“Fragrance is an invisible part of our personal style, and it has a powerful effect on how people see and remember you.” – Antonio Centeno
When I first got interested in colognes, I had a ton of questions on everything from the technical side of things to the jargon used to describe scents. Fragrance is part art, part science and it can feel daunting to wade through all the information and terminology.
This is my attempt to make a quick start FAQ guide for men interested in gaining a deeper appreciation for fragrance but not quite sure where to begin.
On the other hand, if you're just looking for some great smelling juice — skip down to the bottom where I have my 20 current favs.
How to Choose the Best Cologne
How to Choose the Best Cologne
First off, I don't believe that there's one "perfect" cologne out there for every situation. Instead it's a matter of finding the best one that suits the occasion, your budget, the season, your style and personal scent.
The Best Cologne Fits the Occasion
For instance if you're going to work, you'll want to have a more subtle, professional scent whereas when you're heading out on a night out, you'll want a cologne that's more sensual.
The Best Cologne Fits Your Budget
Don't feel intimidated by expensive designer 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.
The Best Cologne Fits the Season
Our sense of scent also changes by the seasons with summer piquing our olfactory sensations and winter dulling them — you might find it necessary to rotate your cologne to match the seasons, esp if you live in a place that has pronounced seasons.
The Best Cologne Fits Your Personal Style
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.
The Best Cologne Fits Your Body's Scent
Personal scent is tricky. Every once in awhile there's a cologne everyone is raving about that just doesn't quite work with my personal scent (I'm looking at you, Creed Santal). It doesn't happen frequently but it's still something to be aware of as you purchase fragrances.
How to Find the Best Cologne
The easiest and cheapest way to test that is to make a dreaded trip to the perfume counter at any department store. If you're not feeling up to that, many companies offer travel kits or coffrets (basically small tester bottles) with their best selling fragrances. As you get more familiar with fragrances, you'll likely be able to venture more into blind buys based on what you've previously purchased and enjoyed.
We also have a ton cologne guides to help point you in the right direction.
How to Apply 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.
Are Perfume and Cologne Different?
Are perfume and cologne different?
- Eau de Parfum: 15-20% essential oil. Lasts longer and is better for sensitive skin types, but is more expensive
- Eau de Toilette: 5-15% essential oil. More common and lasts for about 3 hours
- Eau de Cologne: 2-4% lasts for about 2-4 hours
- Eau Fraiche: 1-3%. Good for sensitive skin types since it contains no alcohol. Lasts for less than 1 hour
What are fragrance notes: top notes, heart notes, basenotes?
What are fragrance notes?
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.
What are Linear vs Non-Linear Fragrances?
What are Linear vs Non-Linear Fragrances?
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.
Budget vs Luxury Colognes: Does price matter?
Budget vs Luxury Colognes:
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.
How Should I Store 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.
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.
What's the history of men's cologne?
I'm a bit of a history nerd so I've been working on a short history of how modern men's cologne came to be.
My Favorite Colognes for Men
20 Great Smelling Fragrances to Get you Started
- Jimmy Choo Man Intense
Elegant. Sophisticated. Refined. These are just some of the qualities used to describe the type of man that this cologne was designed for. This scent was made for a confident man with a wild spirit. This is a light, yet bold smell. It comes with a definite edge pf class. People notice when you wear Jimmy Choo Man Intense.
- Dior Homme Sport
A vibrant cologne with an underlying spiciness that adds excitement to the overall fragrance. This isn’t your ordinary cologne, it is a compliment magnet and a lifestyle enhancer. It is a hit among many users and proves to be a versatile product that can stand the rigors of your day-to-day life.
- John Varvatos Oud Cologne
This cologne goes back in time to pay homage to the oriental scents of old. The entire fragrance is wrapped in a sense of mystery thanks to the use of rare Oud Oil. Luxurious and exhibiting undeniable personality, this fragrance pleases the senses with aromatic spices and sweet tobacco.
- Bvlgari Man Black Cologne
Black tea and smoky woods blend together to create this pleasing daytime cologne. The blend is infused with aroma and makes for a delightful cologne that will last throughout the day and keep you smelling fresh as a daisy- whether you’re at work or just going about your day.
- Burberry Mr Burberry Eau de Parfum
A dynamic fragrance built up by bright notes of bergamot, combined with summery smells such as lavender and mint. The heart notes have been created out of moss geranium and sandalwood, built on top of base notes of amber, cedarwood and tonka. These elements were infused together to create cologne that is deep and full of vitality.
- Clean Shower Fresh for Men Eau de Toilette Spray
This long-lasting spray presents a clean- cut smell that will have you smelling fragrant all day long. Thanks to an infusion of lemon, mandarin orange, lily-of-the-valley, orange blossom, musk, and woody notes. The overall scent is pleasant and refreshing.
- Calvin Klein Euphoria for Men Liquid Gold Eau de Parfum
Euphoria Liquid Gold for Men represents all the refinement of the Calvin Klein brand. This opulent fragrance displays all the precious wealth that the name suggests and is a rare and exclusive scent that will please even the most masculine man.
- MontBlanc Legend Spirit Eau de Toilette
Legend and spirit- these words denote a sense of adventure and excitement. This cologne was designed for the passionate man intent of exploring new horizons. The scent itself does so by starting out on an aromatic woody base while blending citrus, lavender and cardamom.
- Calvin Klein Eternity Summer Eau de Toilette for Men
Imagine a cool breeze wafting through a sensual desert sunset- now you have a visual representation of this cologne. Bergamot oil, coconut water and sandalwood are the foundation of this scent that is like liquid summer. Why not carry an eternal summer with you?
- Pour Un Homme Sport
This is a new interpretation of the legendary fragrance by Caron, the aromatic scent is adorned with citrus, spice and woody elements that brings the cologne to life and fills it with a delightful depth. This is a delightful scent that promises to be a timeless complement for the modern man.
- Bracken Man by Amouage Eau de Parfum
Bracken Man is brought to us by the luxury fragrance brand Amouage. This is a subtle blend that enhances enigmatic masculinity. Infused with rare and luxurious ingredients such as lavendin, clove and patchouli, this is a retro-esque scent that is universally distinguished.
- John Varvatos Dark Rebel Rider Eau de Toilette Spray
Wrapped in a leather covering that is reminiscent of the iconic leather jacket, this scent embodies that bad boy attitude and biker cool. This scent is a blend of amber notes, dark woods and sexy leather that makes a bold statement.
- Burberry Brit Splash Men’s Eau de Toilette
Crisp rosemary, watery accord and moss make for a delightfully refreshing fragrance that embodies the essence of a free spirit and ignited by the “Why not?” impulse. Spring free of your boring everyday routine in the subtlest way possible and smell wonderful while doing so.
- Lacoste Eau de Lacoste
Cool and refreshing, this is for the energetic man who is constantly on the go. Grapefruit, golden delicious apples and warm cypress all blend together to create an infusion of smells that is bright and optimistic, like the first sun rays after a summer storm.
- Amouage Myths Men by Amouage Eau de Parfum
This is like a surreal mirage, a dreamlike scent that is inspired by the mysticism of the east. The enigmatic tones of smoke and wood create a cologne that is the stuff of legends. Enter a dream world that is enticing and lovely, wear it on your skin and carry the magic with you wherever you go.
- Molton Brown Re-Charge Black Pepper Eau de Toilette
A spicy black pepper infusion that makes for a sophisticated and long lasting cologne. This is an iconic fragrance that is popular among many users. A firm favourite among many and will undoubtedly charm you with its sophistication and class.
- Caron Paris Yuzu Man Eau de Toilette
Inspired by the Japanese hybrid of mandarin orange and lemon called Yuzu, this cologne is all about balance. It is for the curious globe trotter on the edge of his next adventure. It is all the different and intertwined paths that the world can offer and is perfect for sunny days and nature enthusiasts.
- Rochas Man Eau de Toilette
A seductive fragrance that is captivating and sensual. With strains of wood and fruit that is assertive, creative and exciting. This cologne will enchant you and delight your senses. It is a subtle scent that will have heads turning wherever you go.
- Rituals Bleu Byzantin Parfum
Take a trip through the docks of ancient Byzantine with this spicy and oceanic fragrance. East meets west with layers of water mint, blue juniper berries and fresh pine wood. Make your morning routine an exciting adventure with this iconic cologne.
- Montale Eau de Parfum Spray
Warm notes of leather, spice, citrus and amber come together to make this timeless cologne. Montale is a French perfume house that blends together only high quality and rare elements to create iconic and distinguished colognes. Opulent eastern ingredients mixed with western techniques to bring you innovative fragrances.