it only means so much. But at least you know you're getting something that's aged at least twice as long as is required.

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #18 - September 12th, 2018, 1:22 pm
    Post #18 - September 12th, 2018, 1:22 pm Post #18 - September 12th, 2018, 1:22 pm
    I understand what bottled in bond (or, as those in the know call it, BOB, lol) means, I understand its origins, and I agree that I would much rather get transparency and consistency over dishonesty and mystery. But my point is that it is something of an empty victory, since (in my opinion) few of the BIB designated bottles are particularly good or noteworthy short of being of "value" for the extra hoops the distillery had to go through to get the designation in the first place. Which is somewhat circular, and sort of casts into question the value of BIB in the first place; even Mellow Corn is bottled in bond. That's not to say it's totally worthless to have on the label, but this bourbon drinker prefers the somewhat nebulous but well crafted bottles of, for example, Four Roses Small Batch (if not their Single Barrel series, even at a high price a better value for proof and taste/quality) over pretty much any BIB bottle. I mean, it's not a good value if you don't want to drink it! :wink:

    As for the absence of age statement bourbons, I honestly don't know what's going on for sure, and sure don't trust the answers given. Recall Makers Mark threatening to water down the proof allegedly due to shortages before relenting and then - surprise! - introducing the cask strength (which they even, or at least used to, sell at Costco). Or Booker's literally doubling its price for the same product. Or Diageo discovering all these forgotten old barrels sitting around. Or even, for that matter, the beloved (and still delicious) Pappy 15 retaining its allure despite its no longer terribly specific provenance; rumor had it Weller 12 went to allocated because much of it was being held back to bolster Pappy stocks. And yet McKenna 10 (aged 10 years, single barrel and BIB!) is still chugging along, and Eagle Rare ...
  • Post #19 - September 14th, 2018, 12:58 pm
    Post #19 - September 14th, 2018, 12:58 pm Post #19 - September 14th, 2018, 12:58 pm
    The absence of age statements is demand > supply. Sazerac would love to have Weller 12 on every shelf in every store. They're working two 10-hour distilling shifts a day and two 8-hour bottling shifts a day, while adding a new rickhouse every 4 months at a cost of $25 million--$4 million to build it, $21 million to fill it. Heaven Hill would love to not have the McKenna 10 in the back room at Binny's with a "Limit One Per Customer" tag on it. But demand overwhelmingly outstrips supply. This isn't like Adidas making only a limited amount of those Kanye West Yeezys--they could make a ton, but then the cache of having a pair and being cool goes away. Sazerac and HH just can't make more 12 year bottles, it's a demand they can't fill.
  • Post #20 - September 14th, 2018, 2:05 pm
    Post #20 - September 14th, 2018, 2:05 pm Post #20 - September 14th, 2018, 2:05 pm
    jhdouglass wrote:The absence of age statements is demand > supply. Sazerac would love to have Weller 12 on every shelf in every store. They're working two 10-hour distilling shifts a day and two 8-hour bottling shifts a day, while adding a new rickhouse every 4 months at a cost of $25 million--$4 million to build it, $21 million to fill it. Heaven Hill would love to not have the McKenna 10 in the back room at Binny's with a "Limit One Per Customer" tag on it. But demand overwhelmingly outstrips supply. This isn't like Adidas making only a limited amount of those Kanye West Yeezys--they could make a ton, but then the cache of having a pair and being cool goes away. Sazerac and HH just can't make more 12 year bottles, it's a demand they can't fill.

    Thinking about when the current bourbon renaissance began, I can't believe it's entirely this straightforward. Even with a late start from a zero-inventory position, it seems that most well-managed and well-funded distilleries (and that includes all the major players) would have plenty of 7 or 8-year-old juice available at this point in time. By 2010 they had to have had a pretty confident picture of what was coming. And we know that none of them had zero inventory at that time, so the likelihood of them now having ample inventory of 10-year-old juice on-hand seems entirely feasible. So . . . where is it?

    I believe much of it is being held back and reallocated to create a false scarcity and drive pricing up. Labels disappear, then reappear -- at higher price points -- without their age declarations. The age-declared bourbon brands that we already knew have jumped dramatically in price. New, age-declared brands (from the same major distillers) suddenly appear on the shelves at ridiculous price points.

    There's virtually no point in the aging process at which the whiskey goes bad (though, I've had some that I consider to be over-aged) so, as long as distilleries can continue to pump out their 2-year-old, entry-level products to keep the cash flowing, they have the luxury of releasing their stockpiles of older bourbons in dribs and drabs, pushing the price up with each subsequent release (I'm looking at you Kentucky Owl!). What they choose to not sell now, they can sell later for even higher prices, while risking almost nothing in terms of perishability.

    The multiple brands produced by each distillery amount to not much more than a shell game that intentionally obfuscates the marketplace and makes it harder and harder to make an informed decision. The brands you once loved may or may not still exist. They may not be the same products as they once were. They may cost 2 to 3 times as much as they once did. Trying to know what's what is downright dizzying.

    Bringing it back to the subject of this thread, I think that's why BIB means something, though most of us wish it meant more. 5 years ago, I would have given very different advice but right now, when it comes to bourbon, I think the best course of action is to find the cheapest ones you really enjoy and just stick with them.

    Fuck, I need a drink! :wink:

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #21 - September 14th, 2018, 4:49 pm
    Post #21 - September 14th, 2018, 4:49 pm Post #21 - September 14th, 2018, 4:49 pm
    Seriously. I secretly can't wait for fall and winter if only because they make ideal bourbon weather. I'm lucky enough to have a spouse that likes bourbon (and stouts!), too.
  • Post #22 - September 15th, 2018, 11:04 am
    Post #22 - September 15th, 2018, 11:04 am Post #22 - September 15th, 2018, 11:04 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:right now, when it comes to bourbon, I think the best course of action is to find the cheapest ones you really enjoy and just stick with them.


    For sure. I'd rather find a case of Heaven Hill 6 BIB in a Louisville Liquor Barn than a bottle of Elijah Craig 18 for the same $150.

    Re the labels that go away and come back at higher price points without age statements: they fly off the shelf. Some labels that just ain't what they used to be (Black Maple Hill, Hirsch) don't collect dust in Binny's. That's because there's a highly uneducated public out there--people who think Angel's Envy is "good" "bourbon" or that Templeton really is "The Good Stuff" from Al Capone's secret recipe or that High West Distillery has a distillery, or who think that Black Maple Hill is bottled by the Van Winkles, or who think that Whistle Pig is some kind of craft thing or who think that the bottle of Koval or Journeyman is > the Elijah Craig that's $20 cheaper because the former two are local/craft/organic/etc and don't know that their beloved Bulleit is a marketing ripoff. Also the stuff that really is good gets snapped up really fast now because those consumers are also the kind of folks who want to do what's cool and hip and trendy and bourbon is all that. They probably love Drake and are using whatever social media is the next hottest thing and are ending their honeymoon phase with poké right now as they move on to the next hip food thing.

    To circle that back to BIB, I agree that the above--the market screwed up by too much demand and by uneducated consumers and by an industry that takes time and is not immediate--is why having BIB is great. I'm happy to scoop up my VOB or my Heaven Hill or my Evan Williams or my other BIB while everyone is on the other end of the aisle at Binny's looking for the sourced bottle of Jefferson's that Elon Musk sent to Mars and back or whatever other gimmick took place to separate the rubes from their $$$$.

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