Call these best smelling cologne common or ubiquitous, if you must. There’s no mistaking the most popular men’s colognes.
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You’ve regularly smelled them on friends or spotted them in their fragrance stash. But just because these fragrances are loved by a lot of men (and women) doesn’t mean you should look down on them.
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Perfume snobs will claim these fragrances have become too popular for their own good. Au contraire! As if creating a quality perfume that brings pleasure and joy to many people – and yes, profits – is not worthy of praise and recognition.
Our Top 10 Picks: Best Smelling Colognes Worth a Try
10. Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme EDT
L’Eau d’Issey* is one of the best smelling colognes that came to define the 1990s aesthetic of super-fresh fragrances.
It was created by Jacques Cavallier (Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme EDT, Pasha de Cartier EDT*, Louis Vuitton’s private collection). Twenty-five years later, it still remains one of the most popular men’s colognes and for a good reason.
It’s because of its opening note of yuzu (the Asian citrus fruit) that’s enhanced by notes of bergamot and lemon. But Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey EDT is not just a straight-up citrus scent.
Notes of nutmeg and cinnamon (among numerous others) give it an appealing spicy and woody contrast, too. It was also consistently named one of the most complimented fragrances and is one of those versatile fragrances that every man needs to have on his shelf.
9. Azzaro Wanted by Night EDP
And it seemed like everyone took notice of this woody and spicy oriental. Created by Quentin Bisch (Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Essence de Parfum, Mugler A*Men Ultra Zest) and Michel Girard (Paco Rabanne 1 Million EDT*, L’Homme Lacoste Intense EDT*), the juice is quality stuff.
It has a super cinnamon intro, with just the right amount of sweetness. Things get even better when the notes of red cedar, cumin and tobacco kick in.
8. Bleu de Chanel EDP
It’s easy to see why Bleu de Chanel’s* woody-aromatic fragrance has become such a top seller for the French luxury fashion house.
It’s sophisticated and elegant without trying too hard – in that very French, very Chanel way – from the super-minimalist dark blue bottle to the juice. Bleu de Chanel EDP, created by Jacques Polge (Chanel Antaeus, Chanel Ã‰goÃ¯ste*), has a highly distinctive citrus-fresh opening, with grapefruit at the fore.
It also has standout incense, vetiver, mint, cedar and amber notes. Super smooth, sensual and sexy, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another fragrance that gets as many compliments as Bleu de Chanel EDP.
It’s also remarkably versatile, from day to night and from casual-chic to more formal occasions.
7. L’Homme Prada EDT
It’s a long time since an iris fragrance has become such a mainstream hit, but then L’Homme Prada EDT* is not just any old iris scent.
Not everyone will get the powerful powdery iris note in this fragrance created by Daniela Andrier, who has created all of the Prada fragrances* in recent years, but many have been seduced by its undeniable beauty. The neroli, amber and violet notes just add to its allure.
6. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense
When D & G Light Blue Pour Homme EDT* was launched in 2007, it became a big seller for the Italian luxury label. Created by Alberto Morillas (Bulgari Man EDT*, cK One EDT*, Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP*), Light Blue Eau Intense EDT *became another smash hit when it received the intense treatment in 2017.
It’s not a radically different fragrance from its predecessor, but the notes of frozen grapefruit and seawater add a sharper, more distinct vibe that’s hard to resist.
It’s an uncomplicated, uplifting scent and so easy to wear.
5. Gucci Intense Oud EDP
Oud fragrances have been a huge trend in western fragrance markets for quite some time now, with a very mixed bag of results. Released in 2016 and created by Aurelien Guichard (Issey Miyake L’Eau Majeure d’Issey EDT*, Versace Eros EDT), Gucci Intense Oud EDP* stands out for all the right reasons.
This oriental fragrance many not be a hard-care oud by Middle Eastern standards, but it has so much going for it to compensate.
This is achieved by the various other notes (incense, wood, leather, amber and olibanum) coming together to create a seductive and sophisticated effect that’s pure compliment-bait.
John Varvatos is an American fashion designer whose clothing has a rock ’n roll vibe. He has released various fragrances since 2009, including John Varvatos EDT, Artisan Blu EDT* and Artisan Pure EDT*.
But in a collection of stand-outs, it’s 2015’s John Varvatos Dark Rebel Rider EDT, created by Rodrigo Flores-Roux (Tom Ford Neroli Portofino EDT*, Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Vetiver EDP*), that’s hit the top of the best smelling cologne charts.
Wow! The boozy Jamaican rum opening of this one is incredible. So spray again and again with pleasure. But it’s the combination of sugarcane, tobacco leaf, leather, vanilla, cardamom and woody notes that make it really addictive.
3. Paco Rabanne One 1 Million
They’re called blockbusters in the fragrance industry and Paco Rabanne 1 Million* is legendary for its phenomenal success.
Much loved and much-maligned, its success continues more than 10 years after its initial release. It was created by three top perfumers with serious credentials, Christophe Raynaud (Calvin Klein Obsessed For Men EDT, Joop! Wow! EDT*), Olivier Pescheux (Diptyque Tempo EDP*, Montblanc Legend EDT*) and Michel Girard (L’Homme Lacoste Intense EDP*, YSL Kouros Silver*).
It’s a warm and slightly sweet winner that’s deserving of reconsideration.
2. Carolina Herrera CH Men Prive
Carolina Herrera has released a slew of the most popular men’s colognes over the years, from 212 Men EDT* in 1999 to CH Men Central Park in 2016.
But it was the 2015 release, CH Men Prive*, which became a fragrance staple for many men. It’s not hard to understand why. The opening whisky note is something to behold.
It’s luxurious and sophisticated. The effect continues with the warm cardamom note. And then there’s the super-smooth leather note to keep perfume-lovers happy.
None of the notes overstay their welcome in this well-blended and supremely seductive scent.
1. Coach for Men EDT
Sometimes a fragrance comes along that seems ordinary and almost generic, yet on closer inspection reveals itself to be so more than that.
So it was a natural progression for Coach For Men EDT* to become a market triumph. Coach For Men, created by Anne Flipo (Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Black EDP*, Paco Rabanne Invictus EDT*) and Bruno Jovanovic (Frederic Malle Monsieur EDP*, Boss The Scent EDT*), is one of those scents.
Released in 2017, it features notes of nashi pear, bergamot, cardamom, vetiver, suede, geranium and coriander.
It’s a nice, versatile, easy-going fragrance that’s understandably found its way into many men’s fragrance wardrobes.
Men & Women List Their Fave’s For 2021
The Spice Trifecta
I love Tiffany For Men! Not the new one that’s currently on their website (I haven’t smelled it and the notes don’t particularly interest me) but the original. It’s AMAZING! It’s so suave, and it transcends and uplifts the mood like any good fragrance should.
Spicebomb by Viktor + Rolf* is classy. I love spicy fragrances, and this one definitely delivers on the name.
UltraMale by Jean Paul Gaultier*! I love all JPG’s fragrances, but this one in particular because it has added spiciness. While many JPG fragrances are associated with spring or summer, this one is the ultimate winter fragrance.
— Michael Freeby, Photographer for Michael Freeby Photography
The Versatile Chanel Duo
“The trick to choosing a cologne is knowing what events and dress codes you are headed to. Colognes each have their own personality, and some are better suited for formal events, while others are casual and perfect for weekend activities.
Bleu de Chanel* is my go-to scent. It never fails as my favorite all-around scent since it transitions from day to night seamlessly.
Besides, a 1.7 oz. of this cologne is enough to last me a long time, just the right fit for its price.
The Bleu de Chanel is an elegant and sophisticated scent, so it works really well for a professional setting.”
— Lindsey Davis, Editor for Fragrance and Co
“Chanel Allure Homme Sport* This is a great fragrance to wear at any time. The fragrance notes of citrus, musk, and woodsy are undeniably intoxicating. You’ll definitely remember him when he wears this fragrance!”
— Mary Winkenwerder, Blogger/ Beauty Expert for Smooth Cosmetics
Down to Earth
“If you’re paying attention to the cologne scene in 2021, get ready to hear an earful about the latest from Tom Ford. We’re talking about Black Orchid* in particular, which promises to be a classic for men who like a down-to-earth but slightly sweet scent.”
– Daniel Javor, CEO of Next Luxury
Most Popular Men’s Colognes 2021
Want to find the best smelling colognes for men in 2021? Below is a list of the current top-selling colognes on Amazon. Some are the perpetual best-sellers, scents that everyone loves and keeps on their nightstand, others are oldies that have never gone out of style, and there are usually a few surprises on the list as well.
Pros: Reasons to Buy Best-Selling Fragrances
1. Great for Gift Giving
These best selling and best smelling colognes are great to give as gifts since they are typically crowd pleasers that most men will enjoy. These are all fragrances that almost anyone would welcome — probably your biggest issue is whether they have it already.
2. Safe for Blind-Buys
It’s also sometimes scary to buy cologne blind on the internet but intimidating and time-consuming to go in-store and sample colognes. I feel like these are all classics that are going to be safe buys. In addition, I’ve tried to briefly describe them below to further remove the risk.
3. High Quality
One of the most frustrating things about being a frag head is hearing great buzz about a fragrance, only to find out later when you buy a bottle, it was all hype. Many of fragrances have stood the test of time and none of them would have made it to the best-seller list if they weren’t good, high-quality fragrances in the first place.
Cons: Possible Downsides of a Best-Selling Fragrance
1. You Might Smell Like Everyone Else
Smelling like someone else might not seem like a big deal… until you’re out on a date and get told you smell like their dad, ex-boyfriend, brother, etc. Sometimes it’s worth branching out from the standards and updating your cologne collection.
2. End Up in a Scent Rut
It seems like American guys just can’t get enough of that “fresh out of the shower” smell and many on this list reflect a preference for it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it per se, but there’s a whole world of scent beyond that.
3. Not Supporting Niche Perfume Makers
If all you ever do is buy the best-selling men’s cologne, you’ll miss out on some wonderful niche perfumes. I love some of the more niche and experimental fragrance-makers that explore scents beyond what’s on the best-seller list. Plus, it’s just nice to support the little guys sometimes.
Best-Seller Cologne Trends for Men
Based on this list, we can start to get a sense of where men’s fragrance is. There are several noteworthy trends I’d like to explore in more detail. Please note, this is just based on my observations. I will try to research more on overall industry trends and see if my observations hold water.
1. Aquatic Aromatics are Well Represented on the Best-Seller List
The first trend I noticed is how many of the most popular men’s colognes fall into the aquatics family. From the classics like Cool Water and Gio to designer adaptations like Light Blue from Dolce & Gabbana or Polo Blue from Ralph Lauren, almost half the featured colognes are aquatics.
These colognes are designed to replicate the smells of the seaside, from salty air to sea to marine plants. Aquatic aromatics are relatively modern. Many credit Cool Water with being the first aquatic when it launched in 1988. However, they have already proved to be the most popular men’s colognes, as you can see from this list.
2. Classic Colognes Die Hard
With all the fragrances launches and emerging niche players, I tend to think of the cologne landscape as constantly changing. However, I was surprised by how many of these best sellers are classics.
I know many of them, including Cool Water, have been reformulated over the years but I was still pleasantly surprised to see so many classic scents are still not only holding on but selling well.
3. Moss, Musk and Amber
I haven’t had a chance to personally review all these yet (I’m working on it!). But as I was compiling the list of notes, I noticed moss, amber and musk came up again and again and seem to be very popular notes.
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 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, the 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 of the best smelling colognes that are versatile and fit in nearly everywhere, many are designed for a specific setting and purpose in mind. Consider where you 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 some of the best smelling colognes for a date or evening out. They have the spicy boldness to work well in the cool of the 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 some of the most popular men’s colognes 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 be some of the best smelling colognes for 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, especially 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 the 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
Whether you’re looking for a cologne that will last all day (and into the night) or a more subtle scent, pay attention to the sillage and concentration.
6. 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 lower-priced best men’s 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 that 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 mass appeal.
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 are 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.