Sometimes a man wants to make an indelible style statement and one of the best ways to do that is with an unusual and highly distinctive fragrance.
This post may have affiliate links, meaning we earn a small commission on purchases through the links (at no extra cost to you). This does not change our opinion but does help support the site. Thank you!
If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, avoid the typical fresh barbershop and “just out of the shower” scents that have dominated men’s cologne for the last decade. Instead look for bold, memorable scents like oud, warm spices, or leather.
Or go with a unique choice like florals. Roses, in particular, can be Fantastic on men and are under-appreciated. Gourmand fragrances that smell like specific foods and drinks can also be fun and memorable.
The fragrances on this list are not for everyone, but they will make a lasting impression.
Top Picks at a Glance
The cologne aims to evoke the best quality of hashish and has a strong cannabis vibe.
Kicks off with a twist of Madagascan black pepper. It’s beautifully authentic and with a spice aroma.
Intense with opening notes of green mango, pink pepper, and cardamom.
Diptyque Oud Palao EDP
Oud Palao is one of the most precious and distinctive ingredients in perfumery and the Paris-based niche fragrance house makes the most of it in this 2015 release.
Western-style oud fragrances are often toned-down versions, but there’s no mistaking its presence in this oriental EDP.
The brand claims to use the palao variety from Laos, hence the fragrances name. Rich, dark and slightly sweet, it’s perfectly paired with a velvety rose note, while a tobacco note adds to the seductive sweetness.
The base features high-quality vanilla and patchouli. They bring an earthiness to the gorgeous mix.
Kilian Love, Don’t Be Shy EDP
Perfumer: Calice Becker
Much like Tom Ford’s Black Orchid EDP was originally aimed at women, but found a following among men, Kilian Love, Don’t Be Shy has done the crossover thing.
Rihanna recently revealed that this is one of her favorite perfumes. One sniff of this floral gourmand from the Paris-based niche brand’s The Narcotics collection will tell you why.
A shot of citrusy neroli is followed by a bouquet of floral notes (orange blossom absolute, jasmine, honeysuckle), but it’s the marshmallow accord that makes this one irresistible.
It’s sweet for sure, but so well composed, you’ll keep on coming back for more.
Le Labo Santal 33 EDP
Perfumer: Frank Voelkl
There was a time when this fragrance seemed to be everywhere and as so often happens when the hype machine goes into overdrive, many people forgot why it is still such a great scent.
Inspired by the iconic Marlboro ads imagery and spirit of the rugged and free American West, it remains one of the New York-based niche fragrance house’s standout scents.
It brings together the facets of warm spice (cardamom), powder (iris, violet), wood (sandalwood, papyrus, cedar) and leather in the most effective way. It seems to last forever, thanks to a dose of musky ambroxan.
Orto Parisi Boccanera EDP
Perfumer: Alessandro Gualtieri
Italian perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri is best described as a maverick. He founded his company Orto Parisi in 2014 and has released eight fragrances since then.
All of them are highly potent and unique. Be warned: There’s no middle ground with his creations.
A gourmand fragrance with a twist, Boccanera opens with hints of warm and spicy black pepper and chilli pepper. Ginger adds to the spicy effect, without overwhelming it. It doesn’t take long for the main note of dark chocolate to come through.
Rich, dark and delicious, it’s complemented by base notes of sandalwood and musk.
Nasomatto Black Afgano Extrait De Parfum
Perfumer: Alessandro Gaultieri
Before Gualtieri founded Orto Parisi, he made his name with his other niche fragrance company, Nasomatto, which he launched in 2008.
Black Afgano is the company’s most famous/infamous release and aims to evoke the best quality of hashish, according to the brand’s website.
Gualtieri is renowned for not explaining his fragrances in terms of notes, but he achieves this exact effect with a strong cannabis vibe.
However, what could be the perfume equivalent of a joint is made more interesting with the addition of resins, wood, oud, incense and tobacco notes.
It’s a true extrait de parfum, so best apply this one lightly and think twice before wearing it to the corporate boardroom.
Comme Des Garcons Blackpepper EDP
The Japanese fashion brand celebrates its 25th year in the fragrance biz in 2019 and Blackpepper EDP is a good reminder of why it is so respected for its contribution to modern perfumery.
The scent kicks off with a twist of Madagascan black pepper. It’s beautifully authentic and guaranteed to satisfy fans of the spice.
It subsides fairly quickly and gives way to a combo of cedarwood and Akigalawood (the perfume compound with oud and patchouli characteristics).
It settles on a warm and comforting base of tonka bean and musk notes.
D.S. & Durga Bowmakers EDP
Perfumer: David Seth Moltz
Conceptual fragrances often fail in their execution, but self-taught perfumer David Seth Moltz is a bit of whizz in this area, and this is one of his standout creations.
The story behind this fragrance is worth quoting, as it will give you an idea of where he was coming from. Amid the transcendental woods of the 1800s, craftsmen from the Massachusetts Bay Colony built violins and bows.
Old growth mahogany, burled maple shavings, amber pine rosin, aged walnut and unique secret varnishes.
It actually does open with a violin varnish note and the mood is wonderfully maintained throughout the scent with an array of woody notes that includes mahogany, maple, cypress and cedar. Resins and moss complete the evocative picture.
L’artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu EDT
Perfumer: Bertrand Duchaufor
Taking its inspiration from wusulan, a tradition whereby Malian women perfume their body and hair, Timbuktu is a fragrance like no other. It was launched in 2004 and has lost none of its power to captivate.
Right from the opening notes of green mango, pink pepper, and cardamom, you’ll realize you’re onto something special with this scent.
Incense makes its seductive way through the heart of the fragrance, which also features a textbook-perfect papyrus note.
The woodiness and earthiness keeps on coming with vetiver and patchouli notes. They are slightly sweetened by a dose of myrrh.
For an EDT, this is surprisingly intense stuff.
Mugler AMen Pure Havane EDT
Perfumer: Jacques Huclier
The original AMen was launched in 1996 and each edition manages to add something different to the theme.
Launched in 2011, Pure Havane is a gourmand tobacco fragrance. It’s sweet from top to bottom but has plenty of character to prevent it from becoming a cloying confection.
It opens with the rich waft of cherry tobacco that’s supported by notes of honey and vanilla. Cacao and patchouli add depth to the mix, while amber keeps it warm and cozy.
Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP
Perfumer: Alberto Morillas
This close collaboration between master perfumer Alberto Morillas and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele was a very brave release for Gucci when it was launched in 2017. It’s not a get-as-many-as-you-can designer fragrance crowd-pleaser.
Its listed notes include a custom-made leather accord (WoodLeather), a natural extract of the nootka cypress (GoldenWood), three types of patchouli and vetiver. All of this adds up to create a rich, woody-leathery EDP that’s most intriguing. The deep leather vibe pays respectful homage to Gucci’s luxury leather goods heritage.
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.