Parabola
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

ParabolaParabola
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Style:
Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #2
ABV:
13%
Score:
100
Ranked #30
Avg:
4.65 | pDev: 7.53%
Reviews:
1,362
Ratings:
6,976
From:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
 
California, United States
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Rotating
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Gots
  3,817
SCORE
100
World-Class
ParabolaParabola
Notes: This Russian imperial oatmeal stout is aged for a full year in a blend of bourbon barrels from Elijah Craig, Four Roses, Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, and Buffalo Trace.
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Reviews: 1,362 | Ratings: 6,976
Reviews by Fluteswell:
Photo of Fluteswell
4.75/5  rDev +2.2%

More User Reviews:
Photo of seedyone
4.84/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

05/14/13 On tap at Rattle n Hum, NYC. 2013 vintage. The first sip is like an innocent kiss & then it's too late. You find you have a tiger by the tail...or should I say it's got you. There's so much going on in the glass it's difficult to home in on where to start. Each sip is different from the last & they are spiraling upwards until you reach a plateau of familiarity that has simplified all the complexities of aroma & flavors that make up this admirable brew & you start to feel at home & very comfortable.

Not for the faint of heart (or anyone driving). I found myself sipping at a leisurely pace for 1) enjoyment 2) preservation of the potion, as it's a rare find & 3) self preservation. The 12.5% ABV, although present in every sip, never let's on that this is for adults only. Think of it as an encounter on a plane trip, sitting next to some extremely attractive & engaging person & your smitten. It's a short lived experience & most likely once in a lifetime. Because of that, all feelings are multiplied & enhanced, in memory, by distance from the moment.

Do yourself a big, big flavor favor & make some time for this indulgence. If you do I guarantee your self esteem will improve based on that decision alone.

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Photo of tectactoe
4.59/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to the numerous BA's who sent me some bottles of this; I've put it off for way too long. It pours an extremely dark brown color that might as well be called jet-black as it sits, motionless in the glass. A light-mocha colored head plumes up and shows excellent retention; it lasts for days and leaves nice lace spots behind as it slowly recedes down the glass.

The aroma is magnificent; lots and lots of bourbon that's mellowed out by a deep onset of wood and oak. Plentiful amounts of chocolate graze the top of the booze; sweet, creamy and delicate, like a molten mocha cake. Mild hints of vanilla ride over the top of everything, most likely an induction of the barrel itself.

A nice, underlying blanket of roasted malts gives a solid base upon which everything else seems to stand, although the bourbon is strong enough that it may not even need a "base". Parabola has a very large aroma; its potency outright is surely something to behold, and if nothing else, it tells you that this is gonna be one hell of a beer.

Wow. One sip in, and color me impressed. Incredibly smooth, silky, and soft on the palate with just a light tingle of carbonation as the bourbon-heavy brew slips across my palate. The "first and foremost" flavor would be the monumental heaps of chocolate that assault my palate. Deep, dense, dark, bittersweet, and creamy fudge-y chocolate cascades over my senses, clashing with smaller pips of vanilla to create an almost dessert-like delicacy with each sip.

Make no mistake about it, though, the bourbon and oak are as heavy as can be. Soft, warming bourbon entrances every sip just as well, showing the huge robustness of the brew and sending a permanent warmth from the back of your tongue to your belly. Not "hot", but pretty warm, while still remaining smooth thanks to the blunting efforts of the creamy chocolate and the oatmeal.

The aftertaste also contains a bit of bourbon and lots of oak; almost enough oak to call the finish "dry", but falling just shy of this mark. The malts open up a bit more with time, adding more complex notes of burnt caramel and maybe even a touch of sweet maple syrup in the finish. The dominant chocolate and bourbon notes still reign supreme, making this beer like an "adults only" dessert that would be fit for a king.

Well, it's taken me long enough to finally try Parabola, and now that I have, I'll be sure to nab up as much as possible each year that it comes out. Being from Southeast Michigan, some might say we're spoiled with "big" stouts; BCBS, KBS, Black Note, etc... But I'd put Parabola RIGHT up with those brews, and possibly even ahead of a few. So what the hell are you complaining about West Coasters?? This stuff is amazing.

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Photo of ChristianAlexander
4.9/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

A parabola is a curve on a x, y graph which, if you imagine striking lines through it, will have points of contact that are of equal distance. I picked up this definition in college. Thinking of parabolas in real-world terms as the trajectory of a ground-launch missile or gravity's rainbow, from a dense high-brow Pynchon novel, I also picked up in college. But my favorite Parabola is this boozy 14% ABV Russian Imperial Stout with its oatmeal taste, and vanilla raisin fragrance. Firestone Walker Brewing Company has concocted a real treat and it was while in college on Spring Break, a break from my studies on Shakespeare, Eisenstein montage, Brando-bravado, D.W. Griffith's racist apologetics, that I and a few thespian friends wandered into this brewery. They have a location in northern and southern california and surprisingly I found myself in the northern one for my first encounter. Drug dealers will tell you expanding your post to multiple areas helps with distribution, helps with profits, so it's no surprise when breweries say this as well. The biggest thing I picked up in college was my fine-tuned tongue for beer (because, and everyone knew, my gifted abilities at acting I already possessed on my first day of college (still had to pay that loan though)). Young and already drunk almost to the point of poisoned, we walked into Firestone Walker and was served the Parabola. On first taste I felt the curvature, starting point then up the y-axis, along the x-axis, seconds later down the y but still along the x. It was an experience. An experience which when I look back I can only recall portions of, like feeble lines striked through, only getting two points of contact, not the whole curve. I and my friends, we drank and drank this beer down and down and when the ambulance arrived to take our unconscious bodies to the ER, we did not cooperate, we were not appreciative. We were young and dumb and didn't understand. But also, we know these medics, fresh out of 6-months of EMT training, did not understand what we did. Which is how good of a beer this was.

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Photo of utopiajane
4.65/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This pours out the paragon of virtue. Completely opaque. Black walnut. If you only pour a bit like I did you will not see too much of the mocha colored head but it does refresh even though I did not pour one. It created a ring as I swirled it and left spot of lace and alcohol legs. In the natural light the beer showed a deep chestnut brown with engaging clarity. ( In the photo you can see my face in the beer)

Deep rich, sweet chocolate and hearty roasted malt combine on the nose. Subtle blushing cherries, bold bourbon and a bit of espresso coffee. The bourbon is like a flower that opens on the nose. It is fragrant and seductive. There is a scent of toasted coconut that is light and accented by a bit of vanilla. Dark fruits dance gayly in the background. Molasses rounds out the nose and the scent of sweetened nuts.

The palate is alive at once with earthy and full roast. This malt has been brought to the edge of blackness and yet it stays mellow and tempered with sweetness that collapses inward on all it's sides. The blushing cherry, the dry date, the light and airy oak, the creamy coconut and vanilla. The malt is dry and firm but just bitter enough to come up to the brink of char and stop short. Nothing burnt here. Smooth, creamy, chewy, full mouthfeel. Exceptional smoothness. The molasses takes over the palate as this finishes with bourbon getting lighter and the dark fruits getting stronger.

A slightly boozy finish takes hold at the very last moment of the swallow not with a big taste of alcohol but with a warmth like a smile from a gracious host who is sincerely happy to have set all this before you. The alcohol leaves a bit dry and fully engages the senses one more time before it's done.

Drinking this beer is like doing something you know is wrong and loving every minute of it.

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Photo of Heatwave33
5/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look- Creamy black silk that is only found inside the deep crevices in California.

Smell- Dark chocolate aged in roasty bourbon barrels for her pleasure.

Taste- As if the whiskey barrel creamed in my mouth!

Feel- Creamy, smooth, refreshing and hoping for a call the next day.

Overall- The first time a met her we made love all night. I told myself not to jump straight into the sack with this and build respect for a well founded relationship. But I couldn't help myself. My animal magnetism took over and I did what felt right. I'm thankful she still answers the phone when I call.

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Photo of mig100
4.75/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Memories of the aroma and taste often hit me at random times in random places. An exceptionally crafted and balanced BA stout. One of the greatest. Thank you Matt Brynildson.

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Photo of scottsoileau
4.69/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2013 004, Pours like motor oil into my 18 oz snifter. Beautiful but small head. Deep bourbon and vanilla aroma and flavor. Silky smooth mouthfeel. Simply an amazing beer. So happy that I was finally able to try it.

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Photo of Shermski
4.82/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A+, 2015 version, just drinking after the 2016 release. I don't even recognize this beer from even when having it fresh a year ago. Holy cow only one year did this good. I was on the fence about about parabola as it tasted like warm syrupy butter with excessive booze heat when I had it first. The one year old age bottle is absurdly good. My mind is boggled what more age could do, good thing I have several more from the last few years. Just have to find that sweet spot.

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Photo of LongTaco15
4.38/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2016 Vintage. Pours dark brown, not super thick. It smelled a bit musty with dark fruits. Taste was completely different: chocolate and charred barrel. Phenomenal beer!

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Photo of HopHunter19
5/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - dark brown black with mocha head that fades quick (high ABV), looks like motor oil. 
S - bourbon, oak, smoke, dark chocolate, espresso, vanilla, toffee, caramel, toasted coconut, big roasted malts
T - Super smooth, chocolate, coffee, bourbon, oak, smokiness, tobacco, leather, roasted malts, nice barrel flavors, caramel, coconut, burnt marshmallow
M - super thick, alc covered, aftertaste is coffee, bourbon, roasted malts, smoke, and oak barrel flavors. 
O - I've heard this is the best of all the batches so far. I can't argue with that. Probably THE best barrel aged imperial stout that I've had. Hands down amazing. Have had on tap twice and out of the bottle twice and it never dissapoints.

2017 bottle:
A - pitch black beer with a mocha head that does dissipate as expected at 14.5% abv
S - huge roasty malts, dark chocolate, bourbon, coconut, vanilla, molasses, toffee, oak, smoke/char, umami umami umami
T - again big roasty malts, vanilla, cream, dark chocolate, molasses, toffee, oak, smoke/char, burnt marshmallow, so wholesome, the bourbon flavor in this beer is so well balanced with every other flavor
M - this beer is huge, it has a heavy mouthfeel, alcohol is covered, aftertaste is more dark chocolate, smoke/char, vanilla, toffee. It's excessively good.
O - amazing beer, still 5/5 in every aspect

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Photo of Brandenlisea
4.73/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer is world class for a reason. At almost 14% it is well balanced with little booziness. IBU's are high to balance the sweetness of cherry burnt oak. not to much bourbon on the finish. All around a great beer at a great price.

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Photo of Sparty1224
4.55/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Serving: 22 oz. bomber poured into a Founder's CBS snifter. No bottled on date, but this is roughly 4 months old at this point.

A: Not super thick, pours a medium-body, pitch black with a light brown head that sticks around the edges.

S: So for the style, this one is very, very boozy and with a ton of oak, char and barrel characteristics. Underneath that first layer is more tobacco and smoke, followed by a dark chocolates and vanilla notes.

T: Right up front you're just hit with booze and alcohol. Very hot. Middle of the mouth is your chocolate and vanilla notes, but not too strong. Finishes quite sweet with hints of coconut and dark cherry.

M: For as thin as the appearance is, it's a bit more fuller in the mouthfeel. Decent carbonation. Tons and tons of booze and heat with the burn all the way down your throat.

O: After hearing so many rave reviews for this beer, it just doesn't live up to the hype for me. I can't get away from how hot and boozy it is, making it seem really unbalanced. It's very, very aggressive. At 4 months, I thought this was ready to go, but maybe not. Right now, BCBS is still the winner, and even Black Note and BB Plead are a touch higher for me. This beer is still great, and a nice representation of the style, but this year's vintage is just a bit too strong and unbalanced for me.

Recommendation: Even though it's not the best of the best for BA Imperial Stouts, it's still worth fighting for to try at least once. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

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Photo of RaulMondesi
4.77/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Raul is losing it. Done losing it. Is Raul on DMT? Lucid, transfixed, going bat shit!!! Am I David Bowie? Because we have reached liftoff. Like a silkworm spinning gold. Like a waterfall splashing truffle water... This thing is ectstasy on defcon 5.

Get it and lose your mind.

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Photo of Lapalou
3.97/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2014 vintage poured into a snifter. Jose is great, silky bourbon. Taste is bourbon notes on top of a standard stout. Mouthfeel is lacking, it's pretty highly carbed for an imperial stout that has been ages in barrels this long. It's solid but not spectacular and certainly doesn't live up to some of the ratings here compared to its peers. They did a great job with the barrel but the base beer lacks creaminess and or any other complimentary flavors, no chocolate or deep malt here. It's truly just a conduit for the bourbon. Good beer, not great and certainly doesn't belong with its peers in this category.

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Photo of luisitoelmatador88
5/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Ive had a fresh 2015 parabola last year and it was unbelievable. This was before I was even into stouts to be honest and nonetheless this absolutely blew my mind. Parabola may be the reason I started getting stouts, in particular bourbon barrel ages stouts.

I had 2012 Parabola a few weeks ago. This thing was probably better than 2015. After 4 or so years of aging this beer lost none of the complexity of a fresh parabola possesses. There was so much going on and it remained drinkable, not hot (alcohol-wise) and absolutely exquisite. This beer is world class for my preference and palate.

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Photo of frontrangefart
5/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Delicious Delicious Delicious. Smells of Vanilla, Chocolate, and a little bit of coffee. One of the best smelling beers I've had. Viscosity is perfect. Not too syrupy. Definitely strong hints of Oak in the taste. Strong Coffee flavor with hints of vanilla and caramel. Simply F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C. Had the 2016 vintage. Saving one of them to be aged for a couple of years. Can't wait to see how it tastes later.

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Photo of bmrattay
3.6/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle which a ridiculous price tag.

I knew right away after pouring this beer that it wasn't going to live up to the hype. It's dark, sure, but it lacks that motor-oil appearance I look for in a really good russian imperial stout. Light escaped around the edges and gave it a cola appearance in those places.

Smell was mostly bourbon and dark malts. A little chocolate and coffee, with burnt nuts at the end of the nose.

Taste was bourbon and roasted malts. I didn't get much depth.

Feel is where it went South for me. This is way too thin, in my opinion, to be a world class RIS. Maybe it's because this batch was brewed off site?

Overall I don't get the hype. It's a good RIS, but I don't feel like it warrants the accolades it has collected. Maybe I'm missing something, or maybe it's just not in my taste range. Glad I got to try it though.

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Photo of ljjpowers
4.83/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Absolutely spectacular, in every way. Cellared for about a year, I couldn't wait any longer to open this bad boy. The smell is intoxicating (literally and figuratively)-- the booze that comes off of this will put: hair on your chest, lead in your pencil, or any other borderline derogatory saying from the Baby Boomer generation you'd like to substitute. It's like one of those fairies from a Disney movie is dangling this delicious brew in front of my unconscious body in a dream-state. My ability to ignore this beer is as strong as Jordan Belfort's ability to steer clear of quaaludes and money. Alright, back to the beer. Parabola's bouquet is definitively bourbon-forward, but remains balanced with incredible tobacco and vanilla scents making themselves known. Like the Toucan from the Fruit Loops ads, the flavor follows the nose. And although the mouthfeel is heavy, it is perfect for this brew. Black as night, you want to sip on this like a fine Scotch. Preferably with a beautiful view or with some good fireside conversation. Worthy of incredibly praise.

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Photo of nawpnawp
4.61/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

2016 Vintage poured into a snifter.

Definitely a great balance between the base beer and the bourbon. The brew is very similar to KBS, but quite a bit sweeter, which I like. There is absolutely no booze in the taste, but the burn is there on the swallow.

Highly recommended if you can find a bottle. It has jumped to #2 on my list of favorite BA stouts.

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Photo of Claude-Irishman
4.77/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a Spieglau stout glass, 1" khaki foam head which quickly dissipated,very little lacing. Looks deep dark mahogany red. Smells of chocolate,berries,burnt vanilla,must,oak. Taste is similar with a berry/cacao going on.Feels pleasant almost dry, well carbonated finish. Booze is evident (not a 14% as the header says) my 2018 vintage says 12.7%. These Firestone Walker vintage editions are all world class in my opinion. These are 10$ a bottle. Boxed individually. Overall I wish I could buy them all without feeling like a beer hoarder.

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Photo of makeyourself
5/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2014 bomber in a bourbon taster glass. Just everything about this beer is perfect. From the way it looks/pours to the way it smells to the way it taste and finally to the way it finishes. Its truly an experience. You simply end up wanting more after each pour. Firestone BA program is top notch and the best example comes from its Parabola. There is really nothing bad I can say about this beer other than you need to be on top of the release schedule for it at all your craft beer spots.

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Photo of mynie
4.08/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.25

After a pathological, yearslong refusal to crack open any vintage of Parabola, I finally cracked and shared a bottle of 2013 with a friend of mine. It was... good, vey good, but not quite worth waiting for.

Tastes like a dense, charry double stout. Big nodes of peat, medium hops, and a very pronounced burn of alcohol blotting out some of the more complex nodes at the back. Intense and tasty, but not as interesting or variegated as I had hoped. The flavors also die off rather quickly in the back end, as the beer's thin body leaves much to be desired.

RISes are getting harder and harder to judge. What was once a world-changing, palette-crushing masterpiece can now seem limp and tame. Certainly, no one is going to mistake Parabola for Guinness, but I really don't see what separates it from, say, Stone Imperial, or Ten Fidy

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Photo of superspak
4.4/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Got in a trade with cyde. 22 ounce bottle into snifter; 2013 vintage, bottled on 3/18/2013. Pours pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, oak, bourbon, tobacco, light char, and roast/oak earthiness; with some light alcohol/booze. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt and oak barrel notes; with solid strength. Taste of big milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, bourbon, oak, tobacco, light char, and roast/oaky earthiness. Fair amount of roast/oak bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, bourbon, oak, tobacco, light char, and roast/oak earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity and robustness of dark/roasted malt and oak barrel flavors; with a great malt/barrel balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. A very slight oak astringency was present but not detrimental. Light-medium carbonation an full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, and fairly slick mouthfeel that is fantastic. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is an absolutely incredible barrel aged imperial stout. All around outstanding complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. An insanely delicious offering as I expected.

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Photo of ajcuster89
4.27/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A little thinner than I expected out of this stout. HUGE bourbon flavor, but the alcohol burn is very miniscule. Big dark fruit flavors, think really good raisins and overripe plums. A very good stout!

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 100 out of 100 with 6976 ratings