Do You Really Need To Cleanse Your Palate Between Whiskey Tastings? We Asked An Expert

There are many different whiskeys available on the market, so if you want to explore the nuances or you really appreciate a sip of the liquor, perhaps you plan to attend or host a whiskey tasting. Like a wine tasting, a whiskey tasting will provide you the opportunity to sample different varieties with an expert who can point out the varying flavor notes and aromas. But with at least a few different nosing glasses of whiskey in front of you, you might wonder if cleansing your palate between each taste is worth the effort. 

The answer is yes, according to Robyn Smith, PhD, founder of This Blog's NEAT who can also be found on Instagram and YouTube. "You should always cleanse your palate between tasting," Smith explains. "For me, I find water sufficient to cleanse my palate." But flat water is not the only option, because Smith says that the carbonation of sparkling water cleanses your palate further by removing residual flavors. We suggest using plain sparkling water because flavored drinks will interfere with the whiskey's tasting notes.

"During morning tastings, I have been known to cleanse my palate with coffee," she says. "This is something that works for my palate, however, not everyone agrees that coffee is a suitable cleanser." Smith is right about people having varying opinions when it comes to using coffee as a palate cleanser because some consider just the sniff of coffee to be sufficient between sips during a tasting.

Use mild foods during a more stringent whiskey tasting

There are some instances where you might need something more than water to cleanse your palate during a whiskey tasting. "If you're tasting several whiskies, cask strength whiskies, or whiskies with strong flavors (like heavily peated Scotches), then you might need something a little more effective," Robyn Smith says. In those cases, she suggests plain crackers, white bread, mild nuts like almonds or cashews, or mild types of cheese such as mozzarella. "Those should help remove any residual whiskey flavors without leaving behind strong flavors of their own." 

In addition to Smith's suggestions, fruits such as apples, cucumbers, and watermelon can also work to cleanse the palate. Despite these recommendations, everyone's palate is different, so it might take a little experimentation (lucky for you, whiskey fan). "Ultimately, it's all about personal preference and finding what effectively neutralizes your palate without affecting the next whiskey's flavors," Smith explains. Ready to host your own tasting? Consider the three things you need to host an expert-style whiskey tasting and our ranking of the best bourbon brands to pull it off.