Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Foursquare Criterion 10 yr. (ex-bourbon, ex-madeira) – 56%
Context: Criterion was the first Foursquare I purchased. I had already tried the 2004 and thought it was solid. Then this showed up in Chicago - hot on the heels of Fred Minnick's Foursquare hype-train. So, yep, bought a bottle.
Here's what I learned working through it. First, it's really good - from cork pop to the last drop (when I stashed these 2 oz for my future/present self to revist someday/today). Secondly, I was hell bent on not swallowing the hype, even at my own expense. A good friend of mine (bourbon drinker) came over after I picked it up. I completely poisoned the well, telling him I was disappointed: "Just didn't live up to the raves." He took some time with his glass, didn't say much. When empty, gave a little shoulder shrug, "I don't know. It's pretty fucking good." So I poured us both another, for some reason kept trying to pick at it. He didn't buy any of my arguments (good on him).
It's also interesting how trapped my language was in bourbon notes. Basically, any burnt sugar notes just played like vanilla to me. At the time, I was also really nitpicky about this being too sweet. Three years ago, if it wasn't palate scorched by 130+ proof bourbon, how as I supposed to take it seriously? With a little more perspective, I'd still classify it as sweeter. But certainly not into any category where it would be considered a flaw or cloying or artificial.
I'm not sure why I was so hard on this bottle. Even though I knew I really enjoyed it and it was "collectible," I refused to buy another bottle without a Binny's 15% off coupon. By the time that coupon came around, the previously stacked shelves were empty. I find that usually with a year's worth of perspective, I'm glad that I didn't over purchase something. Around three years and counting, this is one of the few I regret being stingy with.
My first time taking notes on Criterion was on August 21st, 2017.
Those notes are in italics. Above those will be the current tasting.
Nose: Richest caramel I’ve nosed in a while. Cedar. Chocolate covered oranges. Pretty close to flawless.
Vanilla. Dry spice rub. Brandied fruits. Oak.
Flavor: Not complaining on the palate either. Caramel. Wood spice.Tropical fruit. Pine. Eucalyptus. Plenty of clarity and complexity.
Richer with a bit more clarity on the palate than the Foursquare 2004. Vanilla. Complex spice. Boozy tropical fruits. Candied citrus. Faint tar. Brandy notes. Big, rich, drying oak.
Palate Structure: Lots of range, clarity, and complexity. For all its richness, it manages to carry each note just as far as it needs to before shifting and evolving. So balanced you may forget to notice.
The pour can get stuck in the sweet, sludgy part of the palate (tar, sweets, brandied notes). Even when the oak lifts the palate it gets sucked right back down.
Alcohol Integration: One of the best high proof Foursquares for handling its proof.
Handles its proof better than 2004.
You’d Dig This If You Like:
MGP bourbon: 9-11yr. (100+ proof)
Armagnac: 20-30 yr. (90+ proof)
Score: 10 (Reevaluate The Budget) I graded this B+/A- according to my old system (an 8 with the new system). Since then, I've tried a couple Velier's (Triptych and Patrimonio) and most of the Exceptional Cask Series offerings. This one always finds its way to the top.
10 - Reevaluate The Budget
9 - Stash Two (If Able)
8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)
7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers
6 - Solid - Above Average
5 - Acceptable For The Situation
4 - Not Vocally Complaining
3 - Wish I Was Drinking Something Else
2 - Nothing Nice To Say
1 - Drain Pour