Some dudes wear the same cologne for years (decades, even) and others switch their scent as often as they change their underwear. Whether you’re a loyalist or an explorer doesn’t matter so much, but actually choosing which one to wear can be a daunting task. Understanding cologne can often feel like trying to learn a foreign language.
Fragrances, specifically the wearable kind, are often divided into categories like fresh (or fugiere), woody, oriental (spicy), and floral. Knowing these categories is helpful, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of the decision making process, because from there you have the actual notes of the fragrance. Top notes are what you smell as soon as you spray and generally dissipate first. Heart notes are what you smell next, while base notes are what linger the longest on your skin. Typically you’ll see lighter notes like botanicals in the top and deeper notes like woods in the base. In addition to all of this, colognes are categorized by how strong they are: eau de cologne is the lightest, eau de toilette will last slightly longer, and eau de parfum is the strongest and longest lasting.
Did we lose you? We hope not, because realistically, you don’t have to know any of this to wear and enjoy cologne, but keeping this knowledge in the back of your mind can help you cut out what you don’t want and make finding what you do want easier. In the world of fragrance, it’s best to always follow your nose (literally). After all, the best cologne for men to wear is one they actually want to wear. And whether you’re looking for a new signature scent or just want something to add to your collection, this list is the best place to start.
Think of this as the winter version of the classic Polo Blue. The addition of woods and spices, like ginger and sage, give this scent a cozy, warm feeling like you’re sitting by a fire. It’s the perfect seasonal upgrade to one of our all-time favorite colognes for men.
This new “night veils” series from Byredo is darker, moodier, and all about higher concentrations of ingredients. Case in point: Sellier is heavy on the leather and tobacco, which gives it a smokey, masculine vibe, but is grounded as it dries with earthy oakmoss and birch tree.
In addition to the crisp, woody scent of a forest, this cologne contains phytoncides, the chemicals produced by trees that have been shown to decrease anxiety and promote relaxation.
Like the other BOSS Bottled colognes, this still has a crisp, fresh note to it at the beginning (it’s the bergamot and green apple), but this version is injected with spices—cardamom and cinnamon—as well as grounded with musk. It’s an all around sophisticated scent that’s still suitable for everyday wear.
Thanks to a star ingredient— clean-smelling sage—giving yourself a few spritzes of this cologne is like fast-forwarding to spring. It’s produced using 99 percent natural ingredients, so not only does it smell like nature, but it doesn’t harm the real thing.
The green notes in this outdoors-inspired scent, including juniper, vetiver, gurjum balsam, as well as citrus and florals, create a fresh, bright fragrance that makes you ache for a hike. It’s not just trees and flowers, though —oakmoss and musk help ground it and add an earthy quality.
A distinctive spiciness to this fragrance give it a mysterious, debonair vibe, but what really stands out is the vanilla, tonka bean, and rum that work together to give this a soft quality, like suede. This cologne is masculine in an unexpected way and is virtually guaranteed to attract attention from females or anyone you fancy.
The swirling combination of bergamot, coconut water, and sustainably sourced Australian sandalwood in Eternity Summer for Men will get you as close to the beach as you can be without setting foot on the sand.
This fresh cologne comes exceedingly close to actually bottling ocean air. There’s a saltiness that lends a distinctive marine quality without being cloying (or smelling fake,) and the green note of sage adds a fresh element that instantly transports you outdoors.
The smoky campfire vibe of this cologne is deep, dark, and mysterious, courtesy of upcycled cedarwood and rose. Reusing these otherwise-wasted materials produces a more complex smell than straight-up perfume oils do.
Traveling to Italy is a little easier with a cologne like this, which features a bright, fresh top note of Italian lemon, bergamot, and mint. It’s like walking through the Italian countryside on your way to the beach and then finishing the day with a bonfire under the stars. (The patchouli, cedarwood, and sandalwood lend a sexy, woody quality to the base).
The top notes in this unexpected and exotic cologne read like a delicious fruit salad: bergamot, mandarin, apple. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this scent is all sweetness. Patchouli, amber, and guaiac wood in the base note give this a masculine quality in an unexpected, but very sexy, way.
A cologne that’s heavy on the incense, like this one, means one thing: mystery. Inspired by Los Angeles, this scent uses exotic incense to create a mystic vibe like you’ve just gotten back a vision quest. The cypress and cedarwood in the top and mid-notes only add to the exotic vibe.
That buzzing, crackling sensation you get from this cologne? That’s the ozone note, which is designed to mimic the feeling (and smell) of air right before a lightning storm. Think a fresh, clean scent with a quick zap of static electricity. Combined with lime, cedarwood, and amber, the ozone tempers the freshness into a very modern, masculine fragrance.
Cedar and vetiver are classic notes in men’s cologne and have a woody, earthy quality that is inherently masculine. This newly reimagined fragrance leans heavily on those classic notes, but injects a heart note of patchouli to give it a smokey, sexy quality that’s bar none.
Inspired by international travel, this cologne is fresh with a capital F and definitely not for the shrinking violet. There’s also the addition of spicy cardamom, black pepper, and warm, hearty amber and sandalwood which deliver an exoticness that cuts through the fresh top notes.
In the world of men’s cologne, there’s nothing sexier than oud—a deep, warm, resinous ingredient that just smells rich. This luxurious cologne is heavy on the oud, and ups the ante by adding clove, cinnamon, and incense. When they work together in this scent, you’ll smell like the most mysterious (and richest) man in the room.
You don’t always want to carry around a bottle of fancy cologne in your gym bag, but your typical body spray smells more like deodorant than a cologne. Luckily, this is not your typical body spray. Warm notes of cardamom and cedarwood anchor the lighter bergamot and lavender which give this spray a crisp, fresh vibe at first, but wears down into an elevated, masculine vibe.
If you think you could never wear a rose cologne, you’ve never met this one. There’s nothing feminine about the two types of rose notes found in this scent, especially when they’re mixed with amber woods and sage. The result is decidedly masculine and natural-smelling, but still very unexpected; everything you want in a high-end scent.