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Fragrance is one of the best ways to make a good impression, as scents tend to linger in the mind longer because of the proven scientific link between smell and memory. But finding the right fragrance can be pretty hard, especially if you’re shopping online. One niche but growing category of perfumes is solid cologne. Solid cologne is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and it deserves a spot in your Dopp kit. In order to find the best options, we ordered some samples and tried them out. The big picture? The best solid cologne might take a little time to get used to, but it’s a great alternative to traditional liquid men’s cologne.
How To Use Solid Cologne
Solid cologne has a thick consistency, similar to a bar of soap or a candle. To use solid cologne, simply rub some onto your finger and apply to your pulse points, ideally the wrist and neck. Applying to pulse points allows the scent to last longer. Since solid cologne is, well, solid, you might have to apply a little pressure for the warmth of your finger to soften the top layer of the wax. Some solid colognes spread more easily than others depending on the brand.
Despite being a pretty niche category (for now), solid cologne has a lot of advantages that its spray-bottle counterpart can’t compete with. For one thing, you can travel with it much more easily. Even TSA-friendly travel-sized perfumes can break or leak, whereas solid colognes are significantly more rugged. And even experienced perfume users run into the issue of accidentally spraying their face or missing their neck entirely. With solid cologne, on the other hand, you can control the amount you need and where to put it. By not overdoing it, you won’t give anyone flashbacks to walking past an Abercrombie & Fitch circa 2007. Plus, because solid cologne uses a wax base, rather than alcohol, it can be more gentle for those with sensitive skin.
Solid colognes are ideal for travel, but they’re great for everyday use too. Even high-quality eau de parfums can wear off by the end of the day. Solid colognes can be kept in your tote bag or desk drawer for quick touch-ups throughout the day, or before you head out for post-work drinks. Sure, you can keep spray perfume in your desk, but spraying perfume in the middle of your office is much more conspicuous than gently swiping some solid cologne with your index finger.
How We the Tested the Best Solid Colognes
Unsurprisingly, scent is a subjective thing, which makes objectively reviewing solid cologne challenging. Plus, one scent might react differently with your skin than it did mine. That said, there are a few factors to consider when evaluating the best solid colognes. And though we sought out the best solid colognes for men, several of these scents are actually unisex products.
- Scent: Though it is subjective, the most important question is: does it smell good? The best unisex fragrances aren’t too cloying, sweet or floral. As for masculine fragrances, the best ones won’t smell like cheap body spray.
- Packaging: The best solid cologne containers are small enough for travel, with a lid that makes the cologne easy to access. And of course, a stylish container will earn bonus points.
- Consistency: Some solid cologne has a more butter-like consistency that’s easy to spread, while others are hard and dense, making them more difficult to spread.
- Longevity: Solid cologne typically doesn’t last as long as spray perfume once applied, but it’s easy to reapply. That said, you don’t want to have to reapply it too often. The best solid colognes should last long enough to actually be smelled and enjoyed.
- Value: The best solid cologne doesn’t have to be cheap, but it should feel that you’re getting a good amount of cologne for the money.
Our Testing Process
To find the best options, I tested each cologne individually, wearing them throughout the day to see how they performed. For each cologne, I applied them the same way: one dab on the left wrist and one on the right side of the neck. It’s recommended to apply perfume to pulse points to help it last longer throughout the day (these specific points were easier to access, as I’m right-handed).
1. Fulton & Roark
Fragrances tested: Ramble and Blue Ridge
If you’re looking for a classically masculine fragrance, Fulton & Roark should be your go-to. The brand’s fragrances draw most heavily from traditional cologne scents, but it’s far from the nauseating body-spray smell of some colognes.
Scent: Blue Ridge has a slightly sweet aroma, with a touch of citrus and sugar. This is well balanced by deeper scents of sandalwood, sage and amber. Ramble has more of a woody fragrance, with balsam fir and oakmoss. Overall, both fragrances are clean and sophisticated.
Packaging: The fragrances come in stylish metal tins that rotate to open, making the wax easy to access. Plus, the metal tins look stylish, making them great gifts.
Consistency: When spreading the wax with my finger, it softened and melted quickly, making it easy to spread.
Longevity: These are strong but not overpowering, and lasted longer than almost all of the other fragrances on this list
Value: At $60, these are some of the more expensive fragrances on this list, but they’re still cheaper than the average spray cologne. Plus, the 2 oz size is bigger than most, so they work out to be a good value.
2. Jo Malone
Fragrances tested: Wood Sage & Sea Salt and Lime Basil & Mandarin
Many of Jo Malone’s fragrances are popular with women, but Wood Sage & Sea Salt and Lime Basil & Mandarin are both great options for men. They have pleasant natural aromas that are refreshing and not at all overly sweet. In fact, many of Jo Malone’s fragrances could be considered unisex.
Scent: What’s unique about Jo Malone’s fragrances is that they’re meant to be mixed and matched; the fragrances are sold in two-packs with a travel container, or you can buy them individually. I tested each scent individually, rather than layering them. What’s great about these fragrances is that, rather than giving them a catchy name, they’re named after what they smell like. Lime Basil & Mandarin smells like a walk through a garden, while Wood Sage & Sea Salt is appropriately woody and musky. Some men may opt for more masculine fragrances, but in my view, these were the best smelling of all of the fragrances.
Packaging: You can buy the fragrances in individual refill packs, or buy a set, which includes a plastic mixing palette, which wasn’t included with the fragrances I was testing. Individually, they’re sold in thin refill packs, which aren’t as durable as the other containers on this list.
Consistency: With an almost butter-like consistency, Jo Malone’s perfumes are the easiest to spread of all of the colognes on this list.
Longevity: It’s mild, but it’s one of the longer-lasting options.
Value: The individual refills are $20 each, but the refills are by far the smallest on this list, making this one of the less economical options.
3. Duke Cannon
Fragrances tested: Oak Barrel and Dark Water
For a company with such tough-guy branding, Duke Cannon’s colognes are surprisingly subtle. Oak Barrel is a standout, and it’s so named because it’s inspired by bourbon. It’s not just inspired, actually; it’s made using Buffalo Trace bourbon.
Scent: Though it doesn’t smell like bourbon, Duke Cannon’s Bourbon effectively captures the balance of brown-sugar sweetness and earthy woodiness that makes bourbon so great. Midnight Swim, on the other hand, has a crisp, aquatic scent, though it’s not the most complex or interesting.
Packaging: Duke Cannon’s Bourbon seems to be made from the same containers as Altoids tins, which are easy to open but close securely. Midnight Swim, on the other hand, slides open, but it is also easy to use.
Consistency: Duke Cannon comes in the middle of the pack in terms of consistency; it wasn’t hard to spread, but it wasn’t as smooth as Jo Malone or Fulton & Roark.
Longevity: As was the case with consistency, Duke Cannon is in the middle when it comes to longevity. It’s not the strongest, but it does last a while.
Value: At $25 each for a sizeable tin, these colognes are a good value.
4. Misc Goods Co.
Fragrances tested: Meadow Land and Valley of Gold
Misc Goods Co feels like the kind of shop you’d stumble into on a walk through Silverlake, although the company is actually based in Kentucky. From leather wallets to incense to playing cards, Misc Goods Co’s wares are pretty, well, miscellaneous, but they’re all stylish and unique.
Scent: Both scents are fittingly woody and earthy. Though they’re masculine, they’re not at all overwhelming and are actually slightly too mild. Misc Goods Co. describes Valley of Gold as “the smell of wild gardens in blossom amidst woods,” which, while vague, is certainly fitting.
Packaging: Misc Goods Co has, without a doubt, the best container of any of the options on this list. The containers are made of wood, with a round tin on the inside that holds the fragrance. These tins can be replaced once you run out. The lids are held closed using magnets, which are secure and surprisingly easy to open. In fact, it’s a good deal of fun to just flick them open and closed. Fidgeters beware.
Consistency: The wax isn’t as soft as others, and these aren’t as easy to spread like some others on this list.
Longevity: These scents start off mild and aren’t the longest lasting.
Value: At $78 each, they’re somewhat steep, considering that they’re not the strongest fragrances.
5. Juniper Ridge
Fragrances Tested: Wild Sage and Desert Cedar
Juniper Ridge crafts unisex fragrances inspired by America’s wildlands. This inspiration isn’t just abstract, though; the brand donates 10% of its profits to protect wildlands.
Scent: As for the fragrances, they’re fittingly earthy, with an initial blast of woodiness and sage. They won’t be for everyone, but if you like a strong natural fragrance, then Juniper Ridge is the brand to buy. White sage has a slightly tea-like aroma, which makes sense given that Juniper Ridge offers a white sage tea. And if your idea of a perfect weekend is hanging out with hippies in Joshua Tree, then Desert Cedar’s dry, woody aroma will be the perfect companion for your adventures. These weren’t exactly my preferred fragrance, but they’re certainly appealing in a natural, earthy way.
Packaging: These containers are very small, which isn’t a bad thing. The small metal tins are easier to take in a small toiletry bag without taking up much space. The lids slide off for easy access.
Consistency: These have the hardest consistency and are the hardest to spread. Presumably, it’s because they used beeswax, an eco-friendly alternative to paraffin. It may take a little more force to loosen the fragrance.
Longevity: Juniper Ridge’s fragrances are among the stronger ones, and go a long way.
Value: At $17 for a 0.5 oz container, these are an economical option if you want to try out solid cologne.
Fragrances Tested: Karma, Lord of Misrule, Breath of God, Dirty
There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with Lush, the British cosmetics retailer famous for its colorful bath bombs and soaps. They have a ton of different solid colognes, whose scents are also available in other formats.
Scent: All of the Lush fragrances that we tested were different and smelled distinct from one another. Yet, somehow, they all smelled like stepping into a Lush store. Lord of Misrule is both peppery and sweet, and well-balanced, while Breath of God had an earthy and woody scent. The only miss was Karma, which was cloyingly sweet and soapy. It smelled, in fact, like a bath bomb.
Packaging: The containers are very small and easy to take on the go. And since they’re glass, they’re easily reused or recycled. However, the small lids made it considerably harder to reach and spread the perfume.
Consistency: The thick consistency of Lush’s perfumes made them among the hardest to spread.
Longevity: All of the scents are decently strong, and lasted a good amount of time when worn.
Value: The containers are small, but inexpensive, making these a good value.
What We’re Looking Forward To Testing
Though we haven’t gotten our hands on these fragrances yet, we’re fans of these brands and suggest checking out their fragrances if you want more options.
Popular Fragrances: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain Solid Perfume
Diptyque is one of the most beloved fragrance brands, and its unisex offerings range from candles and diffusers to sprays and solid colognes. We haven’t yet tested their solid colognes, but they’re definitely a great option to consider. Diptyque’s scents are designed to be unisex, but the woody 34 Boulevard Saint Germain is a good option for men. The scent includes amber and patchouli accord, rose and cinnamon. They come in stylish containers as well.
2. Mr. Gladstone Fine Solid Cologne
Popular Fragrances: Cathay, Trevelin, Vieux Port
Mr. Gladstone keeps it simple, with only three colognes on offer. They’re available individually or in a three-pack of individual scents. Their fragrances are inspired by travel, with Cathay designed to embody 1932 Shanghai. What that translates to is “sandalwood, mandarin, vanilla, amber, musk, and white clover honey.” As an added bonus, Mr. Gladstone’s colognes are crafted using beeswax, rather than paraffin.
Popular Fragrances: Explorer, Aviator
Ulio&Jack’s fragrances are inspired by travel and adventure. Explorer is one of the brand’s most popular fragrances and contains notes of bergamot, jasmine, Japanese grapefruit and peppermint. The brand has a sweet backstory too; it takes its moniker from the names of the founders’ grandfathers.