What cologne smells the best? It's a simple question but finding the best men's cologne can be a daunting task. Whether you're picking out a gift for him or finding a new favorite perfume for yourself, everyone has their own opinion of what makes a scent great. At the end of the day, fragrance is very personal and there's no one size fits all answer.
However sometimes a guy just needs a fragrance that’s incredibly versatile, regardless of the season or the situation. A cologne that works day or night, casual or formal. It’s great to have scents for specific occasions, but it’s even better to be able to reach for some of those mentioned below that work 24/7 all year round.
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Top 10 Colognes for Men: Best Versatile Fragrances for Guys
Here are our top 10 picks for all-around best colognes for men to wear anywhere. It's a mix of top-selling and top-rated men's colognes, blending the most popular, famous designer fragrances with the best-smelling niche fragrances. A men's perfume list that's a perfect starting point for any masculine fragrance collection.
10. Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum Pour Homme Spray
The opening of the Bleu de Chanel fragrance created by Olivier Polge pulls you in immediately, with addictive fresh notes of artemisia, bergamot, lemon zest and mint. However, it’s the base of sandalwood that really sets this fragrance apart from its predecessors.
It’s a grown-up, big boy treatment of sandalwood. Super-seductive stuff! Cedar is also present in the dry-down, which further enhances the woody character of this fragrance.
Bleu de Chanel EDP is supremely smooth and elegant, with the creamy sandalwood sealing the deal. Like all of the Bleu de Chanel iterations, it nails versatility, wearability and elegance.
9. Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme Eau de Toilette
Created by the highly esteemed Anne Flipo, Pierre Wargnye and Dominique Ropion, it gets the balance between woody and fresh so right. The opening notes of ginger, bergamot and lemon set the vibrant scene.
A handful of spice adds a beautiful contrast, while a cedar note in the base brings this fragrance together in a most sophisticated way.
8. Dolce & Gabbana The One EDP
Dolce & Gabbana The One EDT is a very good masculine fragrance, but the EDP version takes it to a whole new level. The Italian designer duo wanted to create classic male fragrances with The One range and they certainly succeeded with Dolce & Gabbana The One EDP.
Created by Olivier Polge (now Chanel’s in-house perfumer), this is one of those fragrances that works its charms from start to finish, courtesy of an array of inviting notes (grapefruit, coriander, basil, ginger, cardamom, orange blossom, tobacco, amber and cedarwood). With just the right amount of sweetness, it’s a warm and luxurious winner.
7. Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Eau de Parfum
It was recently announced that Tom Ford will be given the Fragrance Foundation's Hall of Fame Award in June 2019 for his contribution to perfumery. We reckon Mr TF could be recognised for any number of his fragrances and Tom Ford Neroli Portofino EDP would be right up there on that list.
Inspired by the Italian Riviera, Neroli Portofino EDP was created by the highly skilled Rodrigo Flores-Roux. It makes a huge impression with bursts of citrus intermingled with aromatic rosemary and lavender.
When the floral notes come into play, it’s like you’re smack bang on the Amalfi. It's a perfect summer choice, of course, but works so well in winter too when you need a pure sunshine lift.
6. Guerlain L'Homme Ideal EDT
Guerlain is one of the most revered houses in perfumery and celebrated its 190th year in the biz in 2018. L'Homme Ideal was created by in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser proves it has not lost its touch.
It opens with deliciously fresh aromatic and citrus notes, including orange blossom and rosemary. But it's the amaretto-like effect of the almond (lots of it) and tonka bean that makes this fragrance really distinctive and worth adding to your collection.
It's smooth, creamy, sweet and elegant. The fragrance is rounded off with notes of leather, cedar and vetiver, adding to its up appeal.
5. Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine
Paris-based niche fragrance house Atelier Cologne specialises in concentrated colognes made from quality ingredients. Orange Sanguine is one of their best fragrances. It opens with a superbly authentic blood orange note that's zesty and fresh.
Perfumer Ralf Schwieger was inspired by the notion of "soft sea breezes and sunshine in a bottle", according to Atelier Cologne. And that's exactly what he did with this scent. But there's more to this fragrance than pure uplifting orange, including standout notes of geranium and sandalwood.
4. Creed Silver Mountain Water EDP
Creed Aventus EDP may get all the hype, but it’s Creed Silver Mountain Water EDP that gets our vote for its versatility. Inspired by perfumer Oliver Creed’s love for skiing in the Swiss Alps with its snowy mountains and cool streams, it’s quality stuff with a justifiable price tag.
Inspiration often doesn’t translate into reality, but this EDP does so brilliantly. Blackcurrant can be overbearingly sweet, but in Creed Silver Mountain Water it has a fresh and green quality. This is enhanced by the green tea and bergamot notes, followed by sandalwood. It’s a wonderfully crisp and clean affair.
3. Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire EDP
Extraordinary indeed! When Dominique Ropion created Vetiver Extraordinaire for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, he set a new standard for vetiver fragrances in a category where there are some mighty fine examples, including Guerlain Vetiver and Lalique Encre Noire.
Vetiver is known for its earthy, grassy quality and this EDP makes the most of its main ingredient, Haitian vetiver. A brief hint of fresh citrus (bergamot and bitter orange) gives way to a magnificently rich take on vetiver that’s supported by notes of sandalwood, cedarwood, cashmeran and oakmoss.
2. Amouage Reflection Man EDP
Since its founding in 1983 in Oman, Amouage has specialised in luxury fragrances with an Arabian focus. Reflection Man is one of the brand’s more commercial releases, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing.
It’s all about floralcy and sweetness in this Lucas Sieuzac creation. A light sprinkling of red pepper berries in the opening will grab your attention. Then it’s full on florals, thanks to notes of neroli, ylang-ylang and jasmine, followed by a woody whammy of sandalwood, cedar and patchouli.
It has an irresistible powdery aspect that’s hard to beat.
1. Dior Sauvage EDP
It’s one of the best-selling men’s colognes in recent years and is revered or reviled in equal measure. Whatever you think about Dior Sauvage EDP, there’s no mistaking this fragrance’s trademark opening freshness, courtesy of the Calabrian bergamot note.
It’s not all about freshness in this François Demachy creation, though. Notes of nutmeg and Sichuan pepper bring a warm spiciness to the proceedings.
And then there’s the hyper-dose of ambroxan, which gives Dior Sauvage EDP its ambery quality, and vanilla absolute for extra smoothness.
101 Guide: How to Choose Your Cologne
1. Sample It: Scents Smells Different on Different People
A fragrance that works for one person, may very well not work for you. This is because the essential oils that create the fragrance interact with each person's body chemistry differently. Everything from the oil on your skin to your body temperature affects the way your cologne smells.
Style is less quantifiable but nonetheless extremely important. Part of this is just knowing your fragrance personality and what kind of impression you want to make. Some guys would like their scent to fly under the radar while others of us like to make more of a statement with our cologne.
Ideally sample a cologne on your skin before you buy it. Experience the whole fragrance story from top notes (what you smell immediately), to heart notes (usually emerge after 20 minutes of wearing the fragrance) to basenotes (the lingering smell). Let it evolve and see if you still like it. If possible, experience all of them before you buy.
2. Understanding Essentials Oils and the Fragrance Journey
Linear: Scents which will not evolve or change as you wear them.
Non-Linear: Will change and go through layers while you're wearing them.
Historically fragrances were designed to change during wear due to compensate for unstable ingredients. Now many view it as an art form and enjoy the “fragrance journey” as the scent morphs while interacting with the skin.
However other people prefer a "what you smell is what you get" approach and like that the fragrance they picked out won't suddenly change while they're wearing it. Generally higher end fragrances tend to be non-linear while budget colognes are frequently linear.
Scent notes are the layers in a cologne. There are three types of notes. Top note, heart note, and base note. The top note will melt away into the heart (middle) note and the heart note will melt into the base note. These notes make a fragrance more interesting and help them to have diverse scents.
The top note is very light and is usually floral or citrusy. The top note will last roughly 30 minutes and evolve into the heart notes which are usually the more ‘heavy’ fragrances such as spice or grass.
The base notes will last the longest and support the rest of the fragrances with more rich and woodsy scents. Learn more about fragrance notes
3. Fitting the Cologne to the Occasion
While there are some colognes that are versatile and fit in nearly everywhere, many colognes are designed for a specific setting and purpose in mind. Consider where want to wear the cologne.
In general men's fragrances fall into the woody, fresh and oriental categories on the fragrance wheel. Other scents are clean and crisp, designed for day time use, perfect for the office or at work.
Oriental = Date Night or Evening Out
In general, Oriental fragrances are sensual and spicy best for a date or evening out. They have the spicy boldness to work well in the cool of evening and have a more sexy edge to them.
Fresh = Daytime and Summer
Fresh scents are generally crisp and clean, good for summer or daytime wear. Aquatics or Water fragrances have been overwhelmingly popular for men recently.
Woody = Versatile
Woody fragrances are earthy and natural, they are often quite versatile and could be used in a day or evening setting.
Floral fragrances are less common for men, but tend to be light and good for daytime.
4. Match Your Cologne to the Seasons
How strong a fragrance smells also depends on temperature. It's not just about setting the mood. In summer our sense of smell is heightened and the warmth brings out even delicate scents. Citrus and floral scents tend to do best in the summer months.
Meanwhile the best fall and winter scents are spicy, warm and bold. While this is not a hard and fast rule, it's worth keeping in mind. Is the cologne you loved all winter suddenly too heavy? Is your summer cologne fading away in the crisp fall air?
You might find it necessary to rotate your cologne to match the seasons, esp if you live in a place that has pronounced seasons.
5. Understand Sillage and Concentrations
"Cologne" is commonly used to refer to men's fragrance. However it's not technically correct. There is a whole lexicon of words to refer to the concentration of essential oils found in a fragrance. While the percentages aren't officially regulated, generally the amount of essential oils increases the price as well and longevity of the fragrance.
Sillage refers to the wake of a boat in French and is how far away the fragrance can be smelled. Bigger isn't necessarily better. If you're working in close quarters, your co-workers will appreciate your restraint.
Concentrations refer to how much essential oil is included in a fragrance. This often affects the strength of the smell and how long it lasts, not but there are other factors as well.
Common Concentrations For Men Include:
- Perfume/ Parfum: 15-40% essential oils, 6-8 hours
- Eau de Parfum (EDP): 15-20% essential oils, 5-6 hours
- Eau de Toilette (EDT): 5-15% essential oils, 4-5 hours
- Eau de Cologne (EDC): 2-4% essential oils, 2-3 hour
- Eau Fraiche: 1-3% essential oils, 1-2 hours
5. Fits your budget
Don't feel intimidated by expensive niche colognes — there are quality colognes at every price-point. If you really have your heart set on a pricy luxury fragrance, keep your eye open for promotions or special offers which will make it more affordable. Or check out our guide to the best-smelling cheap fragrances.
There's some misconception that cheap colognes are more synthetic-based and expensive colognes are made with natural ingredients. This is not true — some rare ingredients such as oud do go for premium pricing.
However in general it's a combination of the concentration of the fragrance and marketing that determines the price-point. Budget perfumes are usually crowd pleasing scents which are more diluted, targeted at a younger demographic and have basic packaging. Niche luxury brands on the other hand can invest in developing new fragrances and innovative packaging that can get a premium price but might not have the mass appeal. Learn more about the differences between cheap and expensive colognes
How to Store Your Cologne
Short answer: in the dark, at a constant temperature, with the cap on — AKA the exact opposite of the bathroom window where it's so tempting to store them.
If you have them in the bathroom, please don't.
How to Apply Your Cologne
Here's some quick pointers on how to correctly apply cologne.
1. Spray on your body's pulse points such as chest, neck, or wrist. The warmth will help develop the scent.
2. Spray into the air and walk through the cloud of scent. This is good for stronger perfumes or men who want a more subtle scent.
3. Apply right out of the shower and avoid putting fragrance on clothing as it can sometimes stain.
4. Don't dump a lot on thinking it will last longer — it just makes you smell overwhelming and will wear off at the same time anyway.
And remember: fragrances should be discovered not announced.
Is it safe to buy colognes online?
The short answer is yes....but know what to look out for. This is a constant issue — let's face it most guys don't exactly relish a trip to the cologne counter. But there's also a lot of shady counterfeiters online. On this website, I try to link to reputable sources for the colognes — however I've also put together some tips to help you and your wallet stay safe.