A decade ago, before I was a grooming editor, I owned a single fragrance. Today, I’ve got a scent library of more than 300 fragrances and it’s growing fast. It might take up a little space but this is part of the job; brands send them, I wear them, then spread the good word to you — or bite my tongue, since they’re not always perfect. But out of my entire collection, there are about 10 men’s fragrances I love wearing more than the rest.
The way men wear cologne varies. Some have one signature scent while others rotate the best colognes. I like to have a different scent for every mood, occasion, and season — and for any house guest to sample. Each men’s scent has a shelf life of 3-5 years (sometimes more), and since I cannot wear them fast enough, some scents I’d call a favorite I have only been able to wear 20 times or less. Working from home doesn’t help. Oftentimes I find myself spraying just for my own sniffing pleasure.
But while it’s hard to pick a singular favorite, my shortlist is measured by what elicits the most positive verbal feedback. I don’t recommend that you try to accumulate 300 fragrances, but having three or four scents that you absolutely love is perfectly fine. This allows you to wear something different as the seasons change, as your day graduates into night, and maybe a classic standby to sport as your signature scent.
The Top 10 of My 300 Men’s Fragrances At a Glance
What to Know Before Buying Men’s Fragrances
Remember: The cost of men’s fragrance is often determined by the quality of materials used as well as the concentration of perfume oils used in the formula. Plus the size, of course, and unfortunately, sometimes you’re paying for the brand name, too.
Most of the men’s fragrances on my list are Eau de Parfums, or EDPs, which range from 10%-15% fragrant oil. But know that something with a higher percentage of oil will often project farther and last longer, meaning you might go through it much slower than a cheaper, lower-concentration option like an Eau de Toilette (EDT, 5%-8% oil) or Eau de Cologne (EDC, 3%-5% oil).
There are also Eau Fraiches which have trace amounts of oil, and on the high end, you have Parfums (20%-30%) and Extraits (over 30%). It’s essential to understand these benchmarks, and while I love many EDTs, I try to encourage guys to aim for EDPs if they want a scent that stands out but also has stamina.
My 10 Favorite Men’s Fragrances Right Now
First of all, I think Louis Vuitton is the best fashion house in the fragrance game — hats off to their nose, monsieur Jacques Cavallier Belletrud. They were one of the last houses to build out a portfolio of scents, too, especially in terms of a men’s fragrance collection. But once they got the ball rolling in 2018, it’s been off to the races with each launch seeming better than the last.
I think, though, that 2021’s Imagination EDP is the best of the bunch. I get goosebumps when I apply it. It’s the freshest take on amber I can recall, with notes of citrus, neroli, and black tea prominently playing throughout. Most ambrous scents I’d suggest for cold weather wear, but this one is a perennial choice, skewing towards the optimism of sunnier days. It is so aptly named, too, because it feels like the olfactive equivalent to a fresh, fragrant shower, the very moment you get your brightest idea or some much-needed clarity.
Arquiste has “zero skips” when it comes to its entire portfolio, but I have to pick Nanban as my top choice. Of all the scents I have, this one has gotten the most mileage (you can see from the half-used bottle). Funny enough, despite my frequent use, it’s definitely not an option for a signature scent.
Instead, I recommend wearing this for winter, on date nights, at black-tie events, and so forth. This men’s fragrance projects a mélange of spicy, smoky, woody notes, and, if I may be frank, this thing could close the deal on date night. That is, assuming you’ve been a gentleman throughout. At least you smell like one!
One of my favorite 2022 launches, Gatsby 22 is a musky, citrusy, floral scent that suits outgoing personalities — a prime candidate for their signature scent. It reminds me a lot of Dior Homme 2020, a scent I also love, but there’s a bit more nuance here, and certainly more staying power.
To me, it’s the men’s fragrant equivalent of being at a weekend afternoon cocktail party. Gatsby-esque, it alludes to a beautiful ocean view, shirt halfway unbuttoned, and enough of a buzz to befriend the entire guest list.
Unlike the above, I wear Thé Matcha when I’m not so social. I don’t mean antisocial, I just mean, it’s something that calms and centers me, and that wears like a hoodie on a cool afternoon. It’s introspective, smart, and intimate. I’d even wear it to the office if I wanted people to perceive my good taste without being hit over the head with it.
The scent is a blend of matcha tea, cedarwood, creamy fig, and bitter orange. It’s a lullaby of a scent, but it won’t put you to sleep. Instead, it’s Ira Glass’s voice as a fragrance. Mmmhmmm.
The lightest wear of the list, and one of the most straightforward, the Richard James Aqua Aromatica Blade of Grass EDC sends your senses to the innocence of a freshly mown patch of grass. But you won’t smell like the inside of a lawnmower bag. Instead, it’s the scent that lingers across the lawn after the fact.
This men’s fragrance combines vetiver, fig, and green tea to give a subtle finish. Admittedly, I often put a few sprays of this into my scent diffuser and cast it into the room — my idea of bringing the outside in, especially on a long winter workday when I’m dreaming of greener (freshly mown) pastures.
Whenever I wear Gucci’s The Alchemist’s Garden — A Gloaming Night EDP, I assume an entirely new persona. My posture straightens out, I’m an inch taller, I’m suddenly Ivy League educated, a secret descendent of Marie Anotinette, an even more secret MI6 officer, and I can flirt three levels above my own grade.
I don’t know what those alchemists are growing in this garden, but something in this arousing patchouli-cinnamon scent permeates my senses, and I’ve got the confidence of two dozen politicians. If
Aesop is one of the more underrated perfumery brands, and has had many exciting and innovative launches these past few years. I’ll always be most faithful to 2020’s Rōzu, a subtle shoulder-season scent that marries rose to pink pepper, patchouli, sandalwood, and musk. I challenge you to find a better fall cologne.
Some people would think wearing a “safe” scent is a bad thing, but to me, this is exactly the one to wear if you want to polarize exactly zero people. The same goes for wanting to cast an attractive radius without actually attracting anyone, nor sending the wrong message. You might not get the enthusiastic “what are you wearing” compliments of the louder scents on this list, but deep down or subconsciously, everyone will associate you with Rōzu’s harmonious and affirming essence.
The Tom Ford fragrance roster is perhaps the most stacked of all, with something for all seasons, personalities, occasions, genders, and such. Twist my arm to pick a favorite from my small collection of his scents, but I have to go with the crowd pleasing Oud Wood.
First, it’s probably the most beloved expression of the resinous Oud wood in perfumery, a sexy and smoky selection for date night. But this one contains multitudes, and won’t send the wrong idea if you wear it to your kid’s ballet recital or to dinner with your colleagues. In any situation, it leads with confidence, and those in your radius will register it accordingly.
You might have done a double take at this one’s name. Yes, it’s called Portrait of a Lady. Technically this is a women’s scent, but it’s undeniably unisex once your brain processes the notes. Men must be daring enough to venture into the women’s and unisex fragrances because there are brilliantly sophisticated florals, powders, or like this one, a citrusy-woody blend (a pairing that you’ll find in many men’s scents).
Funny enough, I think the olfactive equivalent of this one is some 1940s movie star hunk, but with a big furry chest. His movies are black and white, but his taste is anything but. Frédéric Malle helps him express a softer side—a leisurely, intimate weekend following a week of filming on the lot.
Here’s the crown to cap my roster: The storied bespoke luxury label Krigler has many a top-shelf scent, but this highly concentrated, crisp-aromatic parfum is my most frequented.
Though an expensive cologne, it puts my head in the clouds as my body floats through the sun-drenched Alps. It’s also one of the few scents my scent-averse partner (I don’t wanna talk about it) will wear; he sports it during the dregs of the workday, like it’s a stress-soothing CBD gummy or something.
About the Author
Adam Hurly has been covering the grooming industry for a decade after getting his start at Birchbox in 2013. Since becoming a freelance journalist in 2016, he has written for nearly every men’s title. In addition to SPY, his frequent clients include GQ, Men’s Journal, Robb Report, Forbes, and more. Hurly is a South Dakota native, a University of Kansas graduate, a New Yorker at heart, and has resided in Berlin for 5 years.
Recently at SPY, Hurly has shared what he learned after receiving a hair transplant as well as what his favorite products are after quitting oral finasteride and even how to pack the perfect Dopp kit for traveling.