Nick & Chris’ Top 25 Cigars for 2021

December 27, 2021

What a year 2021 has been for the cigar industry. While 2020 threw a curveball at us that caused immense suffering, logistics issues, stock problems, and event cancelations, we are now starting to see a semi-return to normalcy.

As the year draws to a close, the industry starts to look back on the year and bring out a slew of Top 25 lists. This is always a hotly debated and excitable time of year, as each publication has its various ways of rating and someone out there is always going to disagree. Check out the October 22nd episode of Smoke Night Live with Cigar Dojo to see a more in-depth look at this.

Our team has a very simple and transparent way of choosing our top 25 Cigars of the Year. First off, they are cigars that we sell. While JR Cigars has the largest inventory of premium cigars, there are going to be some smokes, for one reason or another, that we do not carry. That being said, we have a wide enough sample size to choose what I believe is an effective list.

Secondly, we don’t do hundreds of blind tests or weekly ratings and then check through various documents to determine our rankings. We keep it simple… we choose the cigars we smoked the most. Anytime we were bored, going out with friends, or needed a cigar for a meeting, these are the cigars we chose.

Your opinions might differ, in fact, I hope they do. Cigars are a very personal experience and everyone has their different preferences. This list simply shows the various cigars that Chris and I would light up consistently throughout the year.

Without further ado, here are Nick & Chris’s Top 25 Cigars for 2021.

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25. Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Box Pressed Sun Grown Epicure

The Perdomo 10th Anniversary has been a mainstay in the company’s portfolio for over a decade. Last year, Nick Perdomo and his team revived the line by adding in two revamped versions and crafting them in a special box-pressed format.

The Sun Grown, which uses six-year-old Nicaraguan tobaccos throughout also features a sleek sun-grown wrapper that spent an additional 10 months aging in bourbon barrels. Sweet caramel, touches of pepper and a hint of leather make this an impressive cigar and much-needed addition to this classic staple.

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24. Fratello Arlequin Robusto

Fratello is quickly becoming a favorite among the JR team. Omar has a fantastic story, amazing packaging, and above all has been producing some top-notch blends. This year, we found ourselves really drawn to the Arlequin. While the name and packaging have a fun and quirky story behind them, it is the cigar itself that really stands out.

Produced at the Joya de Nicaragua factory, this smoke uses a blend of Nicaraguan and Peruvian fillers, an Ecuadorian Habano binder, and a dark Mexican San Andres wrapper. This unique blend provides tremendous notes of dark chocolate, raisins, and a touch of spice and tobacco sweetness. This cigar is no joke… get it?

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23. CAO Zocalo Robusto

While I have been a fan of CAO since Brazilia was launched, it was the initial release of the CAO Zocalo that brought us together again. It was Greg’s first cigar when he started and since then our entire team has been waiting for it to come back. This year our wish was granted.

Named after the town square in Mexico City, this robust smoke uses Nicaraguan filler, a hearty Cameroon binder, and of course a Mexican San Andres Morron wrapper. It is heavy and complex smoke, with richness and spice that rise and fall throughout, giving you something to look forward to with every puff.

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22. Tatuaje Broadleaf Regios

My love of broadleaf is no secret. While there are many different interpretations of this tobacco today, almost all of which I enjoy, my affair with this heavy Connecticut tobacco started with Tatuaje. Pete Johnson just really knows how to utilize this tobacco and that experience really shines through in the Broadleaf Regios.

Originally part of his 100 Broadleaf cigar collection, this Nicaraguan smoke is now available on its own. Using Cuban seed fillers from My Father and that dark chocolate wrapper, you are in for a roller coaster of heavy rich flavor.

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21. Ashton Symmetry Robusto

I equate the Ashton brand to Daniel Day-Lewis. They don’t release a brand-new blend every year, but when they do it is something amazing and award-winning. This is the case with the Ashton Symmetry, first released back in 2014.

It was actually the first new cigar I covered when I started at JR. It is hand-rolled at the Fuente factory using aged Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers, followed by a flawless Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.

It has the flavor and complexity of the VSG with the smoothness and balance of the ESG. In my mind, it is the perfect Ashton cigar and one I will be smoking for years to come.

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20. Ramon Allones by AJ Fernandez Toro

While AJ Fernandez is now a titan of the industry, responsible for hundreds of cigars for countless companies, the Ramon Allones is one of his name brands that I go back to again and again. First of all, it is visually stunning – unquestionably one of the most perfect-looking cigars I have ever seen.

Its blend is one of the most complex and unique that AJ has ever crafted, using the rare Medio Tiempo wrapper followed by a mix of Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo for the filler and binder. A mix of tobacco sweetness, dark fruit, leather, and spice come together beautifully to make this one of the best blends from one of the top blenders.

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19. La Aurora 107 Nicaragua Toro

The La Aurora 107 is the company’s highest-rated, as well as most confusing lines. I won’t get into the semantics of the different versions of the 107, but for this cigar specifically, the oldest Dominican manufacturer in the industry decided to release a Nicaraguan puro to the mix. The result is fantastic.

For a company that is almost only known to use Dominican tobaccos, they handled this Nicaraguan blend amazingly. Complexity and top construction combined with a flavorful profile and smooth draw make this another solid entry from one of the oldest in the game.

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18. Room 101 Farce 6.50x42

In 2017, Matt Booth of Room 101 made his triumphant return to the cigar industry. Since then he has been on a tear, releasing several new blends including last year’s #1 Cigar of the Year, the Big Payback Maduro. This year we are looking at the first cigar he released upon his return that set the pace for his newfound success.

The Farce, made in collaboration with Robert Caldwell at the William Ventura factory is a complex and nuanced smoke. It uses tobacco from five countries, including an Ecuadorian wrapper and fillers from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Pennsylvania to give it notes of pepper, cocoa, earth, and nuts.

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17. La Gloria Cubana Medio Tiempo Toro

La Gloria Cubana will always be a brand close to my heart. The Series R Maduro was the first premium cigar I ever smoked so I have always been a fan of the brand. Although there have been some hits and misses in recent years, their newest cigar is most definitely a hit. This cigar utilizes an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, broadleaf binder, and a blend of Dominican, Honduran, Nicaraguan and American fillers.

The real gem is the use of Connecticut Habano Medio Tiempo tobacco in the filler. Medio Tiempo is the highest tobacco leaf and only occurs on occasion. This incredibly flavorful tobacco makes this already complex and flavorful smoke even more nuanced and rich with notes of black pepper, tobacco sweetness, and a rich smooth draw.

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16. Southern Draw Cedrus Toro

While the Jacobs Ladder and Lustrum will always be my go-to cigars from Southern Draw, this year I found myself going back to their most unique release… the Cedrus. I’ve never tasted a cigar like this before. It uses a blend of tobaccos unlike most others on the market, including an Indonesian Sumatra Besuki wrapper that really delivers a unique experience.

This cigar tastes like a forest. It has this fresh, clean, floral tone that transitions with each puff. It is an absolutely delightful smoke that I think needs more notoriety for two reasons. First of all, it is a fantastic smoke, but it also showcases the true talents of Robert Holt and AJ Fernandez.

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15. Espinosa Laranja Escuro Toro

The Espinosa Laranja is one of my favorite cigars of all time. When Erik announced he was releasing a darker version of the blend, I thought there was no way this could be as good as that epic smoke. I was wrong. The Laranja Escuro has everything I loved about the original but still offers a new experience and profile.

While I loved the original for its citrus notes and spice, this blend, using a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper, give out rich notes of coffee, chocolate, and a touch of leather and wood. The smoke production is outstanding, as is the construction.

Espinosa makes a plethora of top-notch smokes, but the Laranja line will continue to be my favorite, especially if each line extension is as complex and flavorful as this one.

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14. Foundation The Wise Man Maduro Robusto

I really cannot envision a world where a Foundation cigar doesn’t make this list. Not only does Nick Melillo make incredible blends, but the real key here is also consistency. I have loved the Wise Man Maduro since it was first launched in 2017, and each one I have smoked since then has been just as good. That’s incredibly difficult to do in this industry, but Nick is just on another level.

The San Andres wrapper on this cigar is exquisite and offers touches of milk chocolate, leather, and dark fruits. There is a noticeable tobacco sweetness from the Nicaraguan filler as well as notes of white pepper. The construction has yet to be anything less than stellar, with none of them ever requiring touch-ups and producing near-flawless ash. This cigar is definitely on my desert island list.

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13. Aganorsa Signature Seleccion Toro

Aganorsa is slowly becoming not only one of my favorite brands but also one of my favorite manufacturers in general. On this list, you will find four different cigars that were crafted using Aganorsa tobacco. While the Rare Leaf really struck me this year, its severely limited nature didn’t make it the best choice for this list. However, the Signature Seleccion has been a reliable smoke for me for quite some time now.

In my mind, this is literally the “signature” smoke from Aganorsa. It’s s a great representation of their tobaccos, including the sweet Nicaraguan Corojo. Add in some Criollo and Medio Tiempo filler tobaccos, and you have a flavorful, complex, and incredibly well-balanced cigar. This cigar offers up notes of cream, tobacco sweetness, a hint of milk chocolate, and a touch of cedar.

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12. Crowned Heads Mother Church JR 50th Anniversary

I really didn’t want to add any of our 50th Anniversary cigars to the list this year. I thought it would seem self-serving and an attempt to just sling our own products. However, I couldn’t in good conscience put together a list of the cigars I smoked the most this year and not include the Mother Church. In fact, I have probably smoked more of this cigar than anything else this year. It’s simply outstanding.

Its blend, crafted by Tabacalera Pichardo, is nuanced and flavorful, but never overwhelming. The Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper adds beautiful notes of tobacco sweetness and coffee. The use of Connecticut broadleaf for the binder utilizes the best parts of that tobacco (its richness) but uses it in such a balanced fashion.

This cigar has also made me fall in love with the Churchill vitola. Michael Herklots once told me that Churchills have the ability to tell the full story of the blend, and I think the Mother Church is the purest example of what he means by that.

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11. Davidoff Winston Churchill Petite Corona

Here is another example of how these lists tend to get personal and are more about the author’s preference and experience than being purely objective. The Davidoff Winston Churchill will always be special to me, as the launch party was one of the first events I ever covered for JR.

From my first puff that day, nearly a decade ago, this has remained one of the finest and most consistent cigars I’ve ever smoked. Davidoff has released a slew of highly rated and limited projects since then, but I constantly find myself going back to Winston Churchill.

This cigar, in my opinion, ushered in a new era of complex, stronger, and nuanced blends from Davidoff. Its use of Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos offers a complex core, with spice and nuts being the primary flavors. The San Andreas binder adds hints of dark chocolate and subtle richness.

Its Ecuadorian Habano wrapper is just incredible. It is visually flawless and has such a tremendous balance of spice and tobacco sweetness that is still unrivaled in the Davidoff portfolio. The only reason I don’t smoke more is that Davidoff cigars tend to come with a  higher price tag, but this cigar has been worth it every time.

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10. Montecristo Epic Vintage Blue Toro

Montecristo is one of only two brands to have multiple entries on this list. Oddly enough, Chris and I each picked a Montecristo and we both decided they were both worthy of inclusion.

My choice was the Montecristo Epic Vintage Blue. I think this cigar is the perfect showcase of what AUSA is capable of and the direction they are heading. They are taking the perfect steps to bring all of their brands into the modern era of the cigar industry.

Visually, this is one of the best-looking Montecristos you will see. There is hardly a blemish or deep vein on the wrapper. The bands and packaging are more modern than a typical Monte, but they remain simple, classy, and elegant.

The cigar is hand-rolled at the TDG factory in the Dominican Republic and uses Dominican filler tobaccos that were first grown back in 2012. The Nicaraguan binder adds in somebody and complexity, while the Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper offers up hints of coffee, nuts, and sweetness. This is one of the finest expressions of Sumatra I have ever seen, and I believe the beginning of a new era for AUSA.

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9. Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust Mi Querida Triqui Traca 652

This is our third year in a row putting together a Top 25, and the third year in a row this cigar has made the list. The Triqui Traca remains an absolute stud of a cigar. Chris and I both agree that it has earned its place on this list once again.

This sequel to the original Mi Querida takes what was already a fantastic cigar but just pushes it across the finish line into pure amazement. It is slightly stronger, slightly more complex, slightly smoother, and slightly more flavorful. Also, and this might just be our opinion, the use of the red Mi Querida band is just pure awesome.

The Triqui Traca, which many of you know is a variety of Nicaraguan firecracker, is rolled at the iconic NACSA factory in Nicaragua, with Steve blending it himself. It uses Nicaraguan and a touch of Dominican Ligero filler for some extra kick. This wrapper, a Connecticut broadleaf No. 1 Dark leaf, is slighter higher priming than the original Mi Querida. It is rich, bold, smooth, sweet, and spicy all in one. This will always remain a top cigar for our team and a staple in many more Top 25s.

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8. Aging Room Rare Collection Scherzo

Earlier this year, Rafael Nodal announced the release of a new, limited project in conjunction with his dear friend AJ Fernandez. Known as the Rare Collection,  this is intended to be the first in a series of projects.

Its purpose is to highlight a certain variety of rare tobacco in each blend and then release it in limited quantities. Being the inaugural release in this line, there was much hype surrounding its announcement, and we think all the hype was justified.

Chris actually had the opportunity to attend the launch of this cigar and smoked it before me. It was on his recommendation that I immediately gave it a try and fully agreed with his assessment. It was phenomenal.

The Nicaraguan puro is incredibly complex and flavorful, with each puff delivering something different. It’srolled with a special Nicaraguan Hybrid wrapper grown on one of AJs farms, as well as some of the iconic Pelo de Oro in the filler. Notes of spice, oak, leather, and hay combine for a plethora of enticing flavors and make this something to get excited about.

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7. Padron 1926 No. 9 Maduro

For Chris’ first episode as co-host, he lit up what I believe was his first Padron 1926.  As soon as the show ended, he said “This is on the list and it’s high”. I couldn’t agree more.

Year after year, Padron has proven itself to be worth every bit of praise they have received. Their cigars are consistent and remain at the highest level, even decades after they were first released. While the Family Reserve and the 1964 garner a majority of the attention, Chris and I think 1926 is the perfect Padron Blend.

A Nicaraguan puro, the Padron 1926 uses tobaccos aged over 4 years. The Maduro version, which is our preference, is rich, smooth, and nutty with just a dab of spice from the Nicaraguan core tobaccos. The ash is white and tight from start to finish – you would be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t burn straight. The Padron 1926 is a Hall of Famer and will never cease to be in the rotation.

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6. HVC Pan Caliente

This industry is growing day by day and being the largest retailer in the world, sometimes it is difficult to give each manufacturer the time and attention they deserve. This is something we have tried to remedy recently by smoking more and more brands that might not have the biggest names but sport a solid reputation. This is where HVC comes in.

While I’ve been a fan of the cigars I have tried, it wasn’t until this year that my admiration for this brand grew tenfold. When looking for something new to smoke on the podcast, we came upon an unopened box of the HVC Pan Caliente. I knew they were good quality and made at Aganorsa, so we thought “yeah let’s give it a shot”. That box has now been smoked through entirely and I’ve even ordered another for myself.

This cigar was outstanding from start to finish. The construction, flavor transitions, smoke output…everything was top notch. Handcrafted in Nicaragua, the Pan Caliente uses a Nicaraguan Criollo 98 wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binders. It is slightly sweet, meaty, juicy, and just smooth.

It has that characteristic I’ve always talked about but can’t seem to accurately define. It’s a cigar that you don’t want to put down. This experience led me down a rabbit hole and I now make sure to try every new HVC as soon as it drops.

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5. Illusione Fume D’Amour Clementes

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Dion Giolito is a top-five blender of this generation. The man is a scientist when it comes to procuring and blending his cigars. His attention to detail and consistency make Illusione one of the most highly-rated brands in the industry, and one of the most beloved by true cigar enthusiasts.

It is a toss-up for me on which of his cigars I smoke the most of, but this year I found myself most drawn to one of his most iconic lines, the Fume D’Amour. This classic cigar was a top cigar of the year back in 2014, and almost a decade later still reigns at the top of most lists.

The Fume D’Amour is a Nicaraguan puro that is rolled at TABSA, the Aganorsa facility. Dion is very hands-on in the blending process, handpicking the leaves from different farms and crops to maintain his high level of quality and consistency.

Each puff delivers notes of nuts, vanilla, sweetness, cinnamon, and just a hint of leather. This is just one of many masterpieces that Dion has created and it still holds up all these years later.

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4. Undercrown 10 Robusto

We have always been a fan of the Undercrown line in all its incarnations. The Sungrown and Shade were solid additions to a brand that was always well-liked by the industry and the consumers.

However, I always felt that the Maduro Undercrown was always stuck in the shadow of the Liga Privada line. After all, it was made as an inexpensive replacement and even though it is a great cigar on its own, I felt it was always going to be trapped there. Then, for the 10th anniversary of the brand, Drew Estate released a special version of the Undercrown.

Known as the Undercrown 10, I believe we are looking at the best new blend Drew Estate has created in several years. This is a rich, powerful and complex smoke that can completely stand on its own. It’s not just an elevated version of the original, it is simply a fantastic cigar… full stop.

Its San Andreas wrapper is dark, smooth, and filled with chocolate, rich flavor. This is enhanced by a broadleaf binder and smooth Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. It has a unique floral taste that you don’t usually find in a rich Maduro, but that made me like it even more.

If this is any indication of what Drew has in store for the Undercrown line, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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3. Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaraguan Toro

To say this was a big year for Montecristo would be an understatement. As you can see, this is the only brand with two entries in this list and both of them were no-brainers. It’s also interesting that each of the Montecristos we chose came from a different factory, which shows the ability of the brand to work efficiently with different factories to create outstanding blends.

While the Epic Vintage is a showcase of that traditional, Dominican Montecristo, 1935 is a much more modern blend and a beautiful representation of the work AUSA has done with AJ Fernandez.

The 1935 honors the founding year of the Montecristo line, which was born almost a century ago in Cuba. Since then, it has become the most well-known brand in the industry. While working on the blend, Rafael Nodal teamed with his old friend… the iconic AJ Fernandez.

Using his San Lotano factory, they created a rich, flavorful full-bodied smoke that still encompasses the luxury and nuance that Montecristo has become famous for. This is a Nicaraguan puro, using tobaccos grown in the best growing regions of Nicaragua.

The cigar starts off with a powerful spicy kick, but within a few puffs finds its footing with tremendous notes of cinnamon, coffee, dark fruit, and oak notes. Its constant flavor transitions, amazing construction, and silky smoke output make for one of the best new lines of the past year. While this is not a Montecristo for everyone, if this profile is your preference, you won’t find anything better.

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2. Crowned Heads CHC Serie E Hermoso No.2

Crowned Heads has always been a favorite of our team. From the blends to the stories and overall vibe of the company, we simply can’t get enough. The past few years have seen them really come into their own even more following their partnership with Tabacalera Pichardo.

I personally think some of the best blends from the company have come out in just the last two years. The Mil Dias was a top cigar last year, the Mother Church made this list and now we have the crème de la crème… not to be confused with the La Careme. This year, Jon Huber tasked Pichardo with creating a new version of the fan-favorite CHC Reserve, and they certainly delivered.

First, I want to discuss the design and concept behind the Serie E. Like many Crowned Heads releases, there is an awesome backstory to this cigar. It takes its name and design from the legendary Van Halen song Eruption. Jon wanted a cigar that represented what it felt like to listen to this classic metal song. Jon himself said, “The CHC Serie E smoking experience is a medium-plus-bodied dance on the edge between technical mastery and random entropy, resolving in a balanced, melodious harmony.”

Now let’s get into the cigar itself. Serie E uses filler tobaccos from the three main growing regions of Nicaragua, and you can even taste the distinct flavors from each one. The Jalapa gives it some great tobacco sweetness, the Ometepe adds in some smokey flavor, and the Pueblo Nuevo helps balance everything out.

The stunning Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper is the true star of the show, bringing in hints of dark chocolate, raisins, sweet spice, and leather. It’s not just the construction or the heavy flavors that made us love this smoke, but it was the overall balance. Each tobacco played its part, much like different instruments in a song, to create one of the best cigars of the year.

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1. Alec & Bradley Kintsugi Corona Gorda

This cigar upset us more than any release of the past few years. We were angered because this missed our deadline for Top 25 2020 by just a few weeks. The minute we smoked our first Kintsugi, we knew this was going to be a go-to for a long time.

After smoking more than our fair share all year, we came to realize that even with all of the amazing releases of 2021, this is still the cigar we reach for the most. This is still the cigar that has it all … for us at least. Therefore, we felt personally obligated to name the Kintsugi our #1 cigar of the year.

Alec and Bradley Rubin have made quite the splash in the industry with three major releases to their name, plus a number of smaller projects. Each one has become a fan favorite due to the blend of top-notch tobaccos and creative designs.

The Kintsugi is the pinnacle of these characteristics. It is both, we think, their best blend and finest creative endeavor. It takes its name from the Japanese art Kintsugi, in which broken bowls or pottery are mended with gold, to highlight the cracks instead of hiding them. This concept was turned into one of the most impressive box and band designs we have seen.

While it’s no secret that I have never been the biggest fan of Honduran cigars, this cigar has completely changed my opinion. I am now a fan of Honduran cigars, especially when they taste like this. The blending of Honduran and Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos gives it such unique core flavors, not often seen in Honduran smoke.

The Honduran Habano wrapper is what brings it all home in the end. It starts off subtle, with notes of tobacco sweetness, oak, and cream. It then seamlessly transitions to a more Nicaraguan style, with a bit more body and a dash of spice. It is then finished up with a rich chocolate taste and even has some floral notes.

It is a flavor roller coaster from start to finish, but never delivers too much of a good thing. It’s incredibly well-balanced, well rolled, and even though we don’t count price, I will say these could easily sell for $3-$5 more per cigar. It’s just a tremendous effort from beginning to end and everything in between.

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