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Doctors are keen to speak to Mr Murray about his ‘eye thing’.

Whisky nerds across the entirety of social media are gearing up for the annual Jim Murray hate festival which is traditionally heralded each year by the unveiling of his ‘Whisky Of The Year’ award.

Glaswegian Whisky collector Roddy MacSporran said:

“I fuckin love this time of year. I been working on my Facebook statuses all year in anticipation – I’ve got like seven pure zingers lined up between now and December.” 

Bloggers, commentators and other assorted people of the time-rich and anger-infused type are currently in a race to be the first to declare that they won’t be giving Murray the ‘oxygen of publicity’. Lee Connorseur – a neat spirits enthusiast from Gateshead – said:

“Ahm well exited me! Ahm a bit disappointed that he’s actually chosen a good whiskey though – ah was really hopin for a score of like 98/100 for some new world windscreen washer shite! Can you imagine the total flaying we could have given him for that?! If you ask me, things were better in the old days when he were still gettin free handbags from LVMH like!” 

ewok3

Mr Murray, seen here in evening wear, still with the eye thing…

Jim Murray – an Ewok and part-time Whisky opinion excreter – said while suckling his latest brood of Ewok hatchlings from his multitude of Ewok sow-udders in his Whisky Laboratory / Aboreal Hut on the Forest Moon Of Endor:

“Things are really looking up this year, with any luck the distilleries and shops will take enough stock so that for the 2018 edition we can change the amount of copies sold from ‘more than half a million’ to ‘nearly eleven twelfths of just under three quarters of a million’. Bonzer!” 

eye_of_sauron

A close-up of the ‘eye thing’.

Tessa MacPaddywack, a tour guide at Glen Grant distillery, said:

“It’s a bummer that he’s given the Glen Grant 18 an award. It means we’ll have to get some of his books in again! We’ve still got some of the first editions in stock. Sometimes we sneak them into customer’s bags when they’re not looking. Or we fold up the pages and use them to wedge under the legs of uneven tables. We tried burning them once but for some reason they just give off clouds of noxious sulphur and open an infernal gateway to the Nethersphere. It’s a right nuisance I can tell you!” 

 

 

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Disney have unveiled the poster for their forthcoming new Star Wars spin-off trilogy titled ‘Star Wars Episode MMXVII: Revenge Of The Ewok’.

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Probably as good as Phantom Menace

The poster has met with both confusion and skepticism from fans of the original films. Professional Star Wars watcher Alex Belcher said:

“Those copper coloured things are obviously new types of Battle Droids, although I can’t quite determine whether they are going to be part of the Separatist Droid Army or the Trade Federation Droid Army. Then of course there is the prominence of the Ewoks in this poster, although I’m not sure how I feel about the kind of makeover they have received. They also appear to have a distinctive yellowing of the eyes and skin. I can only assume this means that we are going to encounter a new sub-species of Jaundice-prone Ewoks. Or, as I have long suspected, the post-traumatic stress following their harrowing conflict on the Forest Moon Of Endor has led to widespread alcohol dependency amongst the Ewok tribe and liver cirrhoses is rife. Will this instalment focus on the Rebel Alliance’s shoddy track record with regards to social responsibility and collateral damage amongst the Galaxy? I am happy that they’ve brought Luke Skywalker back for this film as the large overlay image clearly suggests. Although, I am also worried by how much Mark Hamill has clearly let himself go. The other thing I find quite confusing is why they have rows and rows of what is clearly a large quantity of wooden clad R2D2s. Will we be visiting some kind of droid assembly line/factory that also doubles as a Devaronian Garden Centre?” 

Meanwhile, part time Ewok impersonator Jim Murray said:

“Thank fuck, some more work at last!”

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Jim Murray

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Whiskysponge journalists tasked with sifting through the eleven million strong haul of documents known as the Panama Papers have now found at least 800,000 separate references to Jim Murray’s hat.

Thing

The Panama Papers detail the tax evading machinations of the global elite who use complex off-shore accounting to effectively steal from the tax paying citizenry that makes possible their vast and profitable enterprises in the first place. Or, as renowned naturalist David Attenborough said: “It’s a lot of papers about cunts and the cunty shit they get up to – they should really be called the ‘Cunt Papers’.”

The number of references to Murray’s hat has been pounced upon by experts in whisky and international finance who say it is finally the long sought after proof that Jim Murray is a fictitious and elaborate tax beneficial front for an illegal Panamanian hat cartel.

Tax expert Jan Birch from the Highland accountancy firm of ‘Speyburn, Drumnadrochit & Salmon Ltd’, said:

“We’ve long known that The Whisky Bible was being used as a fictitious enterprise to mask a sinister, global Panamanian Hat empire. The trick is that it’s so boring and confusing no one can begin to deal with it without losing the will to live within five minutes. We’ve always suspected that Murray’s hat was the brains behind the operation and that he was just a patsy hired to form part of the elaborate deception. It’s genius really.”

The papers reveal how Murray’s real identity is actually Mike Cottrell who played the second Ewok warrior in 1983’s Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi. Knowing that the game was up Cottrell came clean and told Whiskysponge journalists:

“It’s a fair cop. I was down on my luck and needed work. I got this call from someone who sounded a lot like a hat offering me literally decades of work as long as I didn’t mind remaining in character and pretending to know a lot about whisky. I read the brief and it basically just involved lots of arse groping, showing off and blatant fibbing. I signed the contract before I’d even got to the end! It’s been fun but a good thing can’t last forever I suppose. I just hope the hat does alright on its own.” 

When queried about all the books Cottrell said:

“Oh that wasn’t me, those were all the hat’s work. I mean you only have to read them to get the sense they were written by an inanimate object.” 

The hat itself has so far refused to comment. It was last seen boarding Rupert Murdoch’s private jet at Heathrow last Friday.

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It emerged this morning that every whisky enthusiast on the planet is apparently really annoyed at being denied the opportunity to acquire free money.

The literal English translation is: 'KERRRCHIIIINNGG!!!!'

The literal English translation is: ‘KERRRCHIIIINNGG!!!!’

Roddy MacSporran, a Glasgow based whisky collector who has been posting his toenail clippings and belly button fluff to Nicola Sturgeon since 2003, told The Independent:

“It’s a downright, bloody disgrace! I’ve got just as much right to free money as people who work in whisky shops with their ‘client bases’. That was the whole point this year, to release an extra few thousand bottles so that my odds of getting one were a far more realistic 1000/1.” 

Meredith Blancmange Fauntleroy – head of discreetly tutting at customers at Selfridges – said while filling out a submission form for an online whisky auction:

“It’s totally disgraceful and actually downright impertinent and hurtful that people think these bottles are simply being kept or ‘squirrelled away’ by us noble retailers. Honestly, just because we could buy them ourselves at cost price and sell them for upwards of £1000 at auction what on earth would make people think that about us!? It’s a well known fact that we retailers really dislike free money, it’s too yucky for the likes of us and I personally derive great pleasure from giving my customers free money. I can’t help it if we have a ‘client base’.” 

Nick Fandango, a selection of London-dwelling organic molecular matter said :

“Apparently someone has been telling people to try the whisky in ‘some of London’s top bars’. If you want to sit in noise and pay £80 to be lectured to about cocktails by cunts then that’s probably a very good idea.” 

Phil Level, a whisky-human from one of the bits of Scotland where Tinder is like an STD version of Russian Roulette said:

“I decided to spend £200 on a bottle of whisky the other day, I bought a 1974 Clynelish at auction, it tastes pretty lovely. Might do the same again next month. I really need to stop speaking in hyperlinks.”

Shinji Fukuyo, head of doing things at Suntory said:

“Don’t worry, there will be another release next year. It will probably contain prune juice but it will definitely look like the other ones and have similar arrangements of words and numbers on the labels and stuff.” 

 

 

 

 

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Who is older? The bottles or the men? Science cannot yet provide the answer…

Which is older? The bottles or the men? Science cannot yet provide the answer…

This weekend sees the 10th and final Lindores Whiskyfest take place in Ostende in Belgium. For those of you who drink modern whisky, here is a short reference guide to what a bundle of European whisky nerds will be getting up to this weekend.

It was a particularly rare Ardbeg...

It was a particularly rare Ardbeg…

Who or ‘what’ is ‘Lindores’???

Lindores is Belgian for  ‘Sundried Tomato’. The society name is a reference to the time one of the Founding Father’s (Beert Giro) became so aroused by a particularly rare singe cask Ardbeg that he caused heat-blistering to a nearby basket of fresh Plum Tomatoes in a branch of Asda just outside Alness in Scotland. It was particularly troubling to the locals as they had never seen a Sundried Tomato before – not believing the sun, or Belgian genitalia, to be capable of creating such witchcraft. Beert and the rest of the burgeoning Lindores Whisky Society were run out of town by angry teuchter hermaphrodites armed with flaming pitch forks and Ferguson Tractors. They were forced to seek refuge on a nearby oil rig until the European Parliament authorised their rescue by hovercraft just over 13 months later.

It was due to this experience that they decided to issue special ‘arousal proof’ underwear to all existing and future club members. The underwear is an inexplicable shade of beige that scientists have described as “non-existant in all of nature”.

Caithness Local Council recently erected a plaque to the men who endured such hardship. Especially those that had to listen to the Belgians talk about their respective whisky collections for 13 months on end.

Cromarty Local Council recently erected a plaque in memory of all the men who endured such hardship. Especially those that had to listen to the Belgians talk about their respective whisky collections for 13 months on end.

Yes but who are these people???

Good question. Lindores is centred around certain key members. Here are some of the current most high profile members. (Note: The Lindores Whisky Society is a bit like The Apprentice in that people can be fired at a moments notice. This list is accurate at the time of going to press as far as Whiskysponge understands.)

Luc Zimmerman – Grand High Wizard Of Lindores 

Favourite Distillery: Glenfarclas

Hobbies: Cigars, Glenfarclas, i-Phone apps, Clay Pigeon shooting with bottles of Samaroli Bowmore Bouquet, being chased naked through the streets of Las Vegas by George Grant, recording intricate but subdued later period solo albums in his inimitably gravel-flecked vocal stylings.

Most prized bottle: A very rare Nebuchadnezzar of Glenfarclas 105 rotation 1973 he once managed to smuggle back from Myanmar duty free in his cabin luggage by pretending it was his pet Donkey Gertrude.

Beert Giro – Lindores Club Mascot (Partially Failed Tintin Clone) 

Favourite Distillery – Ardbeg

Hobbies: Talking about his Ardbeg Collection, Collecting Ardbeg, Telling people about his cases of Laphroaig, the history of the German Coastguard, rubbing €50 notes into the oily remnants of still-warm chicken carcasses before presenting them sheepishly to disgruntled waiting staff.

Most prized bottle: Ardbeg 1950, 21 year old, official single cask bottle 1 of 1 for distillery staff. Bottled 1972. Signed by Richard Branson. Geert would like you to know he has THREE cases of this one!

Dominiek Bumbag – Lindores Musical Director 

Favourite Distillery – 1960s Bowmore, or 1960s Clynelish – Bowelish perhaps?

Hobbies: Weeping over expensive guitars, telling the younger generations about the horror that awaits them in the ‘testicle department’, bumbags, rubbing himself in 19th century Madeira and making devastatingly sticky love to exotic women.

Most prized bottle: The partially destroyed 1.13 litre bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label that John Lennon once tried to ‘bottle’ Donovan with while he was trying to force down a third plate of Lentils in Rishikesh under the watchful gaze of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or ‘Jim Murray’ as he was later to be known) while Mia Farrow was hiding in a cupboard.

Only through transcendental meditation can we escape the earthly vileness of sulphur...

Only through transcendental meditation can we escape the earthly vileness of sulphur…

Dirk Vantaliban – Lindores Chief Of Security 

Favourite Distillery: Port Ellen

Hobbies: Playing in his sandbox, undermining the operational capabilities of the Taliban by destabilising the poppy crop and thereby affecting their ability to produce and sell Speyburn on the international Black Market, Ping Pong.

Most prized bottle: If he told you he’d have to kill you!

Christophe ‘Billy’ Bloefeld – Lindores Alternative Entertainment Supervisor 

Favourite Distillery: Whatever maaaaaan!

Hobbies: Chilling out, eating Doritos, telling the other Lindores members to ‘chill the fuck out!’, eating spicy Doritos, watching The Big Lebowski, drinking whisky from a bong while watching the Big Lebowski and eating Doritos, cuddling the people he loves, Hi-Fives, laughing, laughing in Scotland, pretending he’s not from Belgium, secretly eating Doritos under the table at expensive whisky tastings.

Most prized bottle: Somewhere in the downstairs cupboard under the stairs between the toboggan and the pre-1970s Chemistry set. Or maybe it’s the one next to that old poster of The Grateful Dead that has about seventeen telephone numbers on the back that all go to answer machines of one guy called Kurt who lives in Luxembourg and can ‘pretty much find it if you give him a weekend and €500 in miscellaneous operational business costs’. That one.

This is what it's all about…

This is what it’s all about…

Lindores 10th Anniversary Festival Schedule:

Friday

10am: People begin to arrive. Beert Giro has been awake for 17 days straight already.

12pm (midday): Anyone from Scotland is already drunk after 3 bottles of Duvel.

2pm: The kitchen at Hotel Giro has run out of steak tartar.

4pm: The festival is officially opened. Everyone celebrates with a nap.

7pm: The great welcome tasting. Tasting lasts 90 minutes with a line-up of 87 bottles. €150 per head.

9pm: The ‘Nocturn’. Everyone can attend so long as they bring a bottle. Luc Zimmerman and Beert Giro stand guard and asses every bottle that passes the door. Anyone deemed to have brought an inferior bottle is allowed in anyway but is glared at from the corner of the room by Belgian men brandishing particularly lethal looking shrimp croquettes. Scottish man who brings a €6 bottle of Albarino is inexplicable popular with everyone!

1am: Annual trip to the chicken place.

2am: Beert Giro deposits a large amount of VERY greasy Euro notes at the all night dry cleaner in Oostende.

4am: Patrick begins dancing.

Saturday

8am: Breakfast. Seven grown men attempt to sufficiently navigate a continental breakfast bar without creating widespread destruction.

11am: Main festival open.

11.30am: Jolly, hairy Italian man renders entire process of appreciating delicate, ancient single malts entirely mute by force feeding everyone golf ball size chunks of 8 year old Parmesan cheese smothered in Balsamic vinegar the colour and consistency of Satan’s bone marrow.

1pm: Luc opens a 1922 Lagavulin and charges people €250 to watch him drink a measure.

3pm: Olivier Humbrecht totally fucks everyone up by feeding them three Jeroboams of Vendage Tardive Pinot Gris from the Rangen that makes people stick to each other at the liver.

5pm: Dominiek Bumbag plays a 20 minute live set on the hammond organ during which he consumes an entire bottle of 1965 Clynelish in the first ten minutes…

5.10pm: …Serge Valentin joins him for a piano solo on ‘Hallelujah’ and gets started on a bottle of 1972 Rare Malts Brora.

7pm: Open cellar evening at Beert Giro’s ‘Ardbeg Lounge’.

7.02pm: Open cellar evening at Beert Giro’s ‘Ardbeg Lounge’ closes.

9pm: People take turns to tell Patrick that it’s not time to start dancing yet.

10pm: Dirk Vantaliban appears in full camoflage after three hours of unexplained absence.

11pm: Back to the chicken place…

11.05pm: Thrown out of the chicken place, back to Hotel Giro…

12pm: Scottish people take over hotel, total fuck storm ensues.

9am: Everyone departs vowing never to return.

9.30am: Surviving members of Lindores Whisky Society begin planning Lindores Whiskyfest 2016.

 

 

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Crown Royal Rye

I don’t particularly want to write a serious piece about this annual festival of inanity but I think the repetitive nature of these Jim Murray ‘Whisky Of The Year’ announcements and all the predictable blether they entail is becoming tiresome to satirise. The most glaring issue with the whole debacle is that there is no such thing as ‘the best’ whisky in the world, or even the best whisky of the year. The broad olfactory church of our collective palates ensures a vibrant and healthy disagreement over such matters between beginners and world class experts alike. Variety remains – at least for now – the spice of life and whisky.

Apart from this glaring flaw that too few seem willing, or able, to challenge Murray on, there is further devilment in the nitty gritty of the whole thing. Firstly, it is clearly a publicity stunt. Murray crowns some unlikely dram his whisky of the year, one that is certain to cause contention, debate and – most crucially for him – comment in the press in the hope that it will create a knock on effect on sales of his book. It’s a cynical marketing stunt that debases the whole point of his book and further cheapens the arena of serious whisky writing and analysis. Sadly the UK broadsheets seem only too happy to acquiesce and fill up a few inches with the juicy prospect of ‘Is Scotch On The Rocks?’ or some other turgid prattle.

The crux of the matter lies in his scoring. The 100 point scale is not without its critics but I am a fan of it and use it myself when writing tasting notes. I don’t want to dissect the arguments over its use here but I will qualify why I think it is a useful and worthy device. At its core the 100 point system is a communicative device that is very useful when proffered in tandem with a detailed tasting note. The best and most consistent use of the 100 point scale in whisky has been by Serge Valentin at Whiskyfun. Serge is clear in his notes why he likes or dislikes a whisky. Over the course of reading numerous entries a picture of his whisky preferences swiftly emerges – he is renowned for his enjoyment of distillate driven spirits such as older examples of Clynelish or Bowmore and is not enamored with whiskies that reek of wood technology or excessive wine cask finishing. This added layer of extra-textual knowledge when possessed by the reader arms the notes and scores with greater resonance and depths of information. As does any reference in the tasting note to a score given – either positively or negatively – for reasons that are technical over personal. Over time a level of consistency begins to build to the point that the score in and of itself becomes meaningful and weighted with relevant information. A reader can take note of the score in conjunction with the tasting note and – in light of their own preferences and how they compare with Serge’s – make a pretty good assessment of how much they might enjoy that particular dram.

It is this level of consistency which Murray’s work is utterly lacking. His apparently arbitrary scores for all manner of different styles of whisky that bear little or no correlation leave the reader with no real impression of where his personal preferences lie – apart from his oft touted tantrums about sulphur. The net result being the scores offered contain little or no real information or value. Apart from their usefulness as leverage devices in the generation of publicity and media hot air.

I admit I have not tasted this year’s winning whisky. I have however tasted a number of Canadian, American and European Rye whiskies and I find them somewhat inconsistent but the best of them can be excellent indeed. Even if I do not find some to my taste though, I can take an organoleptic step back and judge them within the framework of their technical merit. Their level of complexity, the relationship between distillate character and oak influence/flavour, their overall balance and so on. My struggle with these kinds of whiskies – and I mean in this respect all younger cheaper whiskies from all countries – is that they just cannot by their nature access the upper register of the 100 point scale. One of the great assets of the 100 point scale is that it allows room for all whiskies of all levels of quality. From utter swill to unequivocal masterpieces, they all have a place within its boundaries. I would argue that the kind of product Murray has just crowned simply cannot achieve a score of 97 without rendering the whole scoring process meaningless. It is not to say a truly great Rye whisky of sufficient craft in production, maturity and bottling care cannot achieve top scores but basic products of any style generally just cannot.

Coincidentally won just before a rather high profile re-branding. Something which only adds further layers of stink to the whole 'awards' process.

Coincidentally won just before a rather high profile re-branding. Something which only adds further layers of stink to the whole ‘awards’ process.

The same argument can be made with the Old Pulteney 21 year old he crowned whisky of the year back in 2012. At the time I made the effort to secure a sample and found it to be worth 89 points in my book, undeniably a delicious and very worthwhile dram that I have purchased in the past and in all likelihood would do again. But there is a massive chasm between 89-91 points and 97-99. Once you get past 92 on the scale each increasing point takes on a massive weight and resonance – beyond 95 and you are into masterpiece territory and very few whiskies get there. It needs to be an incredibly sparsely populated region of the scale otherwise you render the rest of the scale meaningless – just as you should find very few spirits inhabiting the 0-10 points sector of the scale. Murray has scored so many whiskies of wildly differing character and origin from 94-97 that there is just no merit to his scores any longer – or any real avenue into some deeper understanding of his own olfactory values or preferences. You can of course fall back on the old argument of personal opinion that I alluded to at the beginning of this article and you would be fair to do so but I believe that is an argument you can only pursue so far. The notion that a young, budget level rye whisky might sit alongside the likes of the 1967 Samaroli Laphroaig, or the very finest Willet’s Bourbon or a 1967 Karuizawa does a disservice to serious and well-intentioned communication about whisky.

There is much speculation about what Murray’s motives for this might be beyond the self-evident publicity stunt. Is it a rouse to get back ‘in’ with Diageo, is it a further snub to Scotland – a country where it seems he is increasingly considered irrelevant and rarely welcomed? His absence and separateness from the mainstream whisky world is striking. A lot of people don’t like him, they find his views and attitudes ridiculous, or his rules and regulations for tastings laughable, or they simply find him unpleasant. Personally, I find him curious, I disagree with much of what he says and find his Bibles to be stiflingly arrogant but perhaps, upon reflection, the whisky world is a little more interesting for his presence. I would love to interview him one day but I doubt he’d stoop so low. The basic concept of his book is a good one, it’s just such a shame that it is so inconsistent and meaningless that it does a disservice to whisky writing where it should be a beacon.

One of the more positive arguments for Murray is that he brings new people into whisky, and while fresh interest is important it does not mean we should settle for it being him, or the way he chooses to do things being the voice that calls them forward. Someone commented on facebook on the last Whiskysponge post on this topic ‘Haters gonna hate’. This response seems to me very much part of the problem here, Murray’s cynicism begets cynicism. His book is a source of contention and frustration amongst people that hold whisky closest. I – like so many others who vent spleen about his writings on social media – only do so because we truly love whisky and would like to see it better celebrated and more accurately represented. Likewise Canadian whisky deserves not to be used by Murray as a flag with which to fan the flames of his own publicity. It deserves a more honest and passionate route to wider appreciation and discovery – not as an incidental bit player in some wider beige, commercial machinations.

Canadian Whisky no doubt deserves better.

Canadian Whisky no doubt deserves better.

Anyway, the whole thing will now begin to simmer down and we can all no doubt look forward to revisiting and re-hashing this tired old debate in a year’s time. In the meantime we can all take solace in the whiskies we love with the people we love to share them with. The very liquid that sloshes through the veins of this somewhat pathetic story is precisely the liquid that will wash away the miles of digital ink it annually accumulates.

As for Whiskysponge: normal pisstaking will be resumed imminently.

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A small man from England has purchased some shares in Crown Royal it has emerged. The man – a professional Ewok impersonator from Surrey – was drawn to the attention of parent company Diageo the other night while attempting to purchase ‘at least 90% of the company’.

The man has a keen eye for a good investment.

The man has a keen eye for a good investment.

Speaking through a three-day old glaze of his own sweat the man said:

“I just sort of had this feeling it would be a safe investment, you know. And considering I’ve been putting all my money into Scotland for years and years with sod all to show for it I’ve lately been thinking it’s time to diversify internationally. Last year’s acquisitions in the Japanese prune juice sector have proved exceptionally lucrative so I thought Canada might as well be tasty wee number for my portfolio this year.” 

He added:

“It’ll go nicely along side that vast swathe of the tar sands I bough a few months back. Just as well considering my Ewok work is drying up these days – it’s all fucking R2D2 with this generation! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m the most important man in the universe – those tour guide’s arses aren’t going to grope themselves!” 

Some faceless puddle of matter from Diageo said:

“Money. Money make nice things. Make nice whisky words. Money make words make more money make talky talky chat chat make internet space fill up make silly head brains think whisky good make buy buy make money money in nice me me tummy tummy. Me like money. Me like make sell nice whisky taste of money in face glass fizzy fizzy money willy cash bukkake golden poopoo money spunk. Put special money poo into nice cash mouth push in hard money go plop from ears and noses. Money blumpy money blumpy money blumpy. Flush….alt….delete….end programme.”

It added:

 “But we didn’t pay him, obviously.” 

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