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Whether or not you smell good may be up to the people smelling you — but don’t let that deter you from choosing a signature scent based on what you like. 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, wedding or sitting around the Christmas tree.
Cologne should act as every sophisticated man’s secret weapon. A spritz 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 a great-smelling cologne? It starts with educating oneself in the science of scent. Cologne gift sets can also be an excellent way to discover new scents — and they make some of the best gifts for men now that we’re smack dab in the holiday season.
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, but they 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 years, so it’s safe to say we have some serious opinions about smelling nice. Find all of the best-smelling cologne to consider below, with the first few choices being editor-tested and approved options. These are picks our team of writers wears daily, so we can promise you’ll love at least one of these just as much as we do.
Because the holidays are right around the corner, the best cologne for men makes for some of the best Christmas gifts you can give any guy, period. Pro tip: check out your giftee’s current cologne collection prior to purchasing. Take note of what scents they seem to enjoy most and get shopping from there.
Without further ado, check out all of the best colognes for men to purchase this holiday season now.
Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Parfum
Top Notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, ginger, mint, lemon
Middle Notes: Apple, violet leaf, sage, pineapple, geranium
Base Notes: Ambergris, musk, cedar, vetiver, balsam fir, incense
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 a sophisticated yet forever young spirit at the same time and gives us a masculine scent. You don’t usually 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. If you trust anyone, it should be him.
Our favorite part about this cologne is that it defies season. You can easily wear it right now during the winter as much as you can in the summer, making this one of the best colognes to gift this Christmas.
Maison Margiela Replica By the Fireplace
Top Notes: Pink pepper, orange flower petals, clove oil
Middle Notes: Chestnut accord, guaiac wood oil, cade oil
Base Notes: Vanilla accord, Peru balsam, cashmeran
There is quite literally no better Christmas cologne than Replica By the Fireplace from Maison Margiela. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to smell like the warmth and coziness brought to you by a fireplace-fueled home interior, this is the answer to your questions. This fragrance mimics the cracking wood scent in a hot fire alongside nuttier scents of chestnut. To top it all off, wearers will notice a vanilla, orangey scent that hones in the entire feel of the fragrance.
We wouldn’t suggest this scent outside of the winter (or fall) season, so snag it for Christmas while it’s still chilly outside.
Fulton & Roark Blue Ridge
Top Notes: Sage, amber
Base Notes: Sandalwood
Until recently, solid cologne was a tiny niche in the men’s fragrance market and little more than a gimmick. 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. But 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.
To top it all off, this is a must-have stocking stuffer for Christmas, without a doubt.
Hugo Boss BOSS Bottled Eau de Toilette
Top Notes: Apple, citrus fruits
Middle Notes: Geranium, cinnamon, cloves
Base Notes: Sandalwood, vetiver, cedarwood, vanilla
Warm, woody and citrus-filled? It’s going to be a yes from us. Hugo Boss BOSS Bottled Eau de Toilette is the perfect seasonal switch-up from summer into fall. It transcends seasonality by morphing summery scents with fall-forward moments. It has a classic yet exceptionally modern feel. Think of this as the modern male must-have for summer into fall.
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
A classic cologne 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 Chanel Bleu 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 in various intensities, but the Eau de Parfum version provides a long-lasting scent that’s not overpowering. Twelve hours after applying it, you’ll still notice subtle hints of vanilla and sandalwood.
If you’re seeking a surefire hit that any man will love for Christmas, you found it.
Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau de Parfum
Top Notes: Pepper, cardamom seed, rose-bay
Middle Notes: Sandalwood, vetiver, oud
Base Notes: Vanilla, tonka bean, amber
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: Bergamot
Middle Notes: Sichuan pepper, lavender, star anise, nutmeg
Base Notes: Ambroxan, vanilla
The Benjamin mark is where you’ll usually find some 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 give this universally loved fragrance its aromatic moxie.
Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum
Top Notes: Violet accord, cardamom
Middle Notes: Iris, ambrox
Base Notes: Cedarwood, leather, sandalwood
Unisex fragrances are becoming increasingly popular. Treat yourself to the genderless fragrance of your dreams with Le Labo Santal 33. If you’re looking for a scent that combines an almost confusingly 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.
Because this is a genderless fragrance, this equally makes an incredible Christmas gift for women as it does men.
Jimmy Choo Man
Top Notes: Mandarin, lavender, honeydew melon
Middle Notes: Geranium, rose and pink pepper, pineapple leaves
Base Notes: Patchouli, suede, woody accord, amber notes
Jimmy Choo Man proves that delicious-smelling men’s fragrances don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Just one or two spritzes will leave you ready for the day, no matter what it entails. 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 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.
Henry Rose Fog Eau de Parfum
Top Notes: Muguet, fresh citrus
Middle Notes: White woods, magnolia
Base Notes: Vetiver, sandalwood, amber woods, musk
Henry Rose is far from a celebrity fragrance cash grab. Actor 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’s fresh and musky aroma, which calls back to the light, breezy fall days. Effervescent notes of vanilla and vetiver will serve as an open invitation for those around you to take a closer whiff.
This bottle is what we call the future of where fragrance is headed. Buy this cologne as a Christmas gift for anybody interested in testing their limits with scent.
Byredo Bibliothèque Eau de Parfum
Top Notes: Peach, plum
Middle Notes: Violet, peony
Base Notes: Patchouli, leather, vanilla
If the fall season could sit in a scent, this would be it. Byredo’s Bibliothèque Eau de Parfum uses light and dark fruits for a heavy top honed by classically autumnal scents like vanilla and leather. Like many of today’s top fragrances for men, it has a very multi-gender scent that definitely rides more masculine. If you want to smell like your dad and your ex-girlfriend at the same time, this is the scent you should go for.
Calvin Klein Eternity for Men
Top Notes: Sage, apple, ozonic
Middle Notes: Lavender, cypress, geranium, nutmeg
Base Notes: Suede, ambergris, cypriol oil, orris root
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, making 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 that feels balanced with even the subtlest spritzes.
COACH For Men Eau de Toilette
Top Notes: Pear, kumquat, bergamot, lavender, grapefruit
Middle Notes: Cardamom, geranium, coriander
Base Notes: Ambergris, suede, amber wood, Haitian vetiver
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, which named the COACH For Men Eau de Toilette the winner of the company’s 2018 Fragrance 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.
Fulton & Roark Palmetto Solid Cologne
Top Notes: Citrus
Middle Notes: Pink pepper spice, magnolia flower
Base Notes: Incense, cedar
Fragrance in wax form sounds odd at first, but the best solid cologne is a more practical and discreet option for guys. 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 in your work desk drawer or gym bag.
Gucci The Alchemist’s Garden The Last Day of Summer Eau de Parfum
Top Notes: Cedarwoods
Middle Notes: Cypress, nutmeg
Base Notes: Patchouli, vetiver
One of Gucci’s unisex fragrances celebrates none other than the dog days of summer. Keep it hot and steamy even if fall is just around the corner with this cologne featuring a mix of cedarwood, cyoressm, nutmeg, patchouli and vetiver. It’s a must-try, for sure. Not sure about trying a unisex cologne? This Gucci fragrance has plenty of masculine woodsy notes but is also light and airy.
Although this might be an odd scent to gift someone for Christmas hence the summery notes, we still suggest it.
Creed Aventus Eau De Parfum
Top Notes: Bergamot, blackcurrant leaves, apple, pineapple
Middle Notes: Pinkberries, birch, patchouli, jasmine
Base Notes: Musk, oakmoss, ambergris, vanilla
Creed cologne is 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 luxury cologne is 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.
Byredo Lil Fleur
Top Notes: Saffron, cassis, tangerine
Middle Notes: Damascena rose, leather accord
Base Notes: Blonde woods, amber
Ben Gorham founded the 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, check out the Tobacco Mandarin Eau de parfum from the Night Veils line.
Gucci Guilty Pour Homme
Top Notes: Juniper, lemon, lavender
Middle Notes: Orange blossom, nutmeg, Spanish labdanum
Base Notes: Patchouli, musk, dry wood
Guilty by Gucci is an excellent 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, making it highly versatile so that 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.
Jo Malone Silver Birch & Lavender Cologne
Top Notes: Grapefruit
Middle Notes: English lavender
Base Notes: Silver birch
Fall and spring. Two seasons that know nothing about the other. Seasons that never come in contact. Seasons that don’t even make sense in the same sentence — aside from now. Jo Malone’s newest Silver Birch & Lavender cologne has a weird way of simultaneously honing in on life and death. It’s topped with a crisp coolness 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 seasonless — yet so seasonable at the same time.
Prada Luna Rossa Carbon Eau de Toilette
Top Notes: Italian bergamot, lavender
Middle Notes: geranium, patchouli
Base Notes: heliotrope, ambroxan
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.
Polo Ralph Lauren Deep Blue
Top Notes: Green mango, grapefruit, bergamot
Middle Notes: Cypress, clary sage, geranium
Base Notes: Sea notes, ambroxan, fir resin, musk, patchouli
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.
Viktor&Rolf Spicebomb Eau de Toilette
Top Notes: Bergamot, grapefruit, pink pepper, elemi
Middle Notes: Cinnamon, chili pepper, saffron
Base Notes: Leather, vetiver, tobacco
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 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.
Consider this a bomb Christmas gift this year… hah, get it?
Paco Rabanne Invictus Legend
Top Notes: Geranium metal, green laurel, salty grapefruit
Middle Notes: Red amber, mead accord
Base Notes: Guaiacwood
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 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.
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 want 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 traditionally masculine fragrances such as tobacco, leather, and 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?
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 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.
In recent years, one of the biggest trends in the cologne market 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 surefire 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 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).
Now that we’re in the holiday season, trends for colognes are going a little bit warmer. Keep that in mind when shopping during Christmas.
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. 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 bottle at a cheaper price point.
Once you’ve decided to choose a signature scent, read SPY’s key tips on applying cologne properly.