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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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Everything is about to change.

Everything is about to change.

Recent speculations about a change of editorship for Whisky Magazine were confirmed last night when it was revealed at a press conference that Adam Sandler would be taking the reigns from current master content churner Rob Allanson. Speaking with a quiet voice, weighted by the untethered anguish of relentless torment and  eyes deadened by the hollow refrain of wasted years that cast their sorrow against the distant pit of some unseen slow demise, Mr Allanson said:

“It’s great to be handing over to Adam, I hope he can bring the same enthusiasm to the magazine as he has done to his movies that we’ve all known and loved for so many years. Now where did I leave my service revolver…” 

It's a surprisingly demanding job.

It’s a surprisingly demanding job.

This move follows months of speculation about the future of Whisky Magazine after it became apparent that 50 percent of the content had been written by a teenager called Crispin Munch who lives in a bungalow in Dorset. While the rest was mostly comprised of advertisements for the very things that were being written about. Continuing with a tender sip of lukewarm tea, the trembles of which belied the shattered remnants of a tattered soul, Rob Allanson said:

“The decision to go doesn’t come lightly. But to be honest it’s been very difficult, keeping up with the demands of the magazine. The companies that advertise all demand content, but its very hard to provide positive content about everyone, especially when other companies are demanding negative content about the company that is only just over the page from them. It’s like living in a world of contradictions, all my writers bailed on me months ago, it’s just been me and Crispin for the past year, forging ahead, attempting to keep ourselves above it all. And most of the time he just plays GTA five and eats Quavers. It’s so hard to write this magazine, there are more contradictions in here than the Bible. It’s maddening. Obviously though when I say ‘Bible’ I mean ‘The Bible’, the Jesus one not the whisky one. God, that would be ridiculous, we’re nowhere near that shit!” 

Whiskymag HQ

Whiskymag HQ

Adam Sandler’s appointment as editor has been hailed as ‘completely obvious’ by numerous whisky commentators. Mr Sandler was unavailable for comment at the press conference as he was shooting his latest film, ‘Chunderhorse’. An outrageous political comedy in which Sandler plays Burt Onontrent, a typical American everyman who is struck by lightening while sexually healing a sick pony and develops the power to make anyone he touches vomit instantly. He then accidentally provokes world war 3 by inadvertently hi-fiving the US president at an Iranian peace summit. Hilarity ensues as Burt must race against time to help get the Iranian ambassador’s suit dry cleaned before the outbreak of all out nuclear war. Co-starring Danny Dyer as the US President and Helen Mirren as Kofia Annan. The film has been described by Sandler as ‘autobiographical’.

Body doubles were used for the more intimate scenes.

Body doubles were used for the more intimate scenes.

At the Whisky Mag press conference a spokesman for Adam said:

“Adam is really looking forward to bringing the same meticulous integrity to his venture with whisky magazine as he has to all his feature films. He has many new ideas and initiatives he will be instigating such as the new regular feature ‘Tasting Room Bum Bonanza’, a panel of notorious and upstanding whisky experts will be asked to sit and analyse incredible, legendary whiskies while Adam farts obnoxiously in the corner for no apparent reason. Instead of in-depth, and frankly boring and repetitive interviews, there will now be a segment where Adam sits down with a well respected whisky personality for an interview only to savagely wrestle them to the floor without warning, their cries of surprise and increasing anger will be meticulously reported and once the wrestle is finished the vanquished whisky personality will select the whisky bottle they would most like to smash over Adams stupid fucking face. The first edition features a thrilling blow by blow account of Adam’s forty five minute struggle to pin Dave Broom to a shag carpet. Don’t miss Dave’s monumental, vengeful retaliation with an Ardbeg Mor 1st edition (bottle number 304). Most exciting of all will be the regular competition ‘Bottle Cockle’, each issue a lucky reader will be presented with seventy bottles of Loch Dhu in a locked concrete bunker and only be allowed out once they successfully identify which bottle Adam has dangled his penis in, they have three attempts and one hour to get it right before all the bottles explode.”

It's in a beautiful location too.

It’s in a beautiful location too.

Adam Sandler is scheduled to take over the next issue of Whiskymag as of this month. Speaking to whiskysponge journalists over the phone from the set of Chunderhorse he said:

“I’m completely excited. You guys will love what I’ve cooked up for you all. I’m going to get started right away with my first feature, it’s called Wanking For Whisky, basically I travel round the whisky festivals of the world with a bottle of Bowmore Bouquet and a camera goading impoverished whisky lovers to perform extreme and demeaning sex acts with the promise of the Bowmore. The funniest bit is that the bottle is just full of Drumguish. I’ve already arranged a meeting with some guy called Joshua at Whisky Live New York.  He seems really keen, you should see some of the pictures he already sent me, I never even knew Bell’s Decanters were so versatile.” 

They can still surprise you even after all these years.

They can still surprise you even after all these years.

 

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They finally managed to get rid of this guy!

They finally managed to get rid of this guy!

Surviving members of elite whisky cabal the Malt Maniacs were last night making final preparations for the traditional autumn ‘spring clean’ of their membership. Master Of Membership Oliver Kermit (who holds the rank of Malt Major) said last night:

“It’s got to the point again where there is a perfect storm of new members, quite complex changes to the regulations and a distinct realisation that we strongly underestimated just quite how annoying and ridiculous some people are. I’d have organised all this sooner but posting pictures of all my food on facebook has really taken it out of me this year.”

It's exhausting

It’s exhausting

Members of the Malt Maniacs are traditionally fired at this time of year for any number of reasons that can include but are not limited to:

1. Pointing out flaws in the 100 point scoring scale

2. Failing to write long and complicated ‘e-missiles’ (unless they are already a well renowned whisky journalist).

3. Daring to be involved with whisky in any way that may actually make them some money.

4. Not having a sufficiently charismatic/eccentric outward appearance.

5. Suggesting that the jury might still be out on Loch Dhu.

6.  Not showing sufficient interest in long online conversations about the effects of differing PH levels in wort.

7. Yawning at tastings.

8. Farting at tastings.

9. Being slightly Scottish.

10. Knowing more about whisky than any member that outranks them.

This sort of thing is frowned upon.

This sort of thing is frowned upon.

Long time member and internationally renowned Whisky Journalist Jim Sweep said:

“The Malt Maniacs, wow am I really still a member, that’s some 1990s shit right there man!” 

Grand High Whisky Wizard and author of whiskybling.com Jasper Clementine said:

“This is never a decision we take lightly, our hearts are heavy and we look to the great Johannes in the sky for guidance on such issues. Having said that it’s totally my favourite time of the year.” 

This is coincidentally also the time of year when the Malt Maniacs gear up for their awards season. Speaking from a town in North Ontario, with dream comfort memory to spare, Canadian Maniac Colonel Gavin Le Miraclegrow said:

“It’s about this time of year we usually realise that we’ve got too many members to feasibly get sufficient tasting samples from one bottle. That means that we’d need two bottles and no one’s going to send us two 1957 Glen Grants, yeah sure we’ll get fucking cases of Glen Something 10yo or Isle Of Shit NAS, but juicy stuff, no way man. So yeah, we just ‘cut away the fat’ as it were, make room for the whisky that’s what I say. There’s so much organisation that goes into these awards, the sample divvying, the shipping, collating everyone’s scores, it’s quite a task really. I’ve made it a little easier this year by getting the winner’s trophy engraved with Glendronach’s name now to save a bit of time at the end, I mean, lets not kid ourselves on that one.”

It's in the bag

It’s in the bag

Roddy MacSporran, a chip supper swigging numpty from Kilmarnock who organises some sort of whisky festival or competition or some shit like that said:

“Fuck the Malt Maniacs by the way, what the fuck do they know, they’re just a bunch of collector wankers. Somebody should tell them whisky is for fuckin drinking. They’re all sitting there in their big fucking mansions, with their seven fuckin cars and their spare wives and their fuckin tea trollys and cellars full of vintage fuckin wine and their fuckin whisky collections. All this pish about scoring, whiskies nae for scoring, its for drinking, that should be fuckin obvious when they see it sloshin aboot in the bottle like. Why does everyone pay so much fuckin attention to their fuckin awards pish? I mean, whats that all about? All this fuckin tasting in their fancy little fuckin fairy glasses with their big fuckin noses. Just get a proper fuckin glass and drink the stuff. That’s what we do here anyway, at Roddy’s Collateral Drammage awards we just get doon the boozer and fuckin pour it out tae everyone. Nicest one wins a wee trophy, simple fuckin as! I was on that big gay forum of theirs on facebook the other night, some French guy with a fuckin moustache was all like ‘this Samaroli Isle Of Jura 1966 is just so beautiful, I think its almost better than the Ord 1962 Bouquet’ some fuckin pish right and I was like, if you love it so much why don’t you marry your big fuckin gay whisky. But then there was like pure hunners o comments underneath it, they were all giving it like ‘I love it too’, ‘have you tried the Glenugie’ pure pish like. What’s more I can prove they don’t know what they’re on about, turns out this Samaroli dude is fuckin Italian, they dinnae fuckin make whisky in Italy, everybody knows that like. By the way, have you tried this new Auchenbowie Irn Bru finish, it’s fuckin bonzer like!”

Morag MacSporran, Roddy’s long-suffering Mother said:

“Roddy’s just a wee bit jealous, he’s always going on about the Malt Maniacs, how he wants to join them and how he’d love to meet them and be their friend. He’s printed off pages and pages of their website and used it as wallpaper in his bedroom. He falls asleep every night with his face stuck against the wall, one morning he had a tasting note for quite a rare Ardbeg imprinted on his face I believe. I think everyone here just feels a bit afraid because they do seem to know an awful lot about whisky and have different opinions from those scary brand ambassador’s that come around from time to time. That’s all just a bit unusual to Roddy and his friends you see.” 

Jasper Clementine said:

“Holy featherless haggis!” 

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