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While smelling good is deemed a great quality through the noses of other people, scent is something you should also wear for yourself. The right fragrance can instantly change your mood, which is why we often reach for the best colognes for men before events, whether they’re at the boardroom, bar or even your very own wedding.
Cologne should act as every suave man’s secret weapon. A spray before work, a date or a party not only provides an instant boost in attractiveness but also instills extra confidence when wearing it in the company of others. How does the modern gent go about shopping for the great-smelling cologne? It starts with educating one’s self in the science of scent. Cologne gift sets can also be a good way to discover new scents and make for some of the best gifts for men.
When browsing through different fragrances for men, you’ll often see scents described in three ways: top, heart, and base. Top notes are the initial (and strongest) scents when first applied, but also fade before the day is over. Then there are heart notes, which are often floral and balance the whole scent. Finally, the base notes make their presence felt with prominent, lasting smells that define the fragrance.
We’ve been testing cologne for ages now, so it’s safe to say we have some serious opinions when it comes to smelling nice. Find all of the best-smelling cologne to consider below, with the first 11 choices being editor tested and approved choices. These are picks our team of writers wear on a day-to-day basis, so we can promise you’ll love at least one of these just as much as we do.
1. Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Parfum
We mean it when we say it: Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Parfum is the best cologne for men. Why? Because it exudes sexy. This fragrance embodies both a sophisticated yet forever young spirit at the exact same time and gives us a masculine scent. Usually, you don’t want your cologne to be too bold, but the new Yves Saint Laurent cologne is bold without being overbearing. Best of all, YSL’s newest fragrance ambassador is none other than the iconic Lenny Kravitz. So, if you should trust anyone, it should be him.
We recently named this the best overall cologne in The 2021 Man, our end-of-year men’s product awards. We stand by that selection, and we’re skeptical we’ll find something we like more next year.
Top Notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, ginger, mint, lemon
Middle Notes: Apple, violet leaf, sage, pineapple, geranium
Base Notes: Ambergris, musk, cedar, vetiver, balsam fir, incense
2. Fulton & Roark Blue Ridge
Until recently, solid cologne was a tiny niche in the men’s fragrance market, and little more than a gimmick at that. Fulton & Roark has singlehandedly changed that with a line of solid wax colognes that are easy to apply. The company makes premium colognes with sophisticated scents, and most of its products are priced at just $60. However, don’t let the price tag fool you into thinking this is just another cheap cologne. The brand’s new Blue Ridge cologne has a smooth sandalwood-based fragrance with notes of fresh sage and amber that will remind you of fresh mountain air. Instead of a spray bottle, they come in brushed metal tins that are small enough to slip into your pocket or gym bag.
We love this cologne so much, we named it one of the best products in The 2021 Man, our end-of-year product awards.
Top Notes: Sage, amber
Base Notes: Sandalwood
3. Chanel Bleu
A classic cologne is one that is instantly recognizable in a crowd, stands out as the centerpiece on your dresser, and has stood the test of time. And, in our testing, we’ve found that it’s Chanel Bleu that has set the bar for both modern and vintage scents. Here, users get a mix of aquatic and woody scents that men find empowering and women find irresistible. Chanel makes this scent in a variety of intensities, but the Eau de Parfum version provides a long-lasting scent that’s not overpowering. Twelve hours after applying it and you’ll still notice subtle hints of vanilla and sandalwood resonating from your skin.
Top Notes: Grapefruit, lemon, mint, pink pepper
Middle Notes: Ginger, nutmeg, jasmine, iso e super
Base Notes: Incense, vetiver, cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, labdanum, white musk
4. Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau de Parfum
Just like the brand’s refined clothing, Tom Ford’s fragrances are distinctive and crafted from the most expensive ingredients, but they’re not so in-your-face or gaudy. This special formulation is made using a resinous wood called agarwood — the most expensive wood in the world — to create a fragrance that smells, quite frankly, phenomenal. It’s for the artisanal man with exquisite taste.
Top Notes: Pepper, cardamom seed, rose-bay
Middle Notes: Sandalwood, vetiver, oud
Base Notes: Vanilla, tonka bean, amber
5. Dior Sauvage
The Benjamin mark is where you’ll usually find some of the top sellers and performers in the men’s fragrance market. So if you’re looking for a top-tier cologne that still comes in under $100, reach for Dior Sauvage. Complex in composition, yet raw in scent, Dior Sauvage evokes grandeur and summons compliments no matter the gathering. Powerful notes of Italian bergamot and spicy Sichuan pepper are what give this universally loved fragrance its aromatic moxie.
Top Notes: Bergamot
Middle Notes: Sichuan pepper, lavender, star anise, nutmeg
Base Notes: Ambroxan, vanilla
6. Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum
Unisex fragrances are becoming more and more popular each year as gender roles for men and women diminish year after year. That said, treat yourself with the genderless fragrance of your dreams with Le Labo Santal 33. If you’re looking for a fragrance that combines an almost confusing delicate and brut fusion, you’ll find it in Santal 33. This is something you genuinely just have to give a shot on your own to know.
Top Notes: Violet accord, cardamom
Middle Notes: Iris, ambrox
Base Notes: Cedarwood, leather, sandalwood
7. Jimmy Choo Man
Jimmy Choo Man proves that delicious-smelling men’s fragrances don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Just once or two spritzes will leave you ready for the day no matter what it might call for. Made with fresh citrus notes at the top, vibrant floral and fruity notes in the middle and based with warm undertones, this loosely luscious scented cologne is great for guys who like to rock a brighter spritz on the daily. It’s definitely one that starts off light and eventually leads into a heavier scent, so don’t be too afraid after your initial spray. This is really as manly as it gets. Stay dapper, my friend.
Top Notes: Mandarin, lavender, honeydew melon
Middle Notes: Geranium, rose and pink pepper, pineapple leaves
Base Notes: Patchouli, suede, woody accord, amber notes
8. Henry Rose Fog Eau de Parfum
Henry Rose is far from a celebrity fragrance cash grab. Actress and climate activist Michelle Pfeiffer created this unisex fragrance line with “100% ingredient transparency,” creating non-toxic scents made from safe synthetics and natural ingredients. Of their options, we love Fog for its fresh and musky aroma, which calls back to the light, breezy days of fall. Effervescent notes of vanilla and vetiver will serve as an open invitation for those around you to take a closer whiff.
Top Notes: Muguet, fresh citrus
Middle Notes: White woods, magnolia
Base Notes: Vetiver, sandalwood, amber woods, musk
9. Calvin Klein Eternity for Men
Calvin Klein’s Eternity is an absolute powerhouse of a cologne that dudes have been rocking all over the globe for years. It has an OG-centric aesthetic that makes it a must-have for any guy’s cologne collection. Eternity is sensitive yet masculine, strong yet well-mannered. It has a back and forth-ness to it that feels very balanced with even the subtlest of spritzes.
Top Notes: Sage, apple, ozonic
Middle Notes: Lavender, cypress, geranium, nutmeg
Base Notes: Suede, ambergris, cypriol oil, orris root
10. COACH For Men Eau de Toilette
Who says you can’t find cheap cologne from designer labels? You don’t always have to trust us, so in this case, you can trust The Fragrance Foundation, who named the COACH For Men Eau de Toilette was named the winner of the company’s 2018 Frangrance Awards. By combining fresh-smelling, electric, zingy top notes with a woody, suede, amber base, this scent is deeply masculine yet refreshing in nature. It’s no wonder why COACH is considered a luxury because spraying this on will make you feel as high-end as possible.
Top Notes: Pear, kumquat, bergamot, lavender, grapefruit
Middle Notes: Cardamom, geranium, coriander
Base Notes: Ambergris, suede, amber wood, Haitian vetiver
11. Fulton & Roark Palmetto Solid Cologne
Fragrance in wax form sounds odd at first, but the best solid cologne is actually a more practical and discrete option for guys who want to apply their favorite scent in an inconspicuous spy fashion. Fulton & Roark Palmetto Solid Cologne lets you have your James Bond moment. Palmetto features a complex layer of scents that culminate in a refreshing, clean aroma that takes you back to your morning shower. The tiny metal tin also makes it an ideal EDC item to keep at your work desk drawer or gym bag.
Top Notes: Citrus
Middle Notes: Pink pepper spice, magnolia flower
Base Notes: Incense, cedar
12. Gucci The Alchemist’s Garden The Last Day of Summer Eau de Parfum
One of Gucci’s newest unisex fragrances celebrates none other than the dog days of summer. Keep it hot and steamy all summer long with this deliciously influenced cologne, featuring a mix of cedarwood, cyoressm, nutmeg, patchouli and vetiver. Just a couple of sprays whenever you go out will have you fitting the summer aesthetic day in and day out. It’s a must-try, for sure. Not sure about trying a unisex cologne? This particular Gucci fragrance has plenty of masculine woodsy notes but is also light and airy for summer. We highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a new summertime cologne and aren’t afraid of a bolder scent.
Top Notes: Cedarwoods
Middle Notes: Cypress, nutmeg
Base Notes: Patchouli, vetiver
Gucci The Alchemist's Garden The Last Day of Summer Eau de Parfum from Saks Fifth Avenue
13. Versace Eros
For the man who requires only one bottle of cologne in his grooming cabinet (or dopp kit), Versace Eros is calling your name. Named after the Greek God of love, this fragrance boasts a unique, masculine scent that falls right in between sweet and salty. While this cologne is great for everyday use all year long, it’s a great cologne for summer, in particular. It features notes of seawater and leaves a hint of “sunny warmth” on your skin. The eye-catching bottle also speaks towards the fragrance’s divinity, highlighted by a bold design created by the fashion icon herself, Donatella Versace.
Top Notes: Mint, green apple, lemon
Middle Notes: Tonka bean, ambroxan, geranium
Base Notes: Madagascar vanilla, Virginian cedar, atlas cedar, vetiver, oakmoss
14. Creed Aventus Eau De Parfum
Creed cologne is a name synonymous with exclusivity, top-grade performance, and wealth. If you can swing an expensive cologne, you’ll find Aventus to be well worth the price tag it carries. This is a luxury cologne built for strong, confident men who know what they want and almost always get it. The name is derived from the words “from” and “the wind”, and Aventus inspires men to live a life of power wherever the wind takes them. Having this high-end bottle sitting on your grooming shelf also stands as a declaration of your taste in upscale scents.
Top Notes: Bergamot, blackcurrant leaves, apple, pineapple
Middle Notes: Pinkberries, birch, patchouli, jasmine
Base Notes: Musk, oakmoss, ambergris, vanilla
15. Byredo Lil Fleur
Ben Gorham founded Swedish company Byredo in 2006 to express emotions and memories in products. It’s no coincidence that fragrance is linked to memory, and Byredo’s fragrances are especially great at triggering specific moments in time. Their latest unisex floral offering, Lil Fleur, was inspired by teenage emotions — a way that brings a bit of youth into each sophisticated bottle. We also highly recommend the Byredo Night Veils collection, a line of highly concentrated perfume extracts with complex fragrance profiles. In addition to Lil Fluer, also check out the Tobacco Mandarin eau de parfum from the Night Veils line.
Top Notes: Saffron, cassis, tangerine
Middle Notes: Damascena rose, leather accord
Base Notes: Blonde woods, amber
16. Gucci Guilty Pour Homme
Guilty by Gucci is a good way to sport the brand (in scent-form) because unlike the fashion house’s clothing, you don’t have to shell out thousands — or even hundreds — to rock it. Right now, you can order Guilty by Gucci for just $80. It features an aromatic scent with notes of lavender, lemon and orange flower that make it highly versatile, so you can wear it anytime.
Pro Tip: If you go looking, you can find great deals on Gucci Guilty cologne. However, buyer beware. This is a commonly counterfeited cologne, and there are a lot of fake Gucci colognes for sale online. We strongly recommend purchasing this scent from official retailers like Sephora or Nordstrom.
Top Notes: Juniper, lemon, lavender
Middle Notes: Orange blossom, nutmeg, Spanish labdanum
Base Notes: Patchouli, musk, dry wood
17. Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze Roman Wood
The forest bathing trend is a fad that’s actually good for you — and it only seems to be getting more popular. If a walk in the woods isn’t feasible, this earthy and woody fragrance is the next best thing. Roman pine mingles with bergamot, cedarwood, amber and cypress for a complex but instantly refreshing scent. If you close your eyes, you can pretend you’re in the middle of a forest.
Top Notes: Cypress, sage, bergamot, rosemary
Middle Notes: Pine, cedar, moss
Base Notes: Vanilla, pine, amber
18. Jo Malone Silver Birch & Lavender Cologne
Fall and spring. Two seasons that know nothing about the other. Seasons that never come in contact. Seasons that don’t really even make sense in the same sentence — aside from now. Jo Malone’s newest Silver Birch & Lavender cologne has a weird way of honing in on life and death at the same time. It’s topped with a crispy coolness that’s drained slightly with a woodier birch. It’s like smelling fresh lavender in the middle of a dying forest in the middle of October, making this cologne totally season-less — yet so seasonable at the same time.
Top Notes: Grapefruit
Middle Notes: English lavender
Base Notes: Silver birch
19. Prada Luna Rossa Carbon Eau de Toilette
Just leave it to Prada to create one of the most distinctively mischievous blended colognes that the world has yet to see. This sensually delicious masterpiece is great for wearing just about anywhere, but we love this cologne for date night and bedroom play. By combining notes of lavender, green bergamot from Italy, patchouli and amber, this is the type of cologne that will keep partners smelling their own clothes again and again after hugging up on you. It’s seductively masculine in its creation. Trust us. You’ll want nothing more.
Top Notes: Italian bergamot, lavender
Middle Notes: geranium, patchouli
Base Notes: heliotrope, ambroxan
20. Polo Ralph Lauren Deep Blue
Ralph Lauren is literally making waves with its newest fragrance by looking at the power of the ocean. Pro surfer and two-time world champion Gabriel Medina is the brand partner of the scent, which might be the closest thing to a trip to Hawaii these days. In fact, Hawaiian green mango is the note that pops in the blend that evokes salty seawater and fresh fruits, with cypress oil and deep ocean accord rounding out the mix.
Top Notes: Green mango, grapefruit, bergamot
Middle Notes: Cypress, clary sage, geranium
Base Notes: Sea notes, ambroxan, fir resin, musk, patchouli
21. Viktor&Rolf Spicebomb Eau de Toilette
If you’re shopping for the best gifts for women, then you can’t go wrong with a perfume such as Flowerbomb, from Viktor&Rolf. However, this Dutch fragrance company also makes an excellent cologne for men, and we can’t hate on a cool-shaped bottle. Viktor&Rolf’s aptly named “Spicebomb” Eau de Toilette is a grenade you’ll actually want to get your hands on. This all-masculine cologne is an explosively scented fragrance that gives notes of chili and saffron with the heavy-bodied roundness provided by leather and tobacco. You’ll leave the house feeling indestructible.
Top Notes: Bergamot, grapefruit, pink pepper, elemi
Middle Notes: Cinnamon, chili pepper, saffron
Base Notes: Leather, vetiver, tobacco
22. Paco Rabanne Invictus Legend
There is something about Paco Rabanne’s fragrances that exude spirit and vitality. Invictus Legend is a manly, energetic scent that opens up with sweet tones of grapefruit, then leads into floral notes of geranium and soft spices, culminating in a mature blend for coming-of-age and playful types. Wear it to work if you want to feel and smell like the CEO, or at fancy lounges to outshine every seasoned bachelor posted up at the bar. For college-aged men, this scent will instantly set you apart from your peers wearing Nautica cologne or, god forbid, Axe body spray.
Top Notes: Geranium metal, green laurel, salty grapefruit
Middle Notes: Red amber, mead accord
Base Notes: Guaiacwood
How to Choose Cologne for Men
When shopping for cologne, you’ll find that the biggest differentiator is the price. The top cologne from designer brands like Tom Ford and Gucci will usually cost between $100 and $150. Mid-tier options from Calvin Klein and Dior can usually be purchased for under $100. However, even if you don’t want to spend more than $100, many colognes come in smaller sizes that are more affordable. If you’re looking to save or test a new fragrance, go with a 1.70 oz bottle instead of a 3.40 oz.
In addition, there are several scent families to choose from, including woody, oriental, herbal, floral and earthy. Many experts recommend floral for all-season use, whereas herbal scents are the perfect colognes to wear for summer. Usually, woody and oriental fragrances serve better during the winter months. That being said, woody scents like cedar, sandalwood and madras wood are especially on-trend in 2022, and these scents are now used all year long. We’ve also seen more colognes and grooming products incorporate very traditionally masculine fragrances such as tobacco, leather and even bourbon.
The Difference Between Perfume and Cologne for Men
When shopping for cologne, you may notice that some men’s fragrances are called perfume instead of cologne. So is there a difference between the best perfume for men and cologne?
In fact, each of these terms does have different technical meanings to fragrance makers. Perfume (also known as Parfum or Extrait de Parfum) refers to fragrances that contain 15% to 30% perfume oil, while products categorized as Eau de Parfum contain between 15% and 20% perfume oil. However, an Eau de Cologne product only contains 2% to 4% perfume oil. Because of this, perfumes have a more potent and longer-lasting fragrance.
Cologne should note on the bottle or packaging which category it falls into, with Eau de Parfum at the high end of the intensity scale and Eau de Cologne at the low end. Eau de Toilette falls somewhere in the middle.
However, most people don’t know or care about these technical ratings. Here in the United States, cologne is used to refer to all fragrances for men, whether they’re technically an Eau de Cologne or an Ea de Parfum pour Hommes. As a result, men’s perfume and men’s cologne can be used interchangeably in most contexts.
Top Trends in the Cologne Market
The cologne market is changing fast. New, online-only companies like are competing with designer fragrances that have been on the scene for decades. Traditionally, designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and Calvin Klein produce great-smelling colognes, but there are new entrants into the market worth exploring.
One of the biggest trends in the cologne market in recent years has been the emergence of new unisex fragrances such as Henry Rose, and you shouldn’t rule out unisex fragrances as a general rule. Gift sets are also a stellar option when unsure about a scent that might look great on paper, but you aren’t too sure you’ll love it 100% after a couple of wears. Finally, solid cologne is a growing category and one that we’re particularly excited about. Solid colognes from brands such as Fulton & Roark have sophisticated, modern fragrances and help avoid the age-old problem of overapplying your cologne, a sure-fire way to make a bad impression on everyone you meet.
Of course, when it comes to shopping for cologne, it’s all about the smell test for most guys. For guys with discerning taste, your own nose will never steer you wrong. Stick to a fragrance that doesn’t clash with other strong scents and isn’t overpowering to your senses (or anyone else’s at that).
The Top Colognes for Men in 2022
Below are some of the best men’s cologne options, as chosen by SPY’s style and grooming experts. All of these products come from designers who know all about crafting an attractive scent profile.
The colognes we chose are listed per category, price point and lifestyle. Most of these colognes are available in various sizes, with 1.70 oz and 3.40 oz being the most common choices. In general, we’ve listed the price for the 3.40 oz size, and you can usually find a smaller size bottle at a cheaper price point.
Once you’ve finally come around to choosing a signature scent, make sure to read SPY’s key tips on how to apply cologne properly.
Some FAQs About Cologne
The best cologne for men is very dependent on individual taste. Right now, we think Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Parfum is the best men's cologne because it hits the nail on the head in numerous ways. It has an attractive scent that isn't overwhelming, it doesn't feel too young or too old and one spritz in this case really goes a long way, saving you money in the long run.
It seems that the most popular cologne for guys is Chanel Bleu De Chanel Eau de Parfum. No matter where you go, this cologne is always one of the most top-rated picks you can purchase online. Though it does smell excellent and we do have it listed, we suggest you give something else a whirl — because you're not like other guys.
Cologne application is pretty simple. First and foremost: don't spray cologne and walk through it, all that will do is make the air smell better than you. Apply cologne instead to pulse points around the body, such as your neck, chest, shoulders, wrists and inner elbows. These areas project heat most effectively and will make your scent known to people around you.
As mentioned, the best-smelling men's cologne will be determined by what you find most attractive when you're looking at scents. We love each cologne in this list for various reasons, but our top three choices (Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Parfum, Tom Ford Black Orchid Parfum and Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum) are the best-smelling men's colognes in our opinion.
Yes, cologne does eventually expire. It depends on which cologne bottles are sitting in your collection, but for the most part, cologne will expire in around one to three years.