This article was published in partnership with Blu Atlas.
You never forget the smell of your favorite colognes. A good signature scent, no matter if it was formulated decades ago or is a brand-new launch, can become an instant staple in your routine. That’s why today we’re taking a deep dive into the most popular men’s colognes of all time from brands like Tom Ford, Jo Malone, and Le Labo. They’re the ones you know and love. You’ve probably had some of them in your collection for years, but hopefully there are a few on our list you still need to try.
No matter your personality, lifestyle or taste, our list has it all. And if your current cologne collection doesn’t contain at least one of these best-sellers, you’ve got some shopping to do. We’ve got a masculine fragrance for every preference, whether you gravitate toward fresh sea salt, bright juniper berries, or sultry musk.
What to Look for in a Men’s Cologne
When you splurge on a cologne, the primary trait you want to look for is the quality of fragrance. High-quality colognes will last longer on the skin, wear down flawlessly throughout the day and smell great from first spritz to when you wash it off at the end of the night. Higher-quality fragrances tend to have a higher price tag, and are made with better ingredients.
Staying power is another essential factor to consider when shopping for fragrance, since no one wants to spend $100 or more on a cologne that fades after an hour or two. A high-quality fragrance should have excellent staying power. However, certain fragrances last longer than others, and it all depends on perfume concentration.
Perfume or parfum has the highest concentration of pure fragrance, around 20-30%. This high concentration typically lasts on the skin for up to eight hours. Eau de parfum (EDP) is next on the list, with a concentration of 15-20% of pure perfume essence. Lasting power varies from fragrance to fragrance, but you can typically expect four to five hours of solid wear with an eau de parfum.
Eau de toilette (EDT) has a lower concentration of fragrance than an EDP, typically falling between 5% and 15%. It’s one of the most common fragrance types and one you’ll see in many of the most men’s fragrances. It does have a shorter wear time, around two to three hours, so it can be reapplied more often throughout the day.
When you’re on the hunt for a new cologne, don’t be afraid to research product reviews. Honest customer reviews of the product (whether they’re good or bad) give you a better sense of whether a fragrance will work for you or not.
A cologne is nothing without its fragrance profile, so when you’re out shopping for a new signature scent, take the profile seriously. Look at how the cologne is characterized. Is it a fresh aquatic? Is it deep and woody? Does it feature prominent floral notes?
It’s important to know what you like and dislike in a fragrance, so that when you see a cologne’s scent profile, you have a clear sense of whether it will be a good match. If you’re unsure about which scents you love and which ones are less compelling, we recommend having a browse around a store that sells lots of fragrances and seeing which ones you are naturally drawn to.
Lifestyle and Purpose
Shopping for a new cologne, like anything, is easier when you identify what you want to use the fragrance for. Different notes and fragrance profiles mean certain colognes are better suited for office wear or a beach vacation, while other scents may be better suited for nighttime rather than the day. Understanding how you want the cologne to fit into your lifestyle is key.
Understanding Fragrance Families
We talked earlier about fragrance families, but to make the concept clearer, here is a basic rundown of the types of scents you’ll see in colognes and perfumes. The “fragrance wheel,” coined by Michael Edwards in the early 1990s, divides fragrances into four main families: floral, oriental, woody and fresh. Those four fragrance families are then divided into subgroups.
Within the floral category, you’ll find notes of fresh-cut flowers such as jasmine, iris, tuberose and lily. Floral notes tend to be used more prominently in women’s fragrances, but you’ll often find a carefully chosen floral note at the heart of a masculine cologne.
Oriental notes are notably warm and luxurious; they can also lend a fragrance sweetness or spiciness, depending on the note. The oriental fragrance family (sometimes described as the amber fragrance family) ranges from floral oriental notes and soft orientals that include notes of incense and amber to thicker scents like resins and woody oriental scents like sandalwood and patchouli.
Woody scents are the scents you’ll commonly find in men’s colognes. These are aromatic scents like vetiver, mossy scents like oakmoss, and dry scents that are smoky and leathery.
The fresh fragrance family houses many of the most popular notes, including the aromatics, citruses, marine and aquatic notes, green notes, and fruity notes. It essentially contains all of the scents that make a cologne smell crisp and refreshing.
Understanding a Fragrance’s Notes and Life Cycle
The most common way of describing a fragrance is through top, middle and base notes.
The top notes of a fragrance are the opening notes. These are the set of notes you smell immediately after spritzing your cologne. They’re light, volatile scents (think mint or citrus) that evaporate quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes.
A fragrance’s middle notes, or heart notes, make up the bulk of the scent. These well-rounded, full-bodied notes appear once the top notes are gone and help the fragrance transition into the base notes.
Base notes are the grand finale of a fragrance since they’re what is left once the top and middle notes are gone. Base notes are the longest-lasting of the three and can linger up to six hours on the skin. Base notes tend to be rich, deep scents like sandalwood or patchouli.
Men’s Colognes FAQ
What are the most popular fragrance notes for cologne?
All the finest colognes are unique in their own way, but they also play around with many of the same notes. Some of the most popular top notes in colognes include citrus, like lemon and bergamot, and aromatics, like pepper and mint. Middle notes form the heart of the cologne. You’ll often see middle notes of aromatics, soft florals, spices and fruits that help transition the cologne from bright top notes to deeper base notes. Popular base notes for men’s cologne include woody, masculine scents like sandalwood, musk, vetiver, amber and oakmoss.
What are the benefits of wearing cologne?
Scent has the ability to boost our mood, link us to memories and emotions, and change the way people view us, so it’s no wonder that wearing cologne offers men a few benefits. For one, smelling good can make you feel and come across as fresh and clean. Cologne also has the ability to make you seem more polished and put-together, which is a powerful tool when making first impressions or if you want people to feel a certain way about you. A polished scent can even make you feel better about yourself, which is the most important benefit in our eyes
How do I choose the best cologne for me?
Cologne is personal, so we can’t tell you how to find the best cologne for you. It is a personal journey that every man must make. When shopping for cologne, we recommend considering your budget, the types of scents you gravitate to and your lifestyle. Other things to consider include choosing a scent with promising reviews, good staying power and a well-balanced fragrance profile.
When shopping for a fragrance, it’s a good idea to try on the cologne before you buy it. Fragrances smell differently on everyone, as the scent molecules mingle with the body’s own chemistry. Thus, even if you like how a cologne smells on a friend or are interested in a cologne’s fragrance profile, it doesn’t necessarily mean that cologne will work for you. If you can, try a few spritzes before you buy it to see how the cologne develops and wears on your skin.
Is it safe to buy colognes online?
If you’re fairly certain about a cologne and want to buy it online, feel free to do so. However, to ensure you’re not getting a counterfeit cologne, stick to trusted retailers or buy a cologne directly from the maker.
What is the best way to store cologne?
Fragrances are notoriously fickle, especially when stored in the wrong conditions. To get the most out of your cologne, keep it in a dark, dry, cool environment that is relatively stable, such as a dresser in a cool room or in the back of your closet. While it might be convenient to keep your colognes out on your bathroom counter, the fluctuations in light, heat and humidity can tamper with the delicate fragrance molecules, altering your cologne’s scent and longevity over time.
Let’s take a look at our top 22 choices:
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