The Absolute Best Colognes For Men—and Anyone Else Who Wants to Smell a Little More Handsome
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We rounded up a comprehensive guide to the best colognes for men because shopping for a fragrance can be tough—much less if you’re doing it online. But it’s one of our favorite grooming products because of the huge variety in sensation each fragrance summons—or the story each cologne tells, if you want to be a little grandiose. You can’t get much of a story from a moisturizer or shampoo. But a great fragrance can turn heads for the right reasons. It can build a positive association with a friend, a date, a total stranger.
For example, I’ll always have a soft spot for Le Labo’s Bergamote 22. It was worn by a friend of mine, and a sniff sends me right back to my late 20s, and reminds me of all the exciting changes life threw at me those years. That’s the power of fragrance.
I try to test as wide a range of cologne for guys as possible, and to put together this guide, I rifled through my personal fragrance “library” at home, to pick out the scents that get the most compliments from people I encounter. I can’t stick to just one scent, since the job demands I know them all. That’s a curse and a blessing, because I love helping others find the colognes that best represent them, in hopes that they get to attach memories to these smells.
So here are 18 of the best fragrances for men, in all kinds of categories; perhaps these will help guide you towards one or two of them, to make shopping (even if online) all less stressful. Some of them are new, some classic, but each should make a favorable impression. Read on for the 19 best colognes for men.
Best Classic Cologne for Men: Dior “Homme”
Sometimes the fashion houses make things confusing by releasing new versions of a classic and not changing the name. Dior Homme is one such case—the original is a classic, but it’s this 2020 woody, musky, ambrous remix that might be one of the most universally appealing scents on the market. That’s to say, this eau de toilette is probably one you’ll smell on a few other people—it’s a crowd pleaser. (Besides Homme, Dior also makes another stone-cold classic masculine sent, Dior Sauvage, that’s well worth checking out.)
Best Date Night Cologne for Men: Roja Parfums “Danger Pour Homme Parfum Cologne”
The terms “Danger” and “date night” aren’t two things we’d like to tie together, but in this case, it’s a match made in heaven. It oozes sensuality without being too forward and sultry, and it does so with universally loved notes like oakmoss, patchouli, cedarwood, and musk. I’d say it’s a bit too, uh, horny for everyday office wear, but it’s terrific for nights out, whether it’s Date 1 or 1,000.
Best Year-Round Cologne for Men: Arquiste “Misfit”
Three of my all-time favorite scents are from Arquiste: Nanban with spice and frankincense for the darker months, Boutonnière no 7 for lighter days, and this one, Misfit, for pretty much everything else. Without fail, every day with any of these scents gets compliments and garners a new customer for the brand. And Misfit could be your new signature scent that is worn by nobody else in the office: It’s got patchouli base notes lightened by lavender and bergamot, and anchored by balsam and tonka bean. I gave a small sample to a friend the other day, and you’d think he just won the lottery. Every moment in Misfit feels exactly that blissful.
Best Small-Batch Cologne for Men: Escentric Molecules “Escentric 03”
Leave it to the scent obsessives at Escentric to concoct their own miracle ingredients and then pass on the results to the eager masses. This one features vetiveryl acetate—a twist on vetiver oil that’s combined with acetic acid to strip away excess bitterness—accompanied by a welcome burst of lime and ginger. It’s an intense mix, but one that’ll leave you feeling revitalized and ready to take on the day after every spritz.
Best Sport Cologne for Men: Prada “Luna Rossa Ocean”
You’re not the only one confused by the category of “sport” scents. Typically a low-concentration eau de toilette or eau de cologne, sporty fragrances offer high impact for shorter periods of time. At their best, they evoke some kind of outdoor activity, whether it’s boat racing, horseriding, or regular ol’ gym going. Ocean expands on the success Prada’s experienced with its Luna Rossa line, infusing its best-selling sport scent with a telltale blast of sea salt.
Best Unisex Cologne for Men (and Women): Diptyque “Tempo”
Tempo harnesses the power of patchouli—a bona fide hippie staple in the midst of a long-overdue renaissance—in a flirty ode to the era that inspired it. Its body blends herbal maté, sage, and pink pepper, lending its earthy-woody essence a warm, inviting pulse. If references to the ’60s immediately conjure up images of unkempt nonconformists getting freaky in a muddy patch of grass, Tempo’s flawless execution will remind you that not every flower child smelled terrible. Some smelled pretty damn great!
Best Deeply-Transportive Cologne for Men: Maison Margiela Replica “Jazz Club”
Maison Margiela’s woody-spicy scent smells exactly like you’d expect a fragrance inspired by a cozy Brooklyn jazz club stripped of any old and dusty associations. The requisite hints of rum absolute and tobacco leaf are there, naturally, but so are whiffs of lemon, pink pepper, neroli oil, and vanilla. And like a top-shelf liquor, it only gets better with age.
Best Surprisingly Sensual Cologne for Men: Hermès H24
H24, Hermès’ first men’s fragrance in over 15 years, would’ve been a landmark by any measure. As it turns out, it smells fanastic too. The crisp scent scooped a Grooming Award thanks to its fresh combination of clary sage, narcissus, and rosewood essence. The result? A fragrance that feels unmistakably of a piece with the brand’s centuries-spanning commitment to high-minded vibes—finished with the distinct smell of metal, a flourish Hermès perfumer Christine Nagel attributes to sclarene, a synthetic molecule that evokes a “metal so polished it becomes sensual.”
Best Spring Cologne for Men: Maison Francis Kurkdjian “Paris L’Homme à la Rose”
I want more men to wear florals. Floral notes take the edge off; they invite people in. Is anything more hospitable? Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s recent release marries two rose notes together, one Bulgarian and one French, with an amber-woody heart and resinous base. I think it’s as sexy as a woody or leather scent, but in a less obvious way: It doesn’t demand attention. Instead, it stokes curiosity. It’s flirtatious. We could all afford to try that approach—even if it’s platonic.
Best Summer Cologne for Men: Louis Vuitton “Imagination”
I’ve said it a billion times, but I think Louis Vuitton’s entry into men’s fragrance is one of the most exciting changes of late. It’s been a prolific few years for their in-house perfumer, Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud: First there were L’Immensité and Orage from the initial launch of 5, and then the exquisite summery collection “Les Colognes”, with favorites like Sun Song and Afternoon Swim. Perhaps atop them all, though, is the latest, Imagination. Like the rest of the lot, it summons world-class ingredients—Chinese black tea, Italian citrus, Tunisian neroli, Nigerian ginger, and top-shelf ambrox. Its release into the world comes when it’s needed most: An open-door summer, everyone ready to realize the potential that’s been bubbling for a year or more. It is aptly named, and could eternally be the boundless smell of summer.
Best Fall Cologne for Men: Hermès “Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver”
This is hotly debated, but as outstanding as Terre D’Hermes is… this vetiver remix is even better. Vetiver has never been better than in this —which is saying something. I’ve been able to convert many a friend to what I think is a sleeper hit—because too many people are hung up on the (also incredible) original!
Best Winter Cologne for Men: Tom Ford “Oud Wood Intense”
There are entire corners of the web dedicated to picking out the Best Tom Ford Colognes, and for good reason: They’re all pretty fabulous. (So much so that he actually named one ‘F*cking Fabulous“.) In a barn burner race, though, Oud Wood might eke out the win, for its smokiness, spiciness, woodiness, oudiness… these broody notes also makes it a frontrunner in the winter category, since it warms on contact, and for lack of better word, smells incredibly masculine. It really is an Alpha Male kind of scent, despite the industry skewing unisex of late. (Along those lines, I also know a few women who wear it for dates and rainy days alike.)
Best Weekend Cologne for Men: Ralph Lauren “Polo Cologne Intense”
Another remix on a classic, Polo Cologne Intense from Ralph Lauren is intensely grounding, thanks to a hearty patchouli base. It exudes the same calm you want from a weekend, whether it’s spent playing polo (anyone?), escaping to the beach, or grilling bratwursts with the in-laws. It’s rounded out with crisp grapefruit and herbal, fresh sage and—I mean this as a high compliment—it sorta smells like a totally cleansing shower embodied as a fragrance.
Best Long-Lasting Cologne for Men: Krigler “Sylt Style”
Krigler makes some real top-shelf perfume for men. That’s because many of its launches are parfums, some of the highest concentrations of perfume oils you can get. (Hence the price tag.) Thus, a little goes a long way with any Krigler scent. Their latest, Sylt Style, is an ode to the Germans’ favorite island destination, Sylt. It’s a blend of cashmere, almond, pink pepper, vanilla, moss, and amber. I’d prescribe it to the CEOs and professors among us, or anyone cosplaying as such. Plus, any true fragrance fan will ogle the bottle like it’s Macallan 18-year Old Sherry Oak. (I Googled ‘what is the best top-shelf whisky’.) There’s a reason you won’t find Krigler at a department store, and it’s the same reason it runs laps around the (lack of) competition.
Best Inexpensive Cologne for Men: Calvin Klein “Eternity for Men”
Eternity is evergreen: sage, cedar, bergamot, and moss combine for an earthen and refreshing finish, and at a price that is friendly to the greens in your wallet. This is one of those scents that everyone recognizes, since it’s an easy pick as a signature scent, or as a gift for the cologne-curious.
Best Subtle Cologne for Men: YSL “‘Y’ Eau Fraîche”
If you want a barely-there scent, then Eau Fraîche is the ticket for its diluted perfume concentrations (1-5%), compared to eau de toilette (5-8%) and eau de parfum (8-15%). It’s akin to applying alight body spray, or wanting a pleasant scent for a morning meeting, without announcing “Hey this is my brand!”. YSL’s ‘Y’ is the hardest yes in the softest category: it tethers cedarwood to lemon and geranium for a balanced, what’s-not-to-love finish. It might register as a whisper to colleagues or friends, and that is exactly the point.
Best Room Scent for Men: Coqui Coqui “Tabaco”
Beyond candles and Febreze, I don’t think we give enough attention to how our homes smell. There are room sprays and diffusers exactly for this reason, and best of all, specific rooms can carry specific scents (not to mention, they can be engaged on the fly; it’s not like your bedroom always needs to smell alluring). My favorite universal scent is Coqui Coqui’s Tabaco diffuser. It’s not overbearingly tobacco-y that it ever feels off season, but it is prominent enough to make the bathroom more welcoming (if that’s what you want your bathroom to suggest to visitors), or ditto for the living room and bedroom. It’s a cozy and uncomplicated scent, both standalone as a body fragrance, or diffused into the air. This giant vessel should cast for an entire year if left open continuously.
Best Try-Before-You-Buy Cologne Service: Snif
Shopping for cologne online is hard. Can you really imagine what a heavy woody scent backed by musk, patchouli, smells like? How’s that different than a light base of sandalwood, and cedarwood with top notes of bergamot and cardamom?
A small, new company, Sniff, takes the guessing out of it. They send you a sample pack of full-size bottles—you simply return the ones you don’t want to keep. My personal favorite is Ex on the Beach, but the great part is that it only matters what you like.
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