Kentucky Rye – Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40%

Our host shared he wanted to start with the Basil Hayden’s one as it was an ‘outlier’ in flavour profile and approach. He also shared the reason he wanted to focus on Rye is the ‘liberties’ that can be taken to explore a range of combinations without any major restrictions.

Hence this was not simply matured in a Port cask…. it actually had Port simply blended with the Kentucky Straight Rye and Alberta Rye!

Which I somehow hadn’t clued into until after our tasting… no wonder our notes keep coming back to cherries and port!

Here is what we thought…

Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40%

  • Colour – Such a vibrant ruby red it was unreal! (the photo does NOT do justice to the colour!)
  • Nose – Started off a bit peculiar – like it was whiskey at all! Then shifted into orange, cloves, a bit musty and metallic, old wood polish, then increasingly the black cherries of the port became more and more pronounced, peaking behind was some vanilla custard… after the 1st sip, it took a sour almost sharp quality, lots of wood, vanilla and above all cherries
  • Palate – Sour fruits, dark cherries, spice comes in from behind… better on the 2nd sip, oily, sweet… while quite linear had different dimensions, becoming sweeter and sweeter with each sip, the port element remains strong, wood and even a bit of whey
  • Finish – Definitely there

Fresh out of the bottle it was a good place to start – while the three elements were not melding together cohesively, it did make for an interesting interplay. Unlike most where port is an accent from being matured in ex-port pipes, this was full on port… which clearly is due to it literally being added to the mix!

We set it aside and when we returned? It was like coconut water that has gone a bit off… after the cask strength and diverse other ryes, this one at 40% seemed watered down… back to being slightly queer or different.

While it may not be for everyone, it was certainly interesting to try! After later reading the notes it might go well on the rocks, perhaps with a twist of orange or as a cocktail such a Sazerac of Whisky Sour.

What did the folks at Basil Hayden’s have to say?

Blending is an art form, and our Dark Rye is your chance to own what might very well be a masterpiece.

It all begins with Kentucky Rye, providing a firm foundation of spice, oak, dried fruit and subtle molasses undertones for this release to build upon. From there, Canadian Rye from our award-winning Alberta Distillery is skillfully layered in. A touch of California Port, and its complementary notes of ripe fruit, provides the third and final layer to a whiskey just as at home on the rocks as it is in a cocktail.

Full in flavor, yet delicately nuanced, you’d be wise to grab a bottle of our Dark Rye to experience this magical blend for yourself.

  • Color – Deep, rich amber with ruby undertones
  • Aroma – Oaky notes balanced with dark berries and molasses
  • Taste – Complex blend of caramel, dried fruit, and oak with back notes of spice and a rounded mouth feel
  • Finish – Lingering dried fruit with a hint of sweetness and rye spice.

What else was on our Kentucky Rye menu?

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Shelter Point Cask Strength (2018) 58.7%

Last in our Shelter Point quartet from BC, Canada was their 2018 Cask Strength expression. Travelling from the west coast of Canada to Manitoba, the Manitoba to Maharashtra India, this quartet was a gift from the distillery to our Mumbai based tasting groups.

First up was the Whisky Ladies, followed by the Original tasting group and then for the last remaining drops an informal evening with a couple friends.

Here is what the Whisky Ladies had to say…

Shelter Point Artisanal Cask Strength (2018) 58.7%

  • Nose – Farm sweet, unripe avocado, smooth, citrus and camomile
  • Palate – Fruity with a bit of spice, some ginger, smooth, bright
  • Finish – Star anise, long and sweet
  • Water – We debated about this – to add or not. In the end those that did add were a bit disappointed whereas those who kept it water free, continued to enjoy their whisky full strength

Overall, what did we think? We found it quite sophisticated, we loved its character and sheer joyfulness. There was also a nice spiciness too that gave it a terrific kick.

We revisited it after some time and found it was full of sugar icing, vanilla, baking goodies and a tasty vanilla milkshake. Yum!

And then two weeks later with our original Mumbai group?

  • Nose – Some lovely classic notes that comes with a proper cask strength, complex, honey sweet, grape or linseed oil, perfume vanilla, sweet bubble gum, maple sugar cookies, red twizzlers, hair oil
  • Palate – Sweet and spice – one remarked how it is the distinctive Rye spice, a bit earthy, and at the centre – yum! Almost yolky
  • Finish – Just like the nose – fruity…

This one had the most diverse aromas… not an easy whisky, yet endearingly “cheerful” amidst its complexity and layers.

And a further revisit with a few friends a few days later was a different experience:

  • Nose – It began with a kicking spice, lots more “whisky”, then coconut marzipan, effervescent
  • Palate – Spices, quite “manly” with a bitter walnut, nougat, again a distinctly “rye” element but very balanced
  • Finish – Had a nice “oomph!”, black pepper, a bit bitter

We found the whisky kept changing the more it was in the glass, quite quixotic, teasing… so we decided to add water. Wow!

  • Nose – Toasted coconut, lime, lavender, herbal, flowers
  • Palate – Dark grapes, marmalade, chocolate
  • Finish – Heightened the bitter chewy quality chased with a hint of salt

Confession time?

I started to think of a quintessentially Canadian bar beverage made with Canadian “Rye” whiskey (aka a blend with a generous element of rye) and ginger ale. And while I was never a “Rye and Ginger” gal, I found myself pulling the bottle out of the whisky cabinet, pouring a generous dram, throwing a few large chunks of ice into the glass and topping with a healthy splash of cold ginger ale. Delicious!

The folks over at Shelter Point shared:

To create this limited edition cask strength whisky, we selected two casks of triple-distilled unmalted Shelter Point barley and combined these with two casks of rye, creating an incredibly rich and spicy whisky. Decadent, complex and intense, this blend will surprise you with layer after layer of flavour.

  • Shelter Point Cask Strength Whisky is fragrant on the nose with apricots, rum raisins and sticky toffee pudding.
  • The palate is sweet and warming with candied ginger, nougat, honey blossom and pineapple.
  • The satisfying finish is incredibly long with an assortment of spices, cherry wood and salt.

Whisky Facts:

  • Still: Custom-designed copper pot still
  • Base: 50% unmalted barley and 50% rye
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 3x distilled
  • Spirit: Natural colour and non-chill filtered
  • Alcohol Content: Bottled at 58.7% Alc.Vol

Bottom line? It absolutely works!

Here is what else we tried in our Shelter Point 2018 Quartet, courtesy of the cool cats over at the distillery:

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“Dining delight” Shelter Point Double Barrelled (2018) 50%

Imagine sitting down to a table overflowing with food – some contrasting salads, maple glazed carrots, beans, corn on the cob, pasta, roasted meat – and beside it sits a glass of liquid, pairing perfectly.

Naturally you thought wine, right? Perhaps even a Pinot Noir…  But what if the image shifted from a deep large round glass of red wine to the distinctive contours of a Glencairn glass? Containing instead a beautiful whisky from the west coast of Canada… ?

While you may be surprised, if you tried, you would not be disappointed!

But first, our  Whisky Ladies of Mumbai had a chance to discover… Here is what they had to say…

Shelter Point Double Barrelled French Oak Cask Finish Single Malt (2018) 50%

  • Nose – Sweetness, a bit musty and shy initially, then a lovely perfume, caramel, fruit, butter popcorn, candied apple, flowers
  • Palate – Spice, lots of variation, very different, whisky and wine combine
  • Finish – Long, dark grape peel, even some rich buttery ghee, a pinch of salt

Then a few weeks later our original Mumbai tasting group checked it out.

We discovered this whisky had certainly evolved… none of the musty elements, though some found it retained a bit of “shyness” on the nose until it opened up in the glass…

  • Nose – A lovely wine note, surely it must have held red wine in the French oak cask? It also had a light almond aroma mixing with the sweet fruits and berries
  • Palate – Such character! A nice balance of sweet and dryness, wood, spice and tannins, clear stamp of red wine with a nice body
  • Finish – Some light spice?

The more we sipped, the more we enjoyed this one. It had a wonderful palate… almost like sipping a good red wine.

As we sat down to dinner, this whisky made a brilliant companion. It truly turned out to be a perfect “dinner whisky” – wonderful!

It was then further revisited with a few friends not long after:

  • Nose – Soooo fruity! Pear, blackberry, sugar sweet and malty, macadamia nuts, cherry
  • Palate – Marvellous! Less sweet than the nose indicated, more substance. Is that coffee? Certainly more of those yummy berries with a nice peppery spice… not in the least bit harsh
  • Finish – Character follows through with a vanilla cream close

As before, the more we sipped, the more we enjoyed. It was much more complex than the other Shelter Points… one that requires you to slow down and pay attention.

I confirmed with the folks over at Shelter Point that their 2nd edition was in collaboration with Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, with a French Oak cask which previously held their rich fruity Pinot Noir.

All our speculation about the cask used for the finish fell into place – there was no doubt the dark grape, the tannis and berry fruitiness came from the wine cask.

Curious to know more? Here is what Shelter Point has to say:

We hand selected 4 of our finest Single Malt whisky casks and finished them in French oak wine barrels, previously home to Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir. Aged in our American oak for six and a half years, and then finished for 1993 hours in the flavourful French oak, Shelter Point Double Barreled Whisky is a sensational marriage of spirits.

Tasting Notes:

  • Nose: A deep, rich berry jam with toffee apple and toast. Stewed fruits, figs and rum raisins followed by powdered jelly doughnuts.
  • Palate: Sweet, juicy tropical fruits with oak and forest berries.
  • Finish: A warm peppery finish of cherry pie and salted caramel.

Whisky Facts:

  • Still: Custom-designed copper still
  • Base: Two-row barley (That’s it. Nothing else.)
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 2x distilled
  • Spirit: Natural color and non-chill filtered

So there you have it – one whisky, three distinctive experiences!

What else did we sample in our Shelter Point 2018 Edition evenings?

Interested in more Shelter Point tasting experiences?

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“Curious” – Shelter Point Montfort District Lot 141 Single Grain (2018) 46%

Something you really do need to know about Shelter Point distillery from BC, Canada is when they say “field to flask”, they really do mean it. The grow their own barley on their farm with this particular expression named after the lot:

Raised right here on our family farm on Vancouver Island, Montfort District Lot 141 is a truly unique field-to-flask whisky. The name itself is the very lot in which the single-grain barley was grown, and the coordinates to the exact field are included on every bottle. Distilled in our traditional copper pot stills, aged in American oak and French oak at our oceanfront warehouses, and bottled on-site by the Shelter Point family, Montfort DL 141 is a proud product of our distillery home.

I was so enthusiastic about our 2018 edition Shelter Point quartet that I arranged to share it with our Whisky Ladies, our original Mumbai tasting group and other enthusiasts…

Here is what we discovered! Starting with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai when the bottle was freshly opened…

Shelter Point Montfort District Lot 141 Single Grain (2018) 46%

  • Nose – Lots of fruits, sour mash, “barnyard funk” not in a bad way, just very rustic, like a dusty granary. Then chocolate mousse, cider, grape… with the aromas continuing to evolve… an unmistakable juicy fruit, gummy bears and dried tropical fruits
  • Palate – An odd sweetness, grape mash, becoming even sweeter, the oak is also there, a creamy or buttery quality
  • Finish – Limited
  • Water – Surprising how much it opened it up, yet also became less layered in the aromas

There was no doubt that the aroma was the most complex element… a few remarked how it was a shift after the beautiful Artisanal Single Malt.

A few weeks later, our original Mumbai tasting group had a chance to sample:

  • Nose – Benedryl, lots of cherry cough syrup, sweetened berries, cut green apple, tempered from earlier, single mono note, sweetest fruit, milk chocolate
  • Palate – Chocolate fudge, coconut “Bounty” candy bar, good body, cream
  • Finish – Short

More like a liqueur than a whisky… Shelter Point shares that the grain came from a single field. Yet we had lots of speculation about what the grain could be – was it barley that was unmalted? Or something else…? And what casks were used to achieve that berries and chocolate cream combination?

Then a revisit with friends familiar with Shelter Point whiskies soon after that:

  • Nose – Raw husk, bourbon-like, honey, faint liquorice, purple grape
  • Palate – At first so different than the aroma, heavy spice, sweet, farm like… Next sip was completely consistent with the nose – the light liquorice very much there, same with the purple grape
  • Finish – A fennel herbal finish with spice

This one requires a bit of effort. Particularly after the delightful Artisanal Single Malt, this Shelter Point is a definite contrast. Curious, challenging… one that takes patience to unravel. Yet worth taking time and feel privileged to have sampled.

As for the folks over at Shelter Point have to say?

  • Tasting notes: On the nose, Montfort DL 141 has distinct notes of vanilla fudge, dried fruits and hazelnut. The palate is honied and herbaceous with a luxurious assortment of dark chocolate cherries, leading to a warming spicy finish, with lingering oak and almond nougat.
  • Still: Custom-designed copper pot still
  • Base: 100% unmalted barley (That’s it. Nothing else)
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 3x distilled
  • Spirit: Natural colour and non-chill filtered

It also won the best Canadian grain in the World Whiskies Award 2019 having this to say:

“Floral and honey nose, orchard fruits and peaches with a light toffee colour. Spice, but very well balanced. The palate brings in green wood and flavours of baking spices, coconut and marmalade. Smooth and buttery in the mouth. Medium finish.”

What else did we sample in our Shelter Point 2018 Edition evenings?

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“Sheer joy!” – Shelter Point Artisanal Single Malt 46%

We kicked off our Shelter Point evening with the “foundation” expression – their Artisanal Single Malt.

This was our third opportunity to try Shelter Point’s single malt – from their very 1st batch in 2016, to their next edition in 2017 – loved them both! And hoped against hope would not be disappointed with their latest avatar.

Spoiler alert! This one was dubbed “sheer joy!” for its delightfully happy aromas.

Unlike some tasting sessions where notes come only from one sitting, this time I’ve divided the experience into three to reflect each sitting – both to capture the influences and perspectives shared by different tasting groups plus slight shifts in whisky itself – going from sealed to open for a month and a half.

First up was the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai who had this to say:

Shelter Point Artisanal Single Malt (2018) 46%

  • Nose – Honey sweet, floral and fruit, sunshine, vanilla cream, a hint of chocolate, a beautiful desert, bubblegum
  • Palate – Initially a nice zing, sugar sweet, ginger… then begins to mellow, even a bit of hazelnut and marzipan
  • Finish – Pleasant with a nice bit of bitter orange
  • Water – Rounds it out

Such a happy whisky… we could just keep coming back to it and enjoy its delicious honeyed aromas.

And then our original Mumbai group two weeks later found:

  • Nose – Greeted us with pears, apples, friendly yet with a prickly spice. Loads of honey, some hay… what one described as a “green malt”. Truly it had a beautiful bouquet, while uncomplicated with a narrow aroma, it was lovely, like a fresh meadow
  • Palate & Finish – Liquid honey, delicious and quite enjoyable but for some it seemed to dash away rather than hang about… where as for others, there was a clear finish with lots of pepper, slightly bitter in an interesting contrast to the very sweet nose

One joked that from initial palate to finish it was like having honey and crushed black peppercorns on a single spoon! No great depth, uncomplicated yet easy to enjoy. One to return to…

Then a small informal tasting a couple weeks later with lasses who had tried both earlier 2016 and 2017 editions:

  • Nose – Sheer happiness, amiable, warm baked apples, warm summer day, fresh mowed lawn, sweet sunshine
  • Palate – Not a pushover on the palate, more “oomph!” than we remember from the earlier batches, yet still completely delicious, warm spice, buttercup, butter tart
  • Finish – There but…

We discussed how this is one of those whiskies you simply enjoy – hard to pick apart or describe exactly why you love it so much, but it is just so darn “nice”… bottom line? We pronounced it “sheer joy” in liquid form!

While there is no age statement, we understand the whisky is matured for five years in American oak ex-bourbon barrels and it shows.

As for the folks over at Shelter Point? This is what they have to say:

  • Tasting Notes: An enticing nose of vanilla, coconut, caramel and tropical fruits. The palate provides a delectable melody of juicy fruits and candied sweets, leading to a tantalising finish of spice, malt chocolate and a hint of salt.
  • Still: Custom-designed copper pot still
  • Base: 100% malted barley (That’s it. Nothing else)
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 2x distilled
  • Spirit: Natural colour and non-chill filtered

We had the pleasure of sampling the entire 2018 range, courtesy of the folks at Shelter Point who kindly sent it from British Columbia to my family in Manitoba which I then brought back to Mumbai in February 2019.

Interested in the other Shelter Point 2018 editions? Check out our tasting notes:

Curious about our other brushes with Shelter Point?

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Shelter Point’s 2018 Whisky Quartet

I will admit to a certain bias… there is a good bit of Canadian pride at work when it comes to my experience with Shelter Point. However just because I think their single malt is the best to come out of Canada – sheer happiness in a bottle – doesn’t mean others do too.

Which is exactly I chose to do three rounds with this quartet which came courtesy of the lads over at Shelter Point – first with the Whisky Ladies then a couple weeks later with our original Mumbai tasting group and finally with a couple friends familiar with earlier editions from the distillery.

And what did we have an opportunity to try?

Shelter Point 2018 Quartet

The whiskies were complements of the Shelter Point distillery – shipped from BC to my folks in Manitoba then brought back to India on a recent trip to Canada in February 2019. We opened them in Mumbai late February 2019 with tastings that continued to late March 2019.

I was particularly thrilled to see the Artisanal Single Malt is now available in Manitoba for an exceedingly reasonable price of CND 67 (that’s less than US $50).

Just click on the links of the specific whiskies to read our collective tasting notes.

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Bombay Canadian Club – Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Lot 0001 43%

From blends to a single grain to a single malt, our Bombay Canadian evening had a rather civilized progression ending on this new single malt from Central City Brewing. The whisky’s name is a combination of Gary Lohin, Brewmaster and Stuart McKinnon, Head Distiller. Started as a brewpub in Surrey, British Columbia, Central City Brewing then grew to build a full fledged craft brewery and distillery – continuing to make beer, adding cigar, gins, rum and now whisky.

Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Lot 0001 43%

  • Nose – Going bananas big time! Initially sour overripe bananas it then shifted to more ripe fruits like apricots and pineapples, lots of barley, then a delicious banana cake, very fruit forward
  • Palate – You that banana cake on the nose? It was banana bread on the palate with cinnamon, still oodles of fruit with peach, apricot like that 5 fruit Tropicana juice
  • Finish – Simple yet long, light and satisfying

For most this was the favourite of our Canadian quartet – the banana cake quality was simply lip smacking! It also paired rather well with the cigars of choice for the evening too.

And here’s what the folks over at the LCBO have to say:

The brewing talent of Gary Lohin of Central City Brewing Co. and the distilling artistry of Stuart McKinnon culminate in this smooth craft whisky. Bourbon barrel ageing gives complexity to this malt that is layered with hints of cherry, vanilla, and wood smoke on a medium weight/creamy palate, finishing with gentle spice.

While still only available through your provincial LCBO, this new single malt from BC is a bit harder to track down and may require going to a “specialty” store, finding the folks with the key to the locked cabinet. However the price remains most reasonable – currently C$60.40. This 1st edition was released in July 2017.

Check out what else our Bombay “Canadian” evening covered:

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Bombay Canadian Club – Gibson’s Finest Venerable 18 year 40%

When you think of a Canadian whisky, one typically assumes a 3 year old, normally a blend or a rye… not an 18 year old whiskey.

This time from Gibson’s Finest – a distillery that started in Pennsylvania then with prohibition relocated to Quebec, where they have been producing whiskey every since.

Gibson’s Finest Venerable 18 year 40%

  • Nose – Sweet lemon, clean and simple, a touch of butterscotch
  • Palate – Very soft on the front, boiled sweets at the back then bread, sweet lemon cake, settling into a cream and biscuits with a hint of maple
  • Finish – Very light, warm

Overall we found it to be the epitome of spring, fresh and light, just skipping around ones palate. It is a day whisky, easy going, with a gentle single note. Not one harsh element and while one would ideally want a bit more complexity in an 18 year old, it was enjoyable in a innocuous and pleasant way.

As we tried this in one of Bombay Malt & Cigar evenings, the next step was to consider that combination. With this Gibson’s a cigar simply overpowers… best to enjoy each separately!

In Canada, you can find this through your provincial LCBO – currently for C$89.95.

Check out what else our Bombay “Canadian” evening covered:

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Bombay Canadian Club – G+W, Gibson’s, JP Wiser’s, Lohin McKinnon

The funny thing about Canadians is we pop up all over the globe. It just so happens that one of our Bombay Malt and Cigar members is married to a fellow Canadian… and happened to have a trip back there recently… and just so happened to pick up a few bottles of Canadian whisky.

Which meant this month, our Bombay Malt and Cigar group was temporarily dubbed the “Bombay Canadian Club” with a chance to check out some offerings from my home and native land Canada!

Here is what we sampled, standing politely in a row:

Read on in the coming days for more details and impressions about our tasting experiences.

I had barely recovered from a rousing Canadian Thanksgiving feast the previous week with friends in Mumbai when our host followed up our whiskies and cigars with Canadian cuisine of tourtiere meat pie, poutine and nanaimo bars! After such an evening, we practically stood up to sing “O Canada!” (But were too polite to do such a thing.)

What was clear across the board is that these were all quite approachable and easy to enjoy whiskies. Not a single one was priced above CND 100, with most around (or even below) the C$50 mark. Making them equally approachable on the financial front as well.

However in terms of availability, some may need an extra check to see which local Canadian LCB (Liquor Control Board) has stock… as not all are “standard” fare. Case in point, our host really did try to track down other single malts such as Shelter Point… alas not a drop to be found where he went in the East or West!

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Bombay Canadian Club – Gooderham and Worts Four Grains (Take Two!)

This wasn’t my 1st brush with Corby’s reconstruction of an old time Canadian blend which had a checkered past of being sold from Ontario to Quebec and smuggled back to meet the demand during temperance times…

Nope! This Gooderham and Worts Four Grain featured in an earlier “O Canada” evening – with initially not so enthusiastic impression followed by social occasions where it was a complete hit!

Gooderham & Worts Four Grains A.A1129 44.4%

  • Nose – It started off quite musty, grainy like wallowing in a granary, definitely had rye, then shifted into a lovely citrus, settling on a clear orange, even chocolate orange, some caramel, warm… back to wheat husk and barley, a drizzle of honey
  • Palate – Sourdough bread, very malty, sweet sugar on the 2nd sip, light spice, and lots of sourgum, more substance than expected
  • Finish – Surprisingly long, paprika and cinnamon

Overall we found it was very sweet. A clear reflection of all its components of corn, rye, wheat and barley. Most had started with rather – ahem! – modest expectations and were quite pleasantly surprised.

After resting covered for some time, we came back for a revisit – initially greeted with a sharp grain, vanilla and then… remarkably a most distinctive chaat masala emerged with full on black salt. It may sound odd but it wasn’t bad, just unexpected.

As we settled into the cigar puffing part of the evening, this blend held its own… not such a bad start to our Canadian explorations.

Here’s what the folks at the LCBO have to say:

A blend of corn, rye, wheat and barley and bottled at 44.4% ABV this pours a golden/amber colour. On the nose look for notes of honey, toffee, dried flowers, and bubble-gum; the palate is rich and full with a smooth/viscous mouthfeel and flavours of sweet floral and stone fruit followed by a medium-length spicy finish.

Thanks to Canada’s regulated approach to the sale of liquor, one can easily find both where to buy (simple – your provincial LCBO) and how much (currently C$44.95), with this blend relatively easy to find in Ontario.

And if you are picking this up in Toronto and feeling a little nostalgic, I’d recommend a wander through the old distillery district where you can see what once upon a time was the building that produced an earlier avatar!

Check out what our Bombay “Canadian” evening covered:

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