Whiskey Review: Tamworth Distilling Dunce Whiskey

, | March 15, 2023

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. 

The word dunce has a fairly ancient meaning. The term originates from the medieval philosopher and Friar monk John Duns Scotus. John Duns believed that the pyramid shape had particular significance and properties, namely that the shape could channel energy from the heavens and bring it to earth. This theory led the monk to create his iconic cap, the Duns, or Dunce cap. He believed that by wearing this hat he could receive enlightened energy from Heaven.

John Duns’s cap would become very popular amongst his students and many would wear it, believing that it could help them achieve spiritual enlightenment. This practice would continue until the Renaissance, when Duns’s teachings would be seen as obtuse and outdated. This switch in opinion became the start of seeing the Dunce cap as something worn by someone foolish, instead of someone seeking heavenly wisdom.

“Great packaging should transcend the ages, not be of the moment” – Brand Mysticism by Steven Grasse and Aaron Goldfarb

Centuries later, a New Hampshire distillery would use the Dunce cap as the emblem for one of their new whiskeys. The iconic cap is shown boldly on the front of the bottle of Tamworth Distilling Dunce Whiskey. Dunce Whiskey was created by the owner of Tamworth Distilling, Steven Grasse, as a counterpart to his new book, Brand Mysticism, and as a way to troll an industry he feels is saturated by sourced whiskey with overly produced branding. This four-year-old bourbon mash whiskey is sourced from MGP in Indiana and bottled by Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire.

Grasse is famous in the spirits world for being the one responsible for creating such iconic brands as Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry’s Rum. His many years creating brands for other companies left him wanting to create his own products. This led to the founding of Tamworth Distilling. Now operating his facility, Grasse has set about creating off-the-wall brands such as Crab-Trapper Whiskey, a whiskey aimed at fighting invasive marine species.

Tamworth Distilling also has a very interesting program where you can purchase a barrel of whiskey from the distillery to allow it to age on-site for a decade before returning to retrieve your barrel of whiskey.

Tamworth Dunce Whiskey review

We review Tamworth Dunce Whiskey, created as a way to troll an industry Tamworth Distilling’s owner feels is saturated by sourced whiskey with overly produced branding. (image via Tamworth Distilling)

Tasting Notes: Tamworth Distilling Dunce Whiskey

Vital Stats: Four year old bourbon mash whiskey sourced from MGP in Indiana. Bottled by Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire. 750ml. MSRP $39.99

Appearance: Pale yellow and light amber

Nose: Aromas of honey-comb, vanilla, pine-bark and dandelion

Palate: Flavors of light maple-syrup, lemon peel and mild sweet paprika. Finish is minimal with barrel spice lingering only briefly until dissipating entirely.

Whiskey Review: Tamworth Distilling Dunce Whiskey


Dunce is an interesting package with less interesting contents. The whiskey is not by any means bad but lacks a lot of the body that is usually found in brands that fit under the American “Straight” regulations. If you’re looking for a good replacement for your usual whiskey and coke, Dunce might be a good fit.

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Joshua Wilford

Joshua Wilford has been in the restaurant business for the past two decades. His time in the industry includes working in leadership roles at bourbon bars in and around Kentucky as well as the iconic Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, OR. Joshua has received certifications from The Wine & Spirit...