\u201cNo oranges,\u201d insisted the master whiskey blender. \u201cNo fast-food burgers.\u201d\r\n\r\nNo, this isn\u2019t a blueprint for the latest Paleo-Keto-Raw Foods diet plan. It\u2019s part of a shortlist of highly aromatic items banned from the tasting lab. These scents could skew the perception of how a whiskey smells and tastes.\r\n\r\nWhile most of us don\u2019t sample whiskeys in a clinical lab situation, the rules have some merit. Fragrant food may taste delightful, but the scent can linger on your fingers long after lunchtime. That can impact what you detect when you lift a glass to your nose.\r\n\r\nThe following tips, sourced from the pros, can prove helpful in distillery tasting rooms, when enjoying a flight of spirits at a bar or restaurant, or simply sampling something new at home.\r\n\r\n\r\nAvoid overly spicy or stinky foods right before a tasting. \r\nSave the five-alarm garlic chicken for a day when you don\u2019t plan to test-drive a new spirit.\r\n\r\nSuch dishes can overwhelm not just your palate, but your nose, too. At Crown Royal, the largest producer of Canadian whisky, master blender Joanna Zanin Scandella has strict rules about what to keep out of the tasting lab.\r\n\r\nShe advises her team to not peel oranges right before a tasting, as the aromatic oils from orange skin will dominate for hours afterward. Peeled orange slices are OK, she says.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nOne of the worst offenders? Fast-food hamburger wrappers. \u201cYou smell it on your hands long after the burger is gone,\u201d says Zanin Scandella.\r\n\r\nOf course, some take this to extremes. Shinji Fukuyo, chief blender at Suntory, eats the same thing for lunch each day to ensure palate consistency when he evaluates Japanese whiskies. Many pros analyze spirits before lunch, but it\u2019s hard to recommend that for a casual tasting experience. In that scenario, a full stomach is your friend.\r\n\r\n\r\nDial down the perfume, scented hand soaps, etc. \r\nJust as you shouldn\u2019t wear strong perfume to a wine tasting, the rule also applies to spirits.\r\n\r\n\u201cAny aroma in the air can affect how we perceive the spirit,\u201d says Kelsey McKechnie, whisk(e)y blender for William Grant & Sons. \u201cWe don\u2019t wear scented deodorant to work and avoid scented hand soaps. We also insist anyone who works in the sample room avoids perfume.\u201d\r\n\r\nAlexandre Gabriel, owner/master blender for Maison Ferrand, works regularly with nuanced spirits like Cognac, rum and gin. He has similar rules.\r\n\r\n\u201cNo cologne, of course, [and] no mouthwash,\u201d says Gabriel. \u201cA shower with soft neutral and natural soap. This is important because nowadays, some shower gels are truly horribly [scented].\r\n\r\n\u201cHow can you taste well if you smell like an artificial mango-papaya shower gel?\u201d\r\n\r\nFor a home tasting, an unscented environment is best, says Caley Shoemaker, head distiller for the Hangar 1 vodka brand in Alameda, California. For example, don\u2019t taste in the kitchen while dinner cooks.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnd don\u2019t be burning incense while you\u2019re tasting,\u201d says Shoemaker.\r\n\r\n\r\nNose above the glass, not in the glass.\r\nIn wine tasting, it\u2019s encouraged to immerse your nose in the glass and deeply inhale. However, the higher alcohol levels in distilled spirits mean that it\u2019s best to inhale gently, with your nose hovering just above the rim of the glass. Swirling the glass is also rarely necessary for spirits tasting.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn spirits, when you swirl, it releases a bunch of alcohol\u2026you won\u2019t be able to smell any of the nuances,\u201d says Shoemaker. \u201cProfessionals know that, but consumers might not.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nSip on it, just a little bit.\r\nSpitting is encouraged, especially if you plan to sample multiple pours. But when you taste a new dram, try the approach of Melkon Khosrovian, co-founder and spirits maker of Greenbar Distillery in Los Angeles.\r\n\r\n\u201cSip a teaspoon-sized amount, let it sit on the tongue for 10 seconds and swallow all of it,\u201d says Khosrovian. \u201cNo swirling, swishing or spitting. This lets you experience the spirit's full range of flavors, along with how quickly it evaporates, how much of your palate it reaches, and how it finishes. It's our way to judge how spirits will perform in real life.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nRespect the proof, and your reaction to the proof.\r\nKeep an eye on the proof of the spirit. Anything more than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof) usually means that the distiller hasn\u2019t added much water. Cask-strength or barrel-strength bottlings, as well as those labeled \u201coverproof\u201d or \u201cNavy strength,\u201d can rise above 100 proof.\r\n\r\nYou can try higher-proof spirits straight, but it\u2019s perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, to add water or ice to adjust to your tastes. At tasting rooms and some high-end bars, you may spot small pitchers or glass bottles of water with droppers, intended for adjusting your drink.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn sensory evaluation, when we're looking very analytically at a sample, we'll dilute it all the way down to 40 proof to ensure the alcohol isn't skewing our perception of the flavor or dulling the palate in any way,\u201d says Marianne Eaves, master distiller at Castle & Key, a new Bourbon distillery in Kentucky.\r\n\r\nEaves and other pros benefit from tools that measure alcohol levels with precision. But there\u2019s no hard-and-fast way for the rest of us to know when we\u2019ve hit the 40-proof sweet spot. The best option is to add water a little at a time, until you\u2019ve reached a level that\u2019s comfortable to sip, but still flavorful.