Classic, warm, and spicy scent uplifts and intrigues. Combines citrus and coriander with clean cedar and black pepper. Creates a profile both clean and spicy. Can be sprayed generously on skin or clothes.
May be too classic for some men. Not as concentrated as others.
Bright, citrusy scent of limes and mandarins anchored with a touch of wood from cedar and cypress. Registers as cool and crisp. Well-priced to be accessible. Cheerful orange bottle.
Not particularly long-lasting. May come across as too young for some men.
Marine, seaside notes of bergamot, neroli, and tangerine build on herbal, earthy rosemary and patchouli. Frosted glass bottle conveys a fresh seaside ambience. Excellent for daily wear.
Can wear off and need reapplication. May be too well-known.
A sensual, long-lasting woody fragrance of cedar and vetiver lightened by lavandin and sage. Contained in a sleek flask-style bottle with squared edges and a clever hinge cap.
Some find it strong and associate the scent with more mature individuals.
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Whether you reach for it daily or only on special occasions, a spritz of cologne is a great way to complete your style. Men’s colognes come in an array of scents, so you are sure to find one that complements you.
But finding your signature scent can be intimidating. In fact, most men choose a cologne based on whether or not their partner likes it. To select your own scent, you have to identify the fragrance families and notes that most appeal to you. We’re here to help.
At BestReviews, we make shopping simple with our top recommendations and information-packed shopping guides. If you’re ready to purchase a new fragrance, check out our five favorites in the product list above. For everything you need to know about men’s cologne before you buy, read on.
While in the U.S., the term “cologne” is commonly used for any fragrance marketed to men and the word “perfume” used for any fragrance marketed to women, these terms have specific meanings in the perfume industry and are unrelated to gender.
All fragrances are largely made up of alcohol and other carriers, such as water and unscented oils. The aromatic oils that create the scent that reaches your nose are only a small percentage of the total product, and it is those percentages that differentiate the various types of fragrances.
Parfum is the most concentrated, containing 20% to 40% perfume oils.
Eau de parfum contains 15% to 20% perfume oils.
Eau de toilette contains 10% to 15% perfume oils.
Eau de cologne contains 3% to 8% perfume oils. Note that this is the formal definition used in the perfume industry. Many men’s fragrances marketed as cologne are actually eau de parfums.
Body mists are lightly fragranced, with only 2% to 3% perfume oils.
Most fragrances are created with a blend of various aromatic oils. The perfume industry uses standard fragrance families to categorize these different types of oils. Let’s take a look at the oils most used in men’s colognes.
Many men’s colognes have touches of citrus oils, which include orange, lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, and mandarin. Citrus fragrances are a subgroup of the Fresh family and have a fresh and woody scent.
These are herbal, fresh scents, such as thyme, sage, grass, and rosemary. All are popular in men’s colognes. Green fragrances are a subgroup of the Fresh family.
These heady oils include scents like pine, cedar, vetiver, sandalwood, and patchouli. This is another very popular fragrance family for men’s colognes and aftershaves.
Most of the oils in this family are quite strong and potent. Myrrh, vanilla, amber, cinnamon, and clove are just a few of the oils in the Oriental family. Many men’s colognes make use of these fragrances.
Many scents considered masculine are found in the Dry Woods subgroup, including smoke, leather, tobacco, and juniper. Dry woods fragrances are part of the Woody family.
A fairly new fragrance subgroup, many of the oils found here are synthetic. These are the aquatic aromatics that make you think of an ocean breeze, and they are used quite a bit in men’s colognes. Water fragrances are a subgroup of the Fresh family.
These fragrances are typically moss-based but also include amber. They have a woody and oriental scent that is popular in men’s colognes. Mossy Woods fragrances are a subgroup of the Woody family.
There are dozens of floral oils, including rose, jasmine, and gardenia. You’ll sometimes find small touches of floral oils in men’s colognes, but as a general rule, these are far more common in women’s perfumes.
You’ll find drugstore colognes and body sprays for less than $10 and designer fragrances selling for $100 or more.
As a general rule, drugstore colognes have lower-quality oils, lower concentrations of aromatic oils, less complex blends, and more synthetic oils than their more expensive counterparts.
For most men, a cologne that costs somewhere between $60 and $100 is a safe bet, but as scent is such a personal preference, the bottom line is that it’s worth paying for what you really like.
Two individuals can smell the same cologne, and yet have very different reactions. Scent is one of our most primal senses and brings up emotions and memories that are often only partly conscious. That’s why the right cologne for you depends not only on your body chemistry and lifestyle, but also on your instinctive reaction.
As a general rule, if you’re looking for a cologne for everyday use, lighter formulations with citrus, water, or green notes are best. If you’re choosing a cologne for date nights or special occasions, look for one with oriental or woody notes. Of course, there’s no reason not to own several different colognes so you can suit your fragrance to your mood or schedule.
Body chemistry greatly affects the fragrance of a cologne, which is why the same product can smell differently on two different men. When testing a new cologne, apply a dab to your arm, and let the fragrance sit for several minutes. This gives the oils a chance to react with your skin.
When applying cologne, remember: less is more. Apply a spray or dab of cologne to only a few of the following areas: neck, chest, inner elbows, or wrists.
Apply cologne to clean, dry skin, not onto your clothes. And don’t spray it in the air and walk through the cloud; that’s a waste of product and won’t give you the true scent.
Go ahead and reapply cologne if you’re going out at night, but don’t re-apply during the day. While your nose might get used to the scent and stop noticing it, it’s probably still quite detectable to those around you.
The oilier your skin, the stronger your cologne will smell. Choose a lighter fragrance if your skin is oily, or apply a stronger scent sparingly. Conversely, if your skin is dry, you can apply a bit more product or choose a stronger fragrance.
Q. I hear a lot about top notes in men’s cologne. What does that mean?
A. In the perfume industry, fragrances are developed in three layers: the top notes, heart notes, and base notes. The top notes are comprised of the aromatic oils you notice first, and they last the shortest amount of time – generally, just a couple of hours. Typically, the top notes are the lightest scents, such as green or herbal oils.
The heart notes are the middle oils in the fragrance that start to become more apparent after two or more hours of wear. These are the body of the fragrance, and they usually are more potent than the top notes. Often, you’ll find aquatic, leather, or mossy oils in the heart of the cologne.
The base notes aren’t really detectable until several hours have passed, and they usually only become apparent after the top notes have faded away, which is why the smell of a cologne can change so much as the day goes by. Base notes are usually rich, potent oils, such as woody or oriental scents.
Q. Is it better to buy a cologne spray or one that is dabbed onto the skin directly from the bottle?
A. This is mostly a matter of preference, although as a general rule, colognes with lower concentrations of aromatic oils are sprays, and those with higher concentrations of oils are dabbed onto the skin right from the bottle. Neither is necessarily better; the right one for you depends on how you prefer to apply your cologne and the strength of the particular fragrance.
Q. Should I buy a large bottle of cologne that will last longer?
A. For most men, no. Cologne, like all fragrances, breaks down over time and often loses considerable potency within a year of opening the bottle. Unless you apply a lot of fragrance each day, you’re usually better off buying a smaller bottle that you’ll use up within a few months.