Twenty good men’s fragrances
We recently wrote about style for dating (see the bottom of this article for links to style-for-dating articles). In those articles we pointed out how women are strongly affected by smell, and how smells can change their mood. So in order to add to men’s knowledge of the smells women like, we have written this two part article on Men’s Colognes
The first part; Choosing a man’s cologne, is here
Having written the first article we realised that there is no real guide to how men’s colognes smell. So we wrote this article. Here are our top twenty colognes, divided into five categories. If you find this useful, let us know. We intend to do more on this subject.
Our articles on dressing well for dating start here (article 1 of 5)
Classic men’s colognes.
We start with the classics, because most of us will have heard of these and we using these, we can start to get ourselves on a common footing.
Men’s perfume classics have made a huge comeback, revived initially by the new Italian fashion designers, who like them for their complexity and rich combination of scents. The great thing about the classics is their reliability, you know what you are getting. They also date from a period when men’s fragrances were more discreet, so they lack the orchid and aromatic wood- heavy notes of today’s best-selling colognes. This means that if you are unsure about colognes, you can start with a classic fragrance, it is unlikely to be too extreme a smell.
A clean, fruity, sharp smell, very sexy, lots of hot floral smells and leather. Young, masculine, lively, a statement cologne. After it wears in you have a slightly acid leather and lemon scent, which is appealing and noticeable. If you are fit, engaging, dress with a clean sharp look, then its dry, musk and fruit smell is for you. If you are slightly overweight, losing hair, classic style, sorry, it’s not really for you. This is also a strong-smelling cologne, so do not douse yourself in it. You want to smell good, not overpower your audience.
Eau Sauvage - dry, floral, acid - the original manly cologne
Givenchy Monsieur (Givenchy Gentleman)
Cary Grant’s favourite cologne, which says it all really. A complex, very long-lasting scent, with some deep notes of amber and wood mixed with a fresh rich floral topnote. For the classic man really, it works wonderfully for the older man. A superb day-time cologne, it says worldly, ladies man, gentleman. A true ladykiller.
This is one of my two preferred day colognes, along with Chanel’s Egoiste (see below). Most times I wear Givenchy Monsieur because the Egoiste is a little big for daywear.
Givenchy Monsieur - Cosmopolitan and sophisticated
Aqua Di Parma
Has had a huge comeback with modern fashion designers singing its praises. Floral, ostentatious, a little goes a long way. A slight spicy undernote makes it as Italian as can be while having a classic musk base. A good cologne and, for the immediate future at least, a talking point. Technically a mid-range cologne, it is good for the man who is looking for a middle of the road cologne to enhance a classic image.
Aqua Di Parma - a much loved classic
L’Homme Roger et Gallet
For those men who think colognes make them girly. This is woody, salty, has the tang of astringent herbs. If you are a crocodile hunter, special forces soldier, or arctic explorer, L’Homme Roger et Gallet is for you. The most masculine. Ever. Wear it when you are going to take down a full-grown grizzly, armed only with a Bowie knife.
I used to wear this all the time when I was finding my way with colognes. Women love it but you have to be right for it. I was not, but still wear it occasionally, it brings back fond memories. Out of fashion now, but definitely due a revival.
L'Homme Roger et Gallet - a truly masculine cologne
Issey Miyake man
(L’Eau D’Issey pour homme). This is light, smells of exotic woods, a faint smell of orchids and salt mist, the slightest smell of herbs. If you are a slim man or of compact build, your style is discreet, neat, orderly, this will work well for you. A thing of beauty.
Issey Miyake for men - Light, elegant, stylish
Light, fragrant, lots of citrus and floral notes, yet distinctive and classy. It lasts well for a light cologne and after a while has a slight soft undertone of exotic flowers. Definitely one for the ladykillers, but not really for your Aunt’s summer lunch party. A light cologne, but quite showy, it has an impact. Canali have produced something really fine here, it is clearly Italian but modern and young. I would recommend this for men in their twenties.
Canali - spirited, sexy and elegant
Egoiste gets two write-ups here, because it is such a versatile cologne. Egoiste Platinum is the lighter of the two Egoistes. It was specifically designed for the younger man, based on the best-selling original. It has the sharp coriander and oriental balm scents of the original but has more flower scents, lavender and jasmine predominate. Light and good for day-wear, once again a good young man’s cologne.
This is light, clean, sexy and a definitive smell. A little young, but striking, a scent of exotic florals and spices. There is a tangy mineral/herb edge to this one, so it definitely has body. Light but with an athletic personality.
Armani Code - young, definitive, clean-smelling
Complex mid-range fragrances
Paul Smith Men
This is a really useful cologne. It has a light herby Englishness about it but with a quirky spicy edge that is very present when you apply it. However the spiciness wears away to leave undertones of warm florals and a surprising level of musk. You might say it becomes sexier as time wears on. A good all-rounder, it is noticeable but not obstrusive. An excellent cologne, especially for men just beginning with colognes or men whose style is subtle and understated.
If you feel confident, are creative, have that extra zing, then I recommend Paul Smith Extreme. More spicy, with lush notes of Bergamot and exotic herbs, it still has the underlying musk but now overlaid by a bolder, more oriental scent. This is an attention-grabber. Whatever you do, do not spray this on ten seconds before you enter the room.
Paul Smith Extreme - quirky, spicy, lots of character
This is a very good mid-range day cologne. Slightly astringent, slightly herby, with enough musk and body to wear through a day. A clean, slightly minty smell, very classic and pleasing.
Burberry Men - clean, fresh, slightly herby
Egoiste – Chanel
This is a superb cologne. Egoiste straddles the line between the mids and the bigs, it has enormous character but is also subtle and light. It has a distinctive oriental, woody smell. There is a crisp smell of coriander, lemon and light notes but this cologne has a real spine and it is held up by a woody and heavy floral note. The end result is a complex confident, prosperous smell that lasts really well.
Too new to be a classic but I am sure it will become one. Quite rightly, a best-seller since its launch. Ignore the other Chanel men’s colognes, they are not good. Chanel have never equalled Egoiste since they launched it.
Egoiste - fresh, floral but full of character
Tom Ford – Classic
Tom Ford understands style in a way that few people do. To me, Tom Ford classic smells like a modern version of Eau Sauvage, without the overtly sexual fruity acid topnote smell of Eau Sauvage. Which is a good and clever thing. This is a floral fragrance with some spice and some amber. Complex and superbly mixed, this smells like a worldly man, lots of scents but is a subtle, beguiling smell. As it wears in, it develops into a light, fresh, slightly floral slightly spicy scent. Good stuff and (I think) destined to become a modern classic.
Tom Ford Classic
Complex strong scents, for the big man, be it big style, big size or big presence.
Big, rich, very woody, a smell of orchids and leather. Lots of earthy musk underpinning all of this. It is very longlasting, the floral notes give way to a warm woody spiciness with a hint of amber and leather. Very powerful, for the mature man, needs a strong presence to carry it. The sophisticated man at night. My personal favourite.
Terre D'Hermes - Rich, woody, pungent
Yes, the Italian designer. Spicy, big, intense, very flamboyant and noticeable. Lots of orchid and rare spices, a complex scent with bergamot, exotic wood and musk, Italian to the core. If you are the star of your show, here is your scent. Party scent for the successful man.
Valentino Men - big and showy
What it says on the bottle. Intense, deep floral scent with a fruit and spice complexity to lighten it. A musky ostentatious scent, a little is enough, it is very noticeable. In my experience, women love this scent, are provoked to comment on it. Left my bottle in a hotel in Spain, keep meaning to buy some more.
Zegna Intenso - intense, sexy, fun
Black Tea – Murdock
My god. This is potent stuff. Smells of wood, tobacco, burnt spices and a manly musk. Put it on, it is spicy and warm but insistent, you can smell the leather and tobacco, a slight hint of tea, oriental spices. A warm dry smell, it wears in and carries all of its scents confidently. This is one of the most long-lasting colognes I have ever worn, I put it on at 14.00 and it was still working strongly at midnight.
This is the Alpha Male of scents. Lets be blunt, this one says big male animal, looking for sex. Here’s a context for you. As a yong actor, before he became a movie star, Oliver Reed was one of the most good-looking men alive. He had a good-looking devil face, thick dark hair, a confident, insolent look and a devil-may-care presence. Women adored him. Black Tea by Murdock is the distilled essence of Oliver Reed and I mean that as a real compliment.
Murdock Black Tea - Dry, spicy, leathery, truly masculine
I had to give the Latins some space of their own. These are romantic, big men’s colognes and they are the boldest of them all.
L’Occitane are a Provencal cosmetics company that specialise in the fragrances and balms from that region. Primarily a women’s brand, like a lot of French houses they have an extensive men’s range. Sometimes I wear their Eau De L’Occitane pour Homme. I would never have bought this myself, my wife bought it for me but I like it. Funny really, because I have an ongoing love affair with Provence.
This is a sharp, very spicy scent, with lots (and lots) of juniper, exotic herbs and flowers in it. Not a shy scent. I wear it when I need a cologne that can hold it’s own, such as at a summer day party, or a barbecue. This is not an expensive or complicated men’s cologne but is fun, sexy scent.
Warning. In my experience, some of L’Occitane’s men’s colognes can be overwhelming. For example I find their men’s Verbena completely overpowering. Try before you buy.
Narcisco Rodriguez – Men
Spanish designer, who has made a name for himself with his sophisticated womenswear, reinterpreting women’s classics and producing a dark, sexy look. I sampled his Narcisco Rodriguez Men recently. This is most definitely a big cologne. In fact this is very heavy. It is a heavily floral cologne, a big scent of orchids, a deep sweetness balanced by a heavy musk layer. It has some undertones of wood but is primarily a strong floral smell, very opulent and quite decadent. A showbiz perfume, movie-star-at-the-premiere men’s cologne.
Narcisco Rodriguez for men - Heavy, floral and powerful
Adolfo Dominguez – Black
Warm scents of oranges and spices, some wood. It smells like a hot, sunny day in Seville, with some sharp flowers and a scent of organges thrown into the mix. A bit less heavy than the others, the scent is lighter and not so penetrating. This might be a good Latin cologne for a younger man.
Black by Domingues - spicy and Spanish
Carolina Herrera 212 Men
Carolina Herrera 212 Men. I tried this recently. Marvellous stuff. Sophisticated, spicy, complex, lots of rich floral notes, some amber and (I think) a touch of vanilla. This is aristocratic, prosperous, sexy and confident. If I have a complaint about 212, it is that it fades very quickly, the complexity dies and the underlying floral note is all that’s left. Still, it is spactacular while it is in action. Carolina Herrera is actually Venuzuelan of Spanish descent, so this is, strictly speaking, a Latim American cologne. Recommended.
Carolina herrera 212 Men - sophisticated, aristocratic, sexy
The End, for now
So here are twenty men’s fragrances we like, there are of course lots more. Half the fun with men’s fragrances is finding the good ones. The other half is of course wearing them.
As always, your feedback on our choices is most welcome.