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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.
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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:
Atlantis by Blu Atlas is our pick for the most popular men’s cologne of 2023 because it has something every guy is looking for: a splash of invigorating citrus top notes, rich floral mid notes and deep, musky base notes that fuse together into a clean and attractive scent that men can wear day in and day out.
Since its launch in 1996, Acqua di Giò has become a staple of the fragrance industry. It could be the perfect price point or the clear matte bottle that looks timelessly elegant, but we’re pretty sure it’s the fragrance that makes this cologne a best-seller. Marine-inspired notes give this a clean, classic feel, while bright notes of Calabrian bergamot, neroli and green tangerine will keep you smelling effortlessly fresh, even after a long day.
[$104.50 (was $110); sephora.com]
Chanel’s enhanced eau de parfum version of the classic Bleu de Chanel is deeper and more sensual than the original, with base notes of incense, amber, cedar and sandalwood. To keep things bold and unexpected, fresh citrus top notes of grapefruit, lemon and bergamot mingle with aromatics like mint, pink pepper, ginger and nutmeg. The result is a cologne that embodies the man who loves to take chances and carve his own way in the world.
If the gold bar–inspired bottle didn’t grab your attention, its fresh, spicy, leathery scent certainly will. In this cologne for men, gold embodies seduction, power, wealth, durability and, of course, luxury. The notes of frosted grapefruit, blood mandarin, musk, cinnamon bark, blond leather and tonka bean will make you an instant charmer.
Few things are cooler than Eros’ aqua-blue bottle embossed with Versace’s signature Medusa icon – except the scent’s fresh aromatics. You’re first introduced to this best-selling men’s cologne with crisp notes of mint leaves, green apple and Italian lemon. Creamier notes of tonka bean, ambroxan amber and oakmoss soon settle in to give the fragrance its characteristic warm, masculine scent. The scent is finished off with the deeper notes of Madagascar vanilla.
Aquatic scents are a favorite among many, so it’s no surprise that Prada’s Luna Rossa Ocean makes its way on our list. Inspired by the ocean’s depths, the fragrance opens with bright top notes of bergamot, pink pepper and artemisia.
The cologne shifts into slightly heavier notes of lavender, iris, sage and suede before settling on the ocean floor. Which, in this case, incorporates base notes of musk, Haitian vetiver, patchouli and caramel. The resulting scent is fresh, layerable and perfect for beach dwellers.
One of the newest cologne releases on this list, Ralph Lauren’s 2021 Ralph’s Club became an instant hit thanks to its everyday wearability. The fragrance’s main accords are aromatic and woody, with notes of lavender, clary sage, cedarwood and vetiver.
Like most of Ralph Lauren’s fragrances, the scent is high quality and has great longevity. Despite the exclusivity suggested by the name, the cologne’s simple fragrance profile makes it a safe scent option for most men.
Classic, crisp and always magical, Dior’s Sauvage evokes rocky landscapes and desert vistas. To maintain the rawness of its environmental muse, this wildly popular cologne opens up with a fresh burst of Calabrian bergamot and spicy pepper before moving into a more spacious array of middle notes that include Sichuan pepper, lavender, vetiver, patchouli and geranium. But even in the desert, a men’s cologne needs a touch of wood. Base notes of ambroxan, cedar and labdanum give Sauvage its warm, woody profile.
Tobacco, vanilla and chocolate…oh my! You really can’t go wrong with any of Tom Ford’s luxury fragrances, but if you’re into warm, spicy scents that stay timeless, this one’s for you. Tobacco Vanille opens with a top note of tobacco leaf before segueing into middle notes of vanilla, cacao, tonka bean and tobacco blossom. After the sweet richness of tobacco fades, base notes of dried fruits and woods linger on the skin for hours.
If you’re a sports enthusiast who wants a cologne that fits your active lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with Chanel’s Allure Homme Sport. This eau de toilette has been a favorite among men since its launch in 2004, largely due to its wearability. The scent is fresh and energizing, with top notes of orange and blood mandarin, and a marine accord.
Heart notes of pepper, neroli and cedar merge seamlessly with denser base notes of tonka bean, vetiver and white musk. The result is a fragrance that can accompany you from the gym to the office to the hiking trails.
Le Labo’s Santal 33 is one of the most talked-about fragrances of all time, and it’s easy to see why. The unisex cologne is instantly attractive, with top notes of cardamom, violet accord, iris, and ambrox. But Santal 33 really gets its rich, woody persona from deep base notes of cedarwood, leather and sandalwood, making it an ideal cologne for most men. Don’t be surprised if your wife or girlfriend steals this scent for herself!
Rich and aromatic, this characteristically masculine cologne by Yves Saint Laurent is woody, warm and spicy – the perfect blend of mystery and opulence. The fragrance opens with notes of cardamom, lavender, cedar and bergamot, but as it settles into the skin, base notes of vetiver and caraway take center stage.
If you’re a man who wants a long-lasting fragrance that isn’t too overpowering, we highly recommend La Nuit de l’Homme. The elegant bottle will give a touch of class to your nightstand or dresser.
It seems like Calvin Klein’s Eternity for Men has been around since the beginning of time. In reality, it’s only been three decades since the fragrance’s launch in 1990, and we’ve loved it every step of the way. Characterized as an “aromatic fougere,” the cologne is brimming with exquisite notes like lavender, lemon, bergamot, sage, basil and lily.
Base notes of sandalwood, vetiver, musk, amber and Brazilian rosewood round off this scent made for the modern man. Modeled off Klein’s vision of today’s man, Eternity is for the guy at peace with himself and his place in the world, dedicated to basic values of family, work, health and happiness.
If you’re naturally drawn to fresh aquatics, then Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue Pour Homme may be the cologne for you. Each spray will take you on a trip to the sunny seasides of the Mediterranean, with top notes of bright grapefruit, bergamot, Sicilian mandarin and juniper.
To keep the scent sensual and masculine, middle notes of black pepper, rosemary and Brazilian rosewood fuse into musk, incense and oakmoss base notes. Make this cologne part of your daily routine or save it for seaside escapes.
Whenever you’re shopping for a new fragrance, it’s best to go with something that will stay timeless – even if it’s a contemporary scent. L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme balances classic masculine base notes of sandalwood, vetiver, amber, musk and tobacco with fresh citrus, greens and aromatics.
The scent’s surprising burst of freshness comes from yuzu, mandarin and verbena notes. Finally, heart notes of blue waterlily, cinnamon, nutmeg and saffron make an effortless transition from fresh to woody.
Coach for Men is another example of a fresh, woody fragrance for men that checks all the boxes. The bottle is sleek and luxurious, the fragrance is long-lasting, the scent is well-balanced and its scent profile is nothing short of incredible.
Top notes of pear, kumquat, bergamot, lavender and grapefruit blend with lively heart notes of cardamom, geranium and coriander. After hours of wear, woody base notes of ambergris, suede, amberwood and Haitian vetiver emerge and mingle with your skin’s natural fragrance. This scent fares well year-round, but it is especially suitable for sunny spring and summer days.
Inspired by the liveliness and warm, spicy scents of a Brooklyn jazz club, Replica’s Jazz Club opens with notes of pink pepper, neroli and lemon.
After the opening notes, smoother middle notes of rum, vetiver and clary sage add to the cologne’s intoxicating cocktail of fragrance. Tobacco leaf and vanilla bean round out the show, giving this beloved cologne its perfectly sweet, smooth and smoky balance.
Creating a spicy cologne that is both enticing and multidimensional is a challenge, so when perfumer Olivier Polge created Spicebomb, it became an instant classic. Spicebomb is composed primarily of spicy notes like pink pepper, cinnamon and paprika.
But you’ll also find bright notes of bergamot, grapefruit and saffron lingering in this cologne’s ensemble. A base of tobacco, aged leather and vetiver ensures this cologne ends on a powerfully masculine note.
Jo Malone’s Wood Sage and Sea Salt is a unisex scent both men and women adore. This best-seller instantly transports you to the beach with sand between your toes and a gentle spray of salty ocean air brushing against your skin, thanks to notes of ambrette seeds, sea salt, sage, grapefruit and a hint of seaweed.
The simple fragrance profile is ideal for layering, meaning you can pair it with another favorite cologne or similar-smelling body wash and lotion. It’s suitable to wear all year round, but its ocean-inspired aromatics make it a perfect summertime scent.
A seductive blend of spices is precisely what you get with each spritz of Yellow Dream. The fragrance itself is yellow, a color associated with happiness, power and energy – and the scent echoes that energy.
This warm, spicy cologne opens with a blast of ripe mandarin and juicy pineapple before softening into middle notes of gingerbread and an array of spices. Base notes of vanilla and cedarwood make this warm, seductive scent one that’s inherently well-balanced and long-lasting on the skin.
For many men, their cologne isn’t just a part of their daily routine; it’s a part of their identity. Boss is a cologne for the modern man. It’s infused with liveliness from top to base, opening with bright notes of apple and citrus and ending on masculine notes of sandalwood, vetiver, cedarwood and vanilla. The cologne also includes warm notes of geranium, cinnamon and cloves, encapsulating elegance in every spritz.
Citrus is the leading accord of this best-selling fragrance from Calvin Klein, revealing juicy top notes of lemon, bergamot, pineapple, mandarin and papaya. Green and aromatic notes of lily of the valley, jasmine, violet, nutmeg and rose create a harmonious fragrance profile, which deepens into base notes of green accord, musk, oakmoss and green tea. This unforgettable scent is diverse enough to be used by all genders, ages and identifications.