Know Your Notes
Most colognes have three parts to them, known as notes. Top notes are the lightest: They are what you smell first and they fade the fastest. Top notes tend to be fruit, floral, or citrusy. Contrary to what you are now thinking, men's colognes contain plenty of floral notes. "The reality is that more complex fragrance formulas for men can contain flower notes that in isolation would be perceived as 'feminine', such as jasmine, rose, violet, honeysuckle," says Audrey Boulet, co-founder of Parfum Couture, a bespoke scent creation company based in New York City. "For instance, one note you often find in male fragrances is lavender; not a scent that most think of as masculine" The important part, Boulet adds, is how the notes are blended with others to create the final product.
The second part of a cologne, the middle notes, feature more intense florals, spices, and green aromas. The final part is the base note — generally woody, smoky, or musk based. Although you might smell them from the get-go, their domination becomes stronger as the top notes fade. Base notes linger on your skin the longest. "These are notes most men are attached to, very often associated to a sense of masculinity," says Karin Deboulet, who founded Parfum Couture with Boulet. "Sandalwood is probably the one we see most commonly in men's colognes. But again, it's the unique combinations of notes that matters most."