The Ultimate Guide To The Best Cologne For Men
Smell is one of the most powerful and evocative of our senses; think about the people you love, your mother, your wife, your girlfriend (probably more than you love your wife) and you will almost certainly associate a particular smell with them. Used correctly cologne can become part of your signature style.
The first thing to remember is the same cologne will smell subtly different on every person. What suits your friend might be wrong for you. It may take some trial and error to find the perfect scent for you.
You should also remember that different colognes might suit different settings. Fragrance groups that are commonly used in colognes include citruses, florals, spices, woody scents and orientals. Most colognes will have a mixture of a number of these, for example mandarin, tangerine, lime, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. Not only do different combinations suit different men but you may find one cologne will suit a particular situation better than another, for example, a weekend playing golf will call for something fresh, a romantic date for something more complex, oriental and seductive.
When you have chosen your new cologne spray or splash once on your neck and once on a wrist, transferring it to your other wrist with a quick dab. By applying it to these key pulse points you will ensure that the cologne mixes with your body heat and your own oils to create a very personal smell. Less really is more, you want people to be able to catch a beguiling whiff of your cologne not wear so much that you make their eyes water. Some colognes last longer than others and the ones that have a short evaporation period when on the body may need a heavier hand, start out light and apply more the next time if you find you need to.
We have listed 20 of the very best colognes for men available right now. Check out our list. You can’t go wrong with any of these. You’ll find great choices for the boardroom, the bedroom and everything between.
Jo Malone shops with their high street yet niche products have exploded in popularity in recent years. A regular go to for men looking to buy gifts such as hand creams or scented candles for the women in their life they also produce a line of products for men. This cologne is marketed as unisex but is, in reality, a very masculine product. The citrus notes give a fresh scent and make this the perfect cologne for casual and outdoors summer wear while the basil give a more complex and masculine depth. Jo Malone give a quality product at a value price and the scent itself is light making it the perfect starter product for men not sure whether cologne is for them or not. The cologne is not as long lasting as some of the others on the list and as such makes it perfect for those who want a light touch or to wear in the early part of the day when you know you want to change your style and your smell later on. The bottle is smart but typically Jo Malone making it look a little generic and no different to your wife or girlfriend’s products.
New for 2017 Code Colonia is an addition to Armani’s popular ‘Code’ family of colognes. The cologne gives top scents of pink pepper and mandarin making it very fresh, as the day progresses the scent develops to a richer orange blossom citrus with some lavender for depth until finally you get to the base notes of heliotrope and tonka bean. The smell does not last as long as some other colognes. While older men are likely to prefer something a little more mysterious and long lasting, Code Colonia is not overpowering and lives up to its advertising as a ‘discrete’ cologne making it perfect for younger men and daytime wear.
The cologne is suitable for both professional and causal use although perhaps not distinctive enough for romantic settings. The bottle has a pleasing but understated design which suits the cologne perfectly.
This cologne manages to smell simultaneously fresh and sexy, probably no surprise given that Sean John is better known as the rapper Puff Daddy. With top notes of citrus (lemon, mandarin, tangerine, grapefruit) the cologne’s mid notes are herby and aromatic (bergamot, juniper, birch, basil, clary sage, lavender) with a whiff of champagne turning to amber and musk with a hint of sandalwood, tonka bean and rum on the base notes. The transition from fresh to musk makes it a perfect day to night cologne working for both the office and the restaurant or theatre. This cologne gets consistently good reviews from both men and the women who love them and manages to be sexy while not overpowering. Edgy rather than sophisticated Unforgivable is targeted to men aged 18-35 but would work well for anyone under the age of about 50. It is probably a little light in the top and mid notes for the older man.
Creed claim that this cologne was inspired by the Emperor Napoleon and, like the short man who conquered all of Europe Aventus really does punch above its weight. When first applied the top notes of pineapple, bergamot, apple and blackcurrant give a fresh and fruity scent, perfect for use after a session in the gym. The mid notes are a complex but pleasing blend of rose, birch, jasmine and patchouli which transition to base notes of moss, vanilla, ambergris and musk, a perfect transition to an evening out. This cologne has consistently scored well with women who find themselves very attracted to the beguiling smell.
The cologne is expensive but famously long lasting meaning that you genuinely only need to apply the smallest amount. It is a stand out fragrance as well, something to wear when you want to be noticed. While it would suit men of all ages a certain maturity is needed to carry off something this bold. Aventus is a regular in the ‘top fragrance’ lists and as such is popular, once you recognize the smell you will start to notice it on a lot of people. This is no reason not to buy what is such a strong and interesting cologne but it is the reason that it is not higher on the list. Many men who try Aventus do find themselves hooked and become such aficionados that they start to hunt out particular batch numbers (ie factory production lots) for the particular variation in fragrance they are reputed to have.
Dior fragrances are a well-established and traditional favorite with women, men looking for a last minute gift have long relied on famous fragrances like Poison, Dune and J’Adore to pad out the staples of wine and roses. Dior’s fragrances for men are just as popular with many women reporting that they love how the colognes make men smell and Sauvage is no exception. Men who wear it receive a lot of compliments while women say it is one of the colognes that leaves a most memorable and complimentary impression.
With Jonny Depp the advertising face of this cologne Dior Sauvage is inspired by the great outdoors and designed to appeal to the modern concepts of masculinity, rugged yet groomed, raw yet noble. Top notes of bergamot and pepper, supported by citrus gives an impression of cleanliness and freshness. This fades to a herby, lavender mid note that supports an impression of rough, ruggedness before morphing into its base notes of leather, patchouli, musk and pepper, a truly masculine scent.
This is a cologne to wear if you want to be noticed, the absence of tonka bean (a common scent in so many men’s colognes) means that this really does smell a little different, it is also amazingly versatile, the rugged outdoorsy smell transfers seamlessly into both an office or evening situation.
One of the popular ‘Polo’ suite of colognes produced by designer Ralph Lauren, Polo Black does not disappoint. After an initial fruity hit of mango (the top notes have been likened to a pastry oven) hints of tonka bean, patchouli and sage start to take over. Popular with both men and their women the cologne has been a successful product since it was launched over 10 years ago. It is better suited to the younger gentleman as the fragrance is light and lacks the complexity of some of the more sophisticated products on the market, this same ‘lightness’ means it is more of a warm weather cologne not really suitable for the winter months. Polo Black lacks longevity, fading in the base notes after about 6 hours making it suitable for either daytime office wear or for evening but it will not work for day to night elegance without further applications. It is a good ‘starter’ cologne for the 25-35 age group as it is both versatile and easily available. The bottle is smart but very distinctively a Polo by Ralph Lauren product.
Designed and debuted in 1996 Acqua Di Gio really is a design classic in the cologne world. The original fresh scent for men it is credited with being the cologne that started the trend for citrusy fragrances and made fresh and clean rather than musky and mysterious the order of the day.
Unsurprisingly for a cologne that has been around so long you will recognize the smell, and will almost certainly have noticed people wear it before. Don’t let this put you off, however, classics are classics for a reason and this cologne has few competitors when it comes to delivering a good impression that lasts all day. The top notes of bergamot, tangerine and neroli mature into florals of rose and jasmine intertwined with a herby rosemary with persimmon and patchouli. Inspired by the Italian Mediterranean this cologne will transport you there, giving the impressions of wind over the water and blistering sun on the shores of the sea.
Versatile enough for both casual and business wear and suitable for men of all ages we would recommend avoiding this cologne on first dates just in case the lady’s ex (or father) was an aficionado. With that small caveat aside Acqua Di Gio really does deserve its continued presence in the top fragrance lists and a place on every man’s bathroom shelf.
Another offering from Dior and one of the ‘oldest’ colognes on the list. Fahrenheit hit the shelves all the way back in 1988 when it was a runaway success, selling more than even the women’s perfumes. Fahrenheit certainly is a child of its time and the scent will transport older men and women back to their younger days. Why then does it make the list in 2017? Simply because this cologne is different, very different, to the newer colognes on sale today. Indeed it is more akin to a niche fragrance than a mainstream offering
Top notes of honeysuckle, bergamot and hawthorn move to mid notes of violet and nutmeg before developing the base notes of cedar, sandalwood, leather and patchouli. It is the hawthorn, honeysuckle and violet that really make this something special. Many wearers (and their loved ones) report a hint of petrol and burnt wood both of which play in to the concept of the cologne which was heat and fire.
Fahrenheit is very definitely a winter cologne, the warm scents are suited to the colder weather outside and heated rooms inside. Popular with older men who may remember wearing Fahrenheit in the 90s this versatile cologne is not only a nostalgic reminder of younger days, it truly does suit men of all ages. Younger men who give it a try will be pleasantly surprised by how well it suits them and how unique it is amongst all the more modern colognes. This makes Fahrenheit a stand out cologne, something to wear when you want to be noticed.
12Boss No 6 By Hugo Boss For Men
Hugo Boss colognes are perennially popular and with good reason. The scents are clean and easy to wear while the price point is fairly mid-range making them affordable for every day.
Boss No 6 has notes of apple and cinnamon, giving the impression of a European pastry particularly when combined with the deeper notes of vanilla. The woody scents of cedar and sandalwood prevent this becoming too cloying and sweet leaving an overall crisp masculine impression.
The scent is light and does not project too far meaning that someone has to get very close to notice it, this is definitely something to wear for yourself and your intimate partner, it is not going to get you noticed in a bar and, if it is it will not make you stand out. Given the clean, light nature of the scent it is more suited to spring and fall casual use and to younger men. The price point and light scent make this an excellent introductory cologne, Boss No 6 is a versatile choice for those who are just starting to wear cologne and may not have the confidence to wear something more obvious. While it is popular the formulation does tend to smell very different on everyone and therefore you won’t feel like you are wearing the same cologne as every other man in the room.
Gucci Guilty Eau Pour Homme is an aqua based fragrance with a difference. Top notes of lavender and lemon complement the mid note of orange blossom which then turns to a hearty base note of cedar and patchouli with a hint of musk. It is the base notes that really make the difference here. The musky scent gives this a depth that most other ‘clean’ aqua style colognes really lack.
Guilty Eau Pour Homme smells fresh and clean but intriguing at the same time and manages this all without ramming the smell down the nostrils of anyone standing close. Subtle yet remarkable is the name of the game here. Unlike many similar fragrances this one really lasts and lasts making it a useful all day cologne, smelling fresh, clean and professional in the early hours of the day and rather more sensuous later in the day. Suitable for all year use this cologne really works best in the summer months when the heat truly complements both the freshness and the musk. An additional extra is the bottle which manages to pull off looking both smart and sophisticated while retaining an edgy frosted accent.
Guess is a popular high end high street retailer and their cologne certainly fits in this niche. At a high street price point this cologne is accessible to everyone in the way that the designer names are not. The cologne may be cheap but the experience it delivers certainly is not and it has proved very popular with younger men.
Top notes of cardamom, mandarin and pink pepper move to mid notes of vetiver, violet and orchid before developing into musk, sandalwood, amber and patchouli. At least those are the advertised scents. The top notes are strong out of the bottle and in the initial application but the fragrance does not really develop beyond there. This is not, however, a problem as long as you know to expect it. Some men report a scent of skittles and energy drink when they use Seductive.
The cologne is, of course, named ‘Seductive’ and it certainly fulfils this purpose, women enjoy the fruity top notes making this a suitable date cologne. The fruit also smells clean enough to make it a ‘go to’ work cologne, it is not, however, truly appropriate for casual use or for evenings out ‘with the boys’. The price point combined with the light scent make this a perfect entry cologne for older boys and young men. Those over the age of about 25 will probably want, and suit, something a little more complex. The bottle design is basic but has clean lines and looks smart.
Wanted was released in 2016 making it a relatively new arrival on the cologne scene. In the months since launch it has proved to be very popular. Clean citrus top notes of Lemon are enhanced with a hint of ginger. These develop into spicy mid notes of cardamom before developing into warm base notes of vetiver and tonka bean. Wanted manages to avoid the somewhat artificial smell that other sweet/spicy combinations at mid-level prices can suffer from. The cologne delivers a genuine all day fragrance, which balanced with the transition of clean top notes to a warm complex end makes it a genuine one stop day to night scent that works year round.
The cologne is complex enough to appeal to the over 35s but exciting and edgy enough (and with a reasonable price point) to make it suitable for a confident younger man as well.
If the smell makes the cologne a versatile go to for all men the bottle design is more polarizing. Designed to represent the bullet chamber of a traditional revolver Wanted’s bottle really is a love it or hate it proposition. Wanted is advertised as elegant, rugged and virile, a scent that evokes extreme masculinity. Some men may feel that the gun/bullet shaped bottle does imply these things giving the impression of James Bond meets the wild west. Other men are repulsed by it seeing shades of Columbine and other massacres. Whichever camp you fall into there is no denying that the bottle has provoked a lot of discussion which, of course, has helped drive advertising and sales. It also takes nothing away from the fragrance itself which is, as we said a versatile, long lasting go to.
Number 8 on our list is another long term design classic. Launched in 1995 Le Male became an instant hit and has sold solidly since then, retaining its popularity in the face of many newcomers. Le Male is a cologne of contrasts, top notes of lavender, mint, bergamot and lime move on to spicy mid notes of cinnamon, orange blossom and cumin before developing into base notes of vanilla, sandalwood, tonka bean and cedar.
At the time of the launch the edgy bottle designed in the shape of a male torso with a dancer’s bulge of genitalia at the base and the spray forming the headless neck, combined with a marketing campaign using a half-naked tattooed sailor was seen to be truly revolutionary. The overtones of homosexuality at a time when it really was only just starting to be seen as socially normal and acceptable was a brave message that really got people talking. Initially men were hesitant about wearing it because they feared it would ‘send the wrong message’, all this aside Le Male was a break out success because women are truly attracted by it.
The contradictions in this cologne are what continue to keep it on the best of the best lists. Marketed at young men in the 1990s (as now) many have continued to use it as they have progressed up the career ladder and the contrasting scents mean that it works every bit as well for the 25 year old as the 55 year old. The cologne is heavy and lasts a long time meaning that it should be used with a light touch. A quintessentially winter cologne it could be used in the summer but only with forethought, the scents could easily become overpowering in the heat. The sensual nature of the cologne makes it perfect for a date but many confident men manage to make it work for them in the office as well. Le Male is surprisingly affordable but smells like something much more opulent and expensive, a good investment that will stand the test of time.
As a design house Versace is intimately connected with ancient Greek mythology through its use of the Medusa head as their emblem. It was no surprise, therefore, when they came to develop their signature men’s fragrance that they would choose Eros, the Greek god of love, as their inspiration to create a cologne that is marketed ‘for heroes’.
The top notes of apple mint and lemon make the cologne smell fairly generic to begin with. This develops into more complex and interesting mid notes of tonka bean, geranium and amboxan overlaid with vanilla before moving again to light scents of vetiver, cedar and oakmoss with once again very strong and persistent overtones of vanilla. This is a heady and intense cologne which could easily be over applied. It also last a long time so a sparing spray will see you from day to night with no problems.
As with all things Versace the bottle is pure over the top decadence, more Kim Kardashian than Kate the Duchess of Cambridge it certainly is gaudy but then, no one goes to Versace for understated elegance. Green cut glass with Greek maze style etchings and the gold lettering make it (probably inadvertently) rather reminiscent of 4711 the original cologne from Cologne Germany that everyone’s great grandparents used to use. The famous Medusa head rescues to bottle from too many parallels.
There is very little subtlety here but don’t be fooled into thinking that there is no place for this cologne. While the fruity top notes promise a clean fresh scent the strong vanilla really makes this more of a warmer cologne meaning that Eros (as its name suggests) is perfect for young men seeking romance or enjoying nights on the town. Older men will probably find that they are frustrated by it, however, and would be better suited to some of the other offerings on this list.
L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme is another classic cologne dating from the 1990s and like its contemporaries it makes this list because it truly has stood the test of time. A masterful blend of both woody and aquatic scents this cologne is a complex masterpiece that will deliver something different to every person who wears it. Top notes of yuzu, bergamot, lemon and tarragon make for a refreshing first hit which matures into a spicy and woody smell with hints of nutmeg and waterlily. The bottom notes are darker, tobacco, sandalwood, cedar, vetiver and musk.
The bottle is simple, verging on plain and would certainly not look out of place on the best dressed of bathroom shelves. This is very definitely an all day cologne with true day to night staying power with the change from the fresh top notes to the musky, dark, seductive bottom notes echoing the march of the hours. Originally marketed as a summer cologne l’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme works just as well in the winter months as the spicyness complements the cooler weather and heavier clothing and the scent is suitable for men of all ages. Women in particular love this cologne on men, citing the juxtaposition of the acquatic style colognes that are so popular at the moment with the earthier spicy smells that scream seduction.
Oud is a rare and very precious wood with a distinctive scent. If you have ever spent any time in the Middle East or know any Arab men you will be familiar with the distinctive scent. Arabs are not as shy of cologne as westerners and almost all male scents in that part of the world are oud based and extremely noticeable.
While Arabian colognes can seem overpowering to western sensibilities Armani have managed to take the essence of the scent and transform it into a very seductive, very intricate cologne that works for Wall Street every bit as well as Dubai giving a hint of European sophistication along the way. Fresh top notes of citrus, cardamom and pink pepper transform to florals before developing into the base notes of saffron and oud. This complex cologne is suited to more mature men and, while it is a decent daytime cologne it probably works better in the low light romantic atmosphere of the evening. It is long lasting and a little will go a long way, the only real let down is the bottle which strives for European sophistication yet hits 80s gaudy along the way.
Everyone can buy and wear a cologne by the big houses; Armani, Ralph Lauren, Versace and so on but if you want something a little more unique then this is the cologne for you. Amouage was founded in Oman in 1983 with the aim of revitalizing the Omani perfume industry. They employed some of the best known ‘noses’ in the industry to create a range of products that are unique and sophisticated. With a limited retail presence in the US, Amouage products (which are available on line) are not well known and very definitely fall into the category of being a ‘niche’ product. With almost any other cologne on this list (save numbers 2 and 3 below) you are likely to come across others wearing it, with Amouage you have an opportunity to show your individuality and good taste all for less than $300.
Floral top notes of rose and lily of the valley supported by the exotic frankincense turn to mid notes of myrrh and jasmine before developing into the base notes of ambergris, civet, musk, patchouli and cedarwood. This is one of the few really good colognes for men than manages to avoid tonka bean! Do make sure to try a sample as on the ‘wrong’ skin the cologne can smell a little of baby powder, on the right man, on most, however, it is sophisticated and seductive. The cologne does not suit very young men and would not work for anyone under the age of about 30 as it requires a certain level of confidence to pull it off (by way of example this is reputed to be the favorite cologne of Vladimir Putin). For the over 30’s it is a unique masculine scent that will certainly leave a good impression.
As far as the bottle is concerned you are looking at Arab opulence rather than European elegance with a design that has more in common with the Armani Eau De Nuit Oud than the Borneo 1834.
Masculine yet mysterious Borneo 1834 is one of the most interesting colognes on the market right now. Released in 2005 as a not for export item in the exquisite Serge Lutens Parisian salon, this intriguing cologne has only recently become available for purchase in the US at a limited range of fine retailers and some online sites. The cologne is named for the year (1834) and the place (Borneo) from which patchouli first arrived in Europe. It was used as an insect repellant to protect silks on their journey across the seas but the people of Europe were soon as much in love with the smell of patchouli as they were with the luxurious feel of oriental silks and the heavenly taste of chocolate.
It is these contrasting yet complimentary fragrances of cacao and patchouli that work together to make Borneo 1834 the olfactory experience that it is. These two main fragrances combine with white flowers, cardamom, tropical woods, cannabis resin and labdanum at various stages of the top, mid and bottom notes to create a truly unique fragrance. This is a dark and imposing cologne, earthy, animalistic and more than a little intimidating, this is a cologne that does not shy away and it has staying power, a few sprays will last at least eight hours on skin and longer on clothing. It is worn to be noticed and as such is a cologne for men of confidence. Borneo 1834 suits winter rather than summer and fine dining or cocktails rather than the office. It would be a very confidence man under the age of 35-40 who would be capable of pulling it off.
The price point is at the higher end of reasonable at just under $300 and for this money (and the effort of tracking it down) you can guarantee that you will not come across it on many other people. Whether you buy the ‘bell jar’ for the splash effect or the spray bottle for the controlled spritz you can be sure that there is no hint of gaudy extravagance, this is French old school elegance at its finest.
The French may be sophisticated, the Italians suave but one does understated elegance like the British so it is no surprise that one of the most elegant colognes money can buy is sold by British designer Clive Christian, a unique, complex yet discrete cologne that the designers claim is almost 4000 years in the making. Top notes of thyme and nutmeg give way to floral mid notes enhanced with cardamom, artemisia, bergamot and citrus before developing musky base notes of tonka bean supported by sandalwood, vanilla and amber. Number 1 is a ‘love it or hate it’ cologne and many men are put off by the initial floral hit which can appear feminine. Give it time, however, and the richness and masculinity of the scent develops into something very special.
While the smell of the cologne itself screams understated elegance just about everything else is closer to gaudy Las Vegas strip. Marketed as ‘the most expensive cologne in the world you will have to set aside almost $900 to enjoy it. Not only does this buy you a crystal bottle designed by Baccarat (the leading name in crystal don’t you know) and not only embellished with 18 carat gold but topped with a diamond as well. More bling than a rapper would wear! Give all this why is this magnificent cologne not our number 1 choice? Simply put the price is too high and this together with the gaudy bottle mean that while the scent is luxurious and interesting it fails to hit its mark and therefore is really not worth the current price tag.
Our number one spot definitely has to go to this complex and seductive cologne from Viktor and Rolf. If James Bond was a cologne he would be Spice Bomb. The fragrance comes packaged in a fun, hand grenade shaped bottle, like Wanted by Azarro this could have ended up a polarizing feature, popular with some and loathed by others but Spice Bomb manages to appeal to a much broader audience, succeeding where Wanted fails. This success is probably due to the fact that the packaging is relevant to the name and looks sleek rather than gaudy.
When they say spice bomb they really mean it, the cologne packs a punch with bergamot, tobacco, leather, saffron, cinnamon, pink pepper, chili, cinnamon and more. Even more impressive is that it manages to pull off the spicy smell without relying on any musky base notes. This means that the cologne is amazingly versatile, working not only for all day use (and transitions well from day to evening, boardroom to bedroom) but that it suits men of all ages. Men love this product (it very rarely gets less than 5 star reviews) probably because women love it too. Men who wear it report that women become very attracted to them. Spice Bomb may not have the niche appeal of the Amouage Gold or the Borneo 1834 but its scent is no less intriguing or complex and therefore the fact that it is easily available becomes a plus point rather than a negative.
We hope that you have found the list interesting and informative and, of course, overall that you have found the 20 colognes interesting and intriguing. Wearing and appreciating colognes is such as personal experience. Because each one will differ in its reaction to the wearer’s skin there really is no way to predict whether it will be appealing or not. What will work for one man may be a disaster for another.
We hope that we have shown that it is not necessary to spend a fortune in order to be able to enjoy colognes. With this in mind we have tried our best to include something for everyone. From Seductive by Boss, the perfect entry cologne for older boys on the cusp of manhood to Clive Christian Number 1, a decadent celebration of scent. We have listed aquatics like Acqua Di Gio, Fruity florals like Aventus and spicy colognes like Spice Bomb. Mysterious and niche fragrances like Borneo 1834 or Amouage Gold share the list with more mainstream offerings like Versace’s Eros while established classics of the last century like Fahrenheit or Le Male sit near new arrivals on the scene like Wanted. We have given you suggestions for seduction and the board room, for the warm months and the cold and day and evening.
The challenge for you then is to take the time to test, appreciate and enjoy the colognes until you find your signature smell together with your occasional accents for events such as weddings, balls or weekends in the country. It is a process to be savored and enjoyed and, once you have established your signature cologne it is a memory that you will pass on to your loved ones, something that will help them bring you to mind even when you are far away in time or space.