Top cologne choices for men
Searching for the best smelling cologne for men? If so you wouldn’t be alone. The truth is, there’s so many colognes on the market that it’s enough to make your head spin.
When chosen correctly, a cologne can give off a masculine vibe that subtly grabs the attention of others. But if the wrong perfume is picked, you can unintentionally turn people off.
I’ve always been a fan of men’s fragrances. Personally, I prefer woody, vanilla scents that don’t overpower. Citrus blends are nice too, depending upon the brand.
Typing this out now reminds me of why I wrote this article. Allow me share with you.
Quick Cologne Story
While boarding a flight to Los Angeles, the gate agent who scanned my ticket remarked tugged at my arm and whispered in ear, “You smell really nice!”
I thanked her and smiled. That’s when she quickly said how difficult it was for her to buy cologne for her husband. “I sure wish there was some type of guide for that,” she remarked as she waved me through to the jet-bridge.
She was a beautiful woman and her friendly observation made my day. There’s just something about being noticed by a stranger, you know?
Feeling inspired, I thought about what she said and decided to create one of the most comprehensive guides to best smelling colognes for men on the Internet.
The easy route would have been to list brands with pictures. But what do you really learn from that? My sense is that you are a savvy consumer and want something more.
That’s why I created this guide with science in mind. Specifically, I ran an analysis of the best smelling colognes for men based on customer sales and consumer reviews using data mining software.
Pretty cool, don’t you think?
We’re going to be covering a lot of ground in what follows. I encourage you to read this entire post so that you can make a smart choice when choosing a men’s fragrance.
After all, we’re talking about how you smell.
In this article, you will learn:
- The difference between cologne, fragrance, perfume and toilette.
- Quick review of designer colognes vs. niche fragrances.
- The best way to pick men’s cologne.
- Chart of best colognes with scent times.
- 25 best smelling cologne options for men.
- What factors influence scent of cologne in men
- An overview of cologne “notes”
- How to apply and wear cologne
- Cologne selection tips
- Men’s cologne myths.
At the end of this guide, you will find a poll on men’s colognes. It’s just for fun so don’t take it too seriously. OK, are you ready to learn about men’s fragrances and best cologne options?
Let’s jump right in!
Men’s Cologne vs. Fragrance, Perfume and Toilette
To begin with, it’s important to recognize that fragrances act as an unseen part of our persona. As a result, they hold the power to attract and persuade.
But for many men, buying fragrances is a hassle because of the sheer volume of choices. As a result, they end up buying something that’s wrong for them.
And believe it or not, there is some research to suggest that over 60% of men don’t wear cologne at all.
That’s a shame because there are many great smelling options out there. You may be wondering: What are they? I promise, we’ll get to that but first, it’s critical that you know the difference between colognes, fragrances, perfumes and toilette’s.
When you see or hear the word “fragrance” in relation to men’s colognes, understand that this is a top level term used interchangeably with aftershaves, colognes, balms and soaps.
At their core, fragrances are a mixture of what chemical engineers in the personal care industry refer to as raw materials.
Usually made from concentrated liquids, perfume oils are synthesized with alcohol to extend scent time. The higher the concentration of oil, the stronger the fragrance.
If you are wondering how long a given smell will last, you’ll need to have an understanding of colognes, perfumes and toilettes.
Let’s take a quick peak at each:
Types of Men’s Fragrances:
- Eau Fraiche: Highly diluted fragrance containing 1-3% perfume oil in water and alcohol. Scent lasts less than one hour.
- Aftershave: Usually marketed as something to put on a man’s face after shaving. Highly diluted perfume oil (1-3%) mixed with alcohol and water. Lasts an hour or less.
- Cologne: (Eau de Cologne). Modern name for a man’s perfume. Commonly contains masculine scents. Fresh, woody and fruity. Generally has 2-4% perfume oils in a water and alcohol base. Popular with different male age groups. Scent lasts around 2-hours.
- Toilette (Eau de Toilette): Think of this as a quick spritz. Very light, usually sprayed from a bottle and has a 5-15% perfume oil base synthesized into water. Lasts up to 3 hours.
- Perfumes: This is a gender free term but has historically been linked to women (mostly in U.S.). High concentration of perfume oils and lasts between 5-10 hours.
- Parfum: These are the most expensive types of fragrances you can buy. Heavy concentration of perfume oils that can last 24-hours.
Designer vs. Niche Men’s Colognes
There are really only two types of colognes for men. The first are designer colognes. The second are niche colognes.
- Designer Colognes: Open up a men’s magazine or walk into any department store and you will see these types of fragrances. Think of brands like Polo, Burberry, Calvin Klein and Armani. Highly advertised and mass produced, they are made with less expensive materials to save the manufacturer cost. You’ll pay anywhere from $50.00 to $175.00 per bottle (or more). It just depends upon the brand and the number of liquid ounces.
- Niche Colognes: Right off the bat, you need to know these are going to be pricey. That’s because niche colognes are usually inspired by someone well known and/or famous. Can be difficult to obtain. Usually has a very distinct, bold scent. Price points usually start at $200.00 and can go many times higher.
Men’s Colognes Pricing Mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes men make when buying a cologne is assuming that a higher price means better quality. I’ll level with you – that’s simply not true.
There are many excellent colognes on the market that are relatively inexpensive. An example can be found in Brute, a cologne that is one of my favorites.
As an aftershave, I also like the not expensive Aqua Velvet. Although I’ll say here that putting any alcohol based product on the face after shaving is a bad idea.
That’s because aftershaves severely dry the skin and rob it of collagen. If you want to know more about this topic, read my post on anti-aging skin care tips for men.
Back to pricing mistakes.
What’s important that you know is the higher the concentration of perfume oil in bottle cologne, the more money you will pay. Make sure you unit price when shopping around so that you get your money’s worth.
Keep in in mind that every single manufacturer that puts out men’s fragrances is trying to sell you an image. For example, check out the ad above for Armani Code with Mr. Chris Pine.
Here, the lifestyle they are selling you is fast, intense and luxurious.
Best Way To Pick Men’s Cologne
Now that you have the background information on colognes, it’s time to talk about choosing the best smelling one for your needs.
There’s no hard and fast rule on this however, you should keep a few things in mind.
- Consider your own body smell when shopping for colognes. Will the fragrance compliment or amplify your primal scent?
- Ask yourself if the cologne matches your personality?
- Do you want to give off a fresh, citrus-like vibe or is your goal to broadcast a lumbersexual, woody presence?
- How long do you want the scent to last? See men’s fragrances above when considering.
25 Best Cologne Options for Men
What follows are 25 best cologne options for men. Remember, I used scientific means to gather this data through meta-analysis that takes into account customer reviews, combined with sales.
FYI: rankings can change over the course of time. But generally speaking, the men’s fragrances listed below are extremely popular and have stood the test of time.
When possible, I’ve included narrative information about each cologne, including demographic insight and scent vibe.
I’ll give you a chart first that breaks down the cologne, scent time and primary scent of fragrance. Then, I will provide a detailed description of each cologne under the picture.
OK, let’s get right to it!
Best Cologne Scent Breakdown
|BRAND||SCENT TIME||WOODY/SPICY||CITRUS/CRISP||COMBO WOODY/CITRUS|
|Oud to Wood||6-8 hours||x|
|Acqua Di Gio||3-4 hours||x|
|Armani Code||3-4 hours||x|
|Montblanc Legend||3-4 hours||x|
|Polo Black||3-4 hours||x|
|1 Million Pure||6-8 hours||x|
|Guilty Black||3-4 hours||x|
|Burberry Men||3-4 hours||x|
|Essenze||Up to 6 hours||x|
|Luna Rossa||3-4 hours||x|
|Velvet Rope||6-8 hours||x|
|Hugo Boss||3-4 hours||x|
|Clive Christian||6-8 hours||x|
|Vanille Tobacco||6-8 hours||x|
|Clive Christian 1872||6-8 hours||x|
|La Nuit De L’Homme||3-4 hours||x|
|Straight to Heaven||6-8 hours||x|
|Polo Red||3-4 hours||x|
1. Oud Wood – Tom Ford
This is a very masculine cologne that contains sandalwood and vetiver (made from mountain rose). Tonka bean and amber are infused for a hint of warmth and sensuality. Popular with men in their 30’s and 40’s. Great for formal and non-formal occasions. I wear this cologne and really like it.
2. Creed – Adventus
Made in France, this men’s cologne contains Sicilian clementine, and a combination of gingers, pineapple and orange blossom. Emits a fruity, rich fragrance that’s unique. Long lasting because of high perfume oil concentration. Well liked by guys in their mid-20’s to early 50’s.
3. Artisan for Men – John Varvatos
If you are going for a woody, musk like scent with smooth finish, you will like this cologne. It lasts a long time so a little goes a long way. Very classy scent and popular with a lot of guys, particularly mid-30’s and early 40’s.
4. Acqua Di Gio – Giorgio Armani
This is a woody based cologne that also contains elements of citrus. If you are looking for something warm, spicy and alluring that gives a mysterious vibe, this is a great choice. Popular among men in 20-50 age range.
5. Armani Code – Giorgio Armani
We talked about this brand before with Chris Pine. A unique smelling fragrance, this cologne contains a blend of wood, apple, cumin, lavender and citrus. It’s known for making a distinct impression. Popular with 20-something males and up.
6. Invictus Intense – Paco Rabanne
This is a vibrant, intense cologne containing black amber. Woody, masculine and sensual vibe that lasts a fairly long time. Designed to give the impression of a strong winner. Very popular with 20 something crowd and mid-thirties men.
This cologne gives off a striking yet masculine scent that is unique. Contains bergamot, lavender, pineapple leaf and sandalwood. If you like manly colognes that give a regal vibe, consider this one for sure. Many 30 something executives and 40ish corporate leaders lean towards this brand.
8. Polo Black – Ralph Lauren
Very nice smelling, masculine cologne that has a woody scent. That’s because one of the main oils used in this men’s fragrance is sandalwood. Echoes of the original Polo cologne but different in the intensity of scent. Great for all occasions. Popular with thirty, forty and fifty something crowds.
9. 1 Million Pure – Paco Rabanne
Great smelling cologne for anyone wanting to channel a warm, leather, woody scent. Manly, sexy and alluring. Guys who like to present an image of richness and warmth will find this one a favorite. I wear this cologne as a matter of full disclosure. One of my favorites.
10. Guilty Black – Gucci
This is a minty, formal smelling cologne that has a musk wood base. This is the type of fragrance a guy might wear to a party, wedding or special dinner occasion. Popular with men in their mid-thirties to late forties.
11. Burberry Cologne
This men’s cologne contains amber, cedar wood and tonka, giving in a warm, alluring scent. Masculine and regal. Great cologne for work, formal occasions or a first date. Think sophisticated and powerful. Worn most often by men in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties.
12. Vintage – John Varvatos
Great all around cologne that is masculine, mysterious and deep. Think woody with hints of tobacco and suede. I like this men’s fragrance because it isn’t overpowering and instead, smooth. Super popular with guys in 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.
13. Chrome – Azzaro
If you like colognes that emit a fresh, citrusy, tangy scent, you should look at this men’s perfume. It’s been around for some time now and is considered a classic. It remains a hit because of its unique, distinct smell. Typically, men in their 30’s – 50’s like to wear this one.
14. Essenze – Zegna
If you like powerful, woodsy colognes with a bold presence, you will find this to be a great choice. Manly and striking, this men’s perfume comes off clove-like with hints of spice. Popular with men in their 30’s.
15. Luna Rossa – Prada
Think citrus and lavender scent that is long lasting and powerful. Think sailing, the ocean and water as the mental picture for this cologne. Very popular with 20 and thirty somethings.
16. Sauvage for Men – Dior
Elegant, citrusy cologne that contains a mixture of herbs. Gives off a crisp, clean scent. Hints of jasmine and wood. Great cologne for going out with friends, casual and non-casual events. Guys in their 30’s and 40’s love this cologne.
17. Velvet Rope – Apothia
This is a unique smelling cologne that has a vanilla, jasmine and grapefruit scent. Think sexy, strong and sensual for this fragrance. Demographics show guys in their 20’s – 40’s like this one – particularly in Europe.
18. Hugo Boss Cologne
Considered a classic cologne, this men’s fragrance has a spicy blend of woods, citrus and fresh leaves. Super masculine with a distinct, attractive smell. Popular with 20-somethings and up.
19. Clive Christian
Enchanting, sophisticated scent. Contains hints of vanilla and hint of flowers. Regal, manly and not the cheapest cologne on the market if truth be told. Mostly wealthy men – or guys who want to come off as rich. Popular among late 30’s and up.
20. Tabarome – Creed
Think English Club luxury with a modern, woody scent. Very masculine with hints of tobacco in the oil. Wearing this cologne sends the message of manliness and sophistication. It’s also not cheap. Popular with men in their 30’s and up. If you get this cologne, go with the “Parfum” because it is the longest lasting.
21. Tobacco Vanille – Tom Ford
Really great smelling men’s fragrance that is woodsy, masculine and rich. Hints of vanilla in the oil. Lasts a long time because of high oil concentration. Send the message of manliness and ruggedness. Guys in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s seem to love this one.
22. 1872 – Clive Christian
This men’s fragrance projects an air of confidence and strength. Lavender is mixed with clary sage for a long-lasting citrusy scent. Not over powering but instead, subtle. Men in their 40’s and up like this cologne a lot.
23. La Nuit De L’Homme – Yves Saint Laurent
If you like colognes that are woody, spicy and hint at something oriental, you will like this particular scent. Cedar and lavender are also mixed in. Men in their 30’s and up like this one.
24. Straight to Heaven – Killian
This fragrance for men has an island vibe. That’s because it contains cedar wood, Indonesian patchouli oil and martinician rum. Designed to broadcast a strong but laid back scent. A real winner for men in their 30’s, according to statistical analysis. A little goes a long way because of high perfume oil concentration.
25. Polo Red – Ralph Lauren
This cologne contains a woody and citrusy vibe with a masculine finish. Long lasting with a casual and manly presence. You won’t need a lot to make an impression. Men in their 30’s and 40’s seem to gravitate towards this one big time.
Men’s Cologne Poll
Just for fun, I’ve published a poll here to assess what your favorite type of cologne scent is. There are no right or wrong answers.
What are cologne “Notes”?
- Base notes are the softer, underlying scents that become apparent after 30 minutes. They are the essence of the fragrance.
- Middle Notes generally kick in minutes after cologne is applied. They make up the “heart” of the fragrance. As the crisper, more pronounced top notes subside, the middle notes take hold. They tend to last the longest-lasting and infuse with base notes.
- Top Notes are the instant perceived scents; this is the first thing you smell upon applying or sampling.
Tip: When you make the decision to purchase a cologne, don’t base your choice on the initial top note.
Instead, wait a few minutes to allow the middle note to become present. And don’t forget your pheromones may be different at different times, meaning the scent will be impacted.
What impacts cologne smell on men?
It’s important to know that the way a cologne smell of cologne and its intensity will be different, depending upon various factors. For example, time of day, pheromonic output and showering all can impact the way cologne expresses itself to the human nostril.
Let’s take a look at the general ways men’s fragrance can become influenced by extraneous variables.
- Morning vs. Night: Pheromones are more prominent in the morning and become more pronounced as the day goes on. Their presence can amplify or soften the way cologne will smell to others.
- Use of soaps: When you use a soap that contains a scent, it may impact your colognes ability to express. This is particularly true for strongly scented soaps. If you want people to smell the type of fragrance you have one, you may want to pick up something with no scent. Consider getting an CereVe Body Wash. It is completely scent free and dermatologist recommended.
- If you are sick: Believe it or not, the best smelling cologne in the world won’t give off the same scent when you are sick. That’s because when you are trying to fight back against an illness, such as flu, your body begins a complicated process of detoxification. That’s why you sweat when you’re sick. It’s probably not the best time to apply a fragrance.
- Alcohol and/or drugs: Use of substances can impact the way cologne smells on you because of base your system is trying to process the chemicals. In turn, this may slow down or quicken the pace of processing in your liver. The end result is pheromonic interference.
- Other grooming rituals: If you use other grooming products, like scented shaving gels, they may interfere with how your chosen men’s fragrance is experienced by others. Review your grooming rituals to assess what products you may be using that take-away from your cologne’s smell.
- Weather: If it’s hot outside, your pores will be more open. When cold, they will become tight. Because cologne oil attaches to polymers in the skin, weather can impact the intensity of expression.
- Season: Warmer weather, like in summer, can intensify the power of a cologne’s scent. This is because pores are more open in higher temperatures. Conversely, colder weather, like winter and fall, lessens amplification of smell.
Cologne strength and attraction
One question men regularly have about cologne smell and attracting potential mates is how strong is too strong?
According to multiple research studies, the results seem to suggest that the amount of cologne a man wears needs to be present but not over powering. If a man wears too much of a given perfume, it can have the paradoxical effect of turning potential suitors off.
One research study that explored women’s reaction to colognes demonstrated that when a guy douses himself in a fragrance, it had an allergic effect on females, thereby acting as a repellant. The last thing kind of response you want.
The bottom line is this: Think small amounts when you wear cologne with a hint of the product.
Men's Cologne Choices by SeasonThe best cologne for men options linked to season
Which cologne is best for me?
A lot of men wonder which cologne is best for their individual needs. The answer to that question needs to include examination of x-variables. Here, we are talking seasonal factors that match themes.
- In fall or winter, you may want to wear something that has a woody note or a pine-like scent.
- In spring or summer, opting for something with a lighter, more citrus type smell is more appropriate.
- Use of a mixed cologne (woody and citrus) may be a good option as a year round “go to” cologne.
When the topic of colognes comes with my clients, I encourage them to buy more than one. This allows an array of options. Not I’m not saying you should go overboard. Think 2-4 colognes.
How to apply and wear cologne
- Think small and remember less is more. You only need a tiny amount to achieve the desired result.
- Bear in mind the higher the oil concentration, the stronger the cologne smell. See information at beginning of this page for more information.
- Work your way from your wrists up. Put a tiny amount on one wrist and rub your other wrist over it to spread. Spray or dab a small cologne sampling to your neck and behind ears.
- Allow time for osmosis to kick in; the process by which liquid (fragrance in this case) is absorbed by the skin. In 30 minutes, give or take, you’ll notice the base notes will become amplified.
Tips for buying the best cologne for your needs
- Keep cologne choices simple and stick with basic scents like woody, citrus or combo-based types of earthy and rugged.
- Don’t be afraid to sample different men’s colognes to see which fragrance best meets your needs.
- Assess your personality type and match it with the type of image you wish to project to others. Generally speaking, woody colognes come off as more masculine.
- Always buy colognes made from the manufacturer. Never go the cheap route and get a knockoff. “Fake” colognes contain ingredients that can potentially harm your skin. Moreover, they never last as long and people can tell it’s not real.
- Factor in your style of clothing, personal interests and activities when making cologne selections.
- Don’t let your significant other “pick” your cologne. While it’s OK to get their input, the ultimate decision for buying a given product needs to be yours.
Men’s perfume myths
Finally, I just want to speak to a few myths regarding men’s perfumes that seem to be part of our cultural ethos. Now remember, none of these are true.
- Men from European backgrounds smell better with woodsy scents.
- If you buy a men’s “perfume” it means you are not masculine.
- The more expensive the cologne, the higher quality.
- Celebrities who endorse colognes actually wear them.
- Colognes can last for decades after being opened.
- The sign of a quality cologne is the packaging.
- Certain colognes repel death.
- Aftershaves and colognes are the same
I hope you found this men’s fragrance guide to be useful. My hope was to present the best smelling colognes to you in a way that helped with decision making.
If you happen to be looking at colognes as a gift for someone, be sure to check out my holiday stocking filler ideas guide.
Lots of great present ideas co consider. Thanks for stopping by!
Michael, R. P.; Keverne, E. B. Nature (1968). Pheromones in the communication of sexual status in primates.