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18 Best Colognes for Men: A Scent for Every Occasion

Best Colognes for Men
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Updated January 24, 2024

You know how this goes: You’re in the cologne section of the store, hoping to find a scent that suits you, but the experience is overwhelming. Used test strips litter the floor, nearby couples argue, a salesperson assures you that this season’s big new trend is smelling like freshly burnt hair. Thick clouds of fragrance roll by like film noir fog, causing emotional support dogs to sneeze uncontrollably. Your nose quickly loses its ability to distinguish between scents. All you wanted to do was to smell nice. What’s a guy to do?

Well, for starters, you could come prepared. This list of the 18 best colognes for men will help you identify what you like specifically—whether it’s spicy, summery, sexy, or subtle—then point you in the right direction to find it. In other words follow our suggestions, then follow your nose. And if you’re looking for suitable Valentine’s Day gifts for your significant other, you’ll definitely find a lot here to love.

How to choose a cologne

Find your signature scent

“The first step is discovering your signature scent,” says Jim Christian, a fragrance mega-enthusiast who owns more than 50 bottles of cologne (and is currently testing a further 50 samples), all organized by season. “This is your daily go-to fragrance, something that’s equally safe in the office or on a nice dinner date. Versatility is key! Once you have that nailed down, you can start building your collection by shopping for fragrances that are specific for seasons and special occasions.”

Consider your own body chemistry

“Forget the marketing and ignore the salesperson’s spiel,” advises style expert and digital creator Gabrielle Johnson. “The most important things to consider with a new cologne are how the scent mixes with your body chemistry to create a unique smell, and how long that smell lasts. Get yourself to a sample counter and spritz cologne directly onto your wrist, not one of those paper testers. Let the scent dry down and take note of how it wears on your skin throughout the day. If you love it an hour later, three hours later, and six hours later, you’ve got yourself a winner.”

Have fun with it!

But just as important as finding the right scent for you is to enjoy the experience of discovery. “Men need to have more fun and experiment with fragrance,” says fashion and lifestyle journalist Max Berlinger. “Scent is so ephemeral, why not play with it? The cool thing about colognes is that they actually mix with your own unique body chemistry, so if you smell something on one person, it may not smell the same on you. But it’s kinda fun to build up a cologne ‘wardrobe’ – something for day to day, something for summer, something for sexy time. It’s nice to have maybe three to five at your disposal.”

Tips for applying your cologne

“The number one thing men get wrong when it comes to cologne is wearing way too much,” says Johnson. “If I’m five feet away from you and I can immediately pinpoint the scent you sprayed this morning, you overdid it.”

So what’s the best approach? “As a rule, I personally like my scent to be subtle, something you can only smell when you’re within a foot or so, which is usually a mist-and-walk-through situation,” says Berlinger, explaining that he’ll spritz the fragrance a couple times in the air, then walk through it. He does warn, however, that this will fade fairly quickly.

For a more long-lasting (and initially at least, stronger smelling) approach, Christian recommends applying unscented lotion to your skin, post-shower, before you apply.

“Hold the bottle three or four inches away and spritz a small amount on your pulse points (think neck and wrists)”, says Johnson. “Don’t rub it in! The scent will fade faster if you do. And never spray cologne on your clothes, it can actually damage the fabric.”

Our top picks

Best classic cologne: Acqua di Parma

Acqua di Parma

“This scent is timeless, elegant, charming, and universally appealing – the George Clooney of colognes, if you will,” says Johnson. “It’s been around since 1916 but smells as fresh and wearable as anything on the market today. Its sparkling combination of citrus and woody notes evokes sunny days on the Italian Riviera, and who doesn’t want to smell like he’s on permanent vacation at Clooney’s Lake Como villa?”

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Citrus, lemon verbena, jasmine, vetiver, amber
Best classic cologne
Acqua di Parma Colonia Eau de Cologne Natural Spray at Nordstrom, Size 6 Oz

Acqua di Parma Colonia Eau de Cologne Natural Spray at Nordstrom, Size 6 Oz



Best Valentine’s Day gift cologne: Arquiste Indigo Smoke

Arquiste Indigo Smoke

More than anything, this cologne reminds me of a more mature, unisex version of my beloved–and tragically discontinued–Hugo Boss Soul. A perfect balance of sweet and smoky, it mixes woody notes with incense, lapsang souchong tea, bergamot, and apricot, creating an irresistible aroma that manages to be fresh, despite its more intense, earthy notes. Packed with sex appeal and ideal for casual dates or special occasions, it’s perfect for reminding your partner to take you somewhere nice once in a while (and especially on Valentine’s Day).

  • Size: 100ml
  • Price: $205
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Lapsang souchong tea, bergamot, apricot, incense, pine tar
Best Valentine’s Day gift cologne
Arquiste Indigo Smoke

Arquiste Indigo Smoke

Best affordable classic cologne: St. Johns Bay Rum

St. Johns Bay Rum

A very different classic scent, Bay Rum–which has been around for more than 70 years–starts as an absolute clove bomb, but somehow manages not to be overpowering. It evolves in the dry down to a deliciously nostalgic mix of bay leaves, musk, cinnamon, and eucalyptus, ending up somewhere between Christmassy and old-school Caribbean explorer. It might be a little too retro for some (especially those whose dads or grandads wore it), but speaking personally, I can’t get enough of it.

  • Size: 120ml
  • Price: $60
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, musk, eucalyptus
Best affordable classic cologne
St. John Bay Rum Aftershave and Cologne | Made with Bay Leaves from The Virgin Islands | Bay Leaf After Shave Fragrance for Men | (4 oz)

St. John Bay Rum Aftershave and Cologne | Made with Bay Leaves from The Virgin Islands | Bay Leaf After Shave Fragrance for Men | (4 oz)

Best everyday cologne: ARQUTSTE Misfit

ARQUTSTE Misfit

A warm, spicy fragrance that would suit your day job as well as your nightlife, this is a perfect all-rounder without the ordinariness that might imply. Notes of amber and French lavender mix with patchouli (“This is definitely one to sample if you love patchouli,” says Christian) to create a scent both reassuringly earthy and intriguingly compelling. It’s admittedly more of a unisex fragrance than a traditional cologne, but that’s what’s currently popular among scent-lovers, so you’ll find a few more like that on this list.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Price: $205
  • Notes: Notes: Bergamot, angelica, musk, patchouli, tonka bean
Best everyday cologne
ARQUISTE Parfumeur Misfit Eau de Parfum 100ml

ARQUISTE Parfumeur Misfit Eau de Parfum 100ml



Best spring cologne: Clean Rain

clean rain

When the weather’s mild, bright and prone to the occasional downpour, a light, clean fragrance feels like the way to go. Rain combines chilled cucumber, white flowers, and rainforest vetiver to create an almost petrichor-like experience. “This one’s as straightforward as they get and appealingly fresh,” says Johnson. “It’s an ideal starter fragrance for the man who’s beginning his scent journey and just wants to smell good.”

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Melon, water lily, vetiver, cucumber, daisy
Best spring cologne
CLEAN RESERVE Reserve - Rain, Size: 1.7 FL Oz, Multicolor

CLEAN RESERVE Reserve - Rain, Size: 1.7 FL Oz, Multicolor



Best summer cologne: Wood Sage Sea Salt Cologne

 Wood Sage Sea Salt Cologne

The top notes of this cologne might seem a little too floral to some, but it’s such a light, uplifting scent—with notes of grapefruit in with the salt and sage—that it cuts right through those muggy summer days, feeling refreshing in ways that a heavier, muskier cologne could never hope to manage. One big drawback is that it has very little longevity, meaning you’ll need to reapply throughout the day. But in a season that involves so much jumping into pools, changing of outfits and emergency showers, that’s not such a big deal. “I love this one!” says Berlinger. “I love how herbal and tangy it is, it makes me feel like I’m a wood nymph!”

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Weak
  • Notes: Sage, sea salt, grapefruit, musk
Best summer cologne
Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne - 100 ml

Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne - 100 ml



Best fall cologne: Replica Jazz Club

Replica Jazz Club

Although designed to capture the sensation of slinking into some intimate private members bar, full of leather armchairs and plumes of high-end cigar smoke, Jazz Club works equally well at making you yearn for the season of warm boots, big coats, and tromping through giant piles of crunchy orange leaves. (Weirdly, it does a better job of the latter than its own sister scent, Autumn Vibes.) Peppery, sweet, and with hints of rum and tobacco, it’s a sophisticated, memorable scent, even when there isn’t a trumpet solo in the offing.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Strong
  • Notes: Pink pepper, rum, sage, tobacco leaf, vanilla
Best fall cologne
Maison Margiela REPLICA' Jazz Club Eau de Toilette 3.4 oz / 100 ml eau de toilette spray

Maison Margiela REPLICA' Jazz Club Eau de Toilette 3.4 oz / 100 ml eau de toilette spray



Best winter cologne: Replica By the Fireplace

Replica By the Fireplace

As you might expect, By the Fireplace has something of a smoky, woody smell when you first apply it. But this soon fades into a gorgeous, rich sweetness—vanilla, chestnuts, and red berries are all present—that frequently stops you in your tracks. A little definitely goes a long way with this one (“powerful” barely does it justice) but for instantly conjuring up an idealized, nostalgic holiday scene, all warm fires, hot chocolates, and quality time with people you love, there’s nothing else like it.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Very strong
  • Notes: Orange blossom, chestnut, pink pepper, cloves, vanilla
Best winter cologne
Maison Margiela 'REPLICA' By the Fireplace, Size: 3.4 FL Oz, Multicolor

Maison Margiela 'REPLICA' By the Fireplace, Size: 3.4 FL Oz, Multicolor



Best woody cologne: Molecule 03

Molecule 03

“This is another great, fresh scent for spring or summer,” says Christian. “It opens with fresh citrus, ginger, and woods.” Indeed, with cedar, sandalwood, and balsam making up most of the base notes here, and the fresh-cut grass scent of vetiver mingled throughout, it’s an uplifting, very natural-smelling fragrance that’ll have you pining (sorry, couldn’t help it) for the great outdoors.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Lime, ginger, pepper, vetiver, sandalwood
Best woody cologne
Escentric Molecules Molecule 03 Eau de Toilette, Unisex Fragrance, 3.4 Oz

Escentric Molecules Molecule 03 Eau de Toilette, Unisex Fragrance, 3.4 Oz



Best spicy cologne: Marrakech Intense

Marrakech Intense

Created with the aim of capturing the alluring brew of competing aromas from a souk in Marrakech, Aesop have blended a mouth-watering mix of clove, cardamon and sandalwood, with hints of jasmine and bergamot for good measure. “I love how arid and sort of fuzzy it is,” says Berlinger. “There’s a dry, elegant texture to this scent that I just love. I think it's a fun one for every day, it feels very casual yet special at the same time.”

  • Size: 50ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Cardamom, clove, bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood
Best spicy cologne
Aesop Marrakech Intense Eau de Parfum at Nordstrom, Size 1.7 Oz

Aesop Marrakech Intense Eau de Parfum at Nordstrom, Size 1.7 Oz



Best sweet cologne: Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille

 Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille

“The first time I smelled Tobacco Vanille, it was on a male acquaintance at a work event,” says Johnson. “I spent the entire evening discreetly trying to sniff his neck. I bought a bottle of it for my husband the very next day and can now inhale the intoxicating aroma without making things weird for everyone.” Although the name says it all—you’re getting tobacco and vanilla, here—it’s not one-note. “It’s balanced beautifully—sweet, smoky, sensual, and playful,” says Berlinger. It’s also not shy about making itself known. “Be careful with this fragrance,” warns Christian. “One or two sprays is all you need for this beast!”

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Very strong
  • Notes: Tobacco, vanilla, cacao, tonka bean, wood
Best sweet cologne
TOM FORD Tobacco Vanille Eau de Parfum Fragrance 1.7 oz/ 50 mL

TOM FORD Tobacco Vanille Eau de Parfum Fragrance 1.7 oz/ 50 mL

Read More about The Best Tom Ford Colognes: What to Wear, and When to Wear It



Best subtle cologne: Jo Malone Earl Grey and Cucumber

Jo Malone Earl Grey and Cucumber

Not everyone wants the entire subway car to be able to smell their cologne. For a little quiet, British sophistication, Jo Malone’s Earl Grey and Cucumber is a revelation, a mild yet deep beeswax and musk scent, layered beneath a light, refreshing mix of tea and bergamot (the cucumber is more of a suggestion, although there’s certainly a very fresh element to its top notes). It’s a discrete, personal scent that’ll make you – and anyone who gets intimately close to you – relax every time you smell it. It’s also a great starter pick for a cologne newbie.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Bergamot, jasmine, angelica, cucumber, beeswax
Best subtle cologne
Jo Malone London Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne at Nordstrom, Size 3.3 Oz

Jo Malone London Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne at Nordstrom, Size 3.3 Oz



Best cologne for date night: Le Labo Santal 33

 Le Labo Santal 33

This endlessly popular fragrance isn’t likely to surprise your date, but it isn’t going to disappoint them, either. “Ubiquitous? Certainly,” says Johnson. “Overdone? Arguably. Woody, rich, floral, and spicy all at once? Most definitely. You won’t get points for uniqueness wearing Santal 33, but you’ll smell pretty damn great.” Berlinger agrees. “Is it the Ugg of colognes? Maybe!” he says. “But who cares, if you like it, go off, king!”

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Strong
  • Notes: Sandalwood, leather, cardamom, violet, amber
Best cologne for date night
Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum at Nordstrom, Size 3.4 Oz

Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum at Nordstrom, Size 3.4 Oz



Best budget cologne: Calvin Klein CK Everyone

Calvin Klein CK Everyone

If you’ve stepped outside any time since the mid-90s, you’re familiar with the ubiquitous CK One, the first unisex fragrance to gain mass appeal in the US. CK Everyone is One’s modernized descendant, with lemon, green tea, and bergamot sitting atop jasmine, lychee, sandalwood, and amber to make a gorgeous double-punch of freshness and nostalgia. Everyone has the added bonus of sustainability, being vegan and coming in a box composed of recyclable materials.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Orange oil, tea, cedar, amber, patchouli
Best budget cologne
Calvin Klein Everyone Eau de Toilette, Size: 3.4 FL Oz, Multicolor

Calvin Klein Everyone Eau de Toilette, Size: 3.4 FL Oz, Multicolor



Best long-lasting budget cologne: Ahuja Majestic Oud

Ahuja Majestic Oud

Despite the overwhelmingly sweet and floral experience when you first put it on, Majestic Oud eventually calms down enough to let its woodier base notes shine through, and while it’s surprisingly light on the “oud” part, it’s still a pleasant, familiar scent. Most importantly for those seeking longevity in an inexpensive cologne, this lasts and lasts, still smelling strong–but not overpoweringly so–several hours later.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Price: $34.99
  • Longevity: Strong
  • Notes: Raspberry, rose, peony, patchouli, oud
Best long-lasting budget cologne
AHUJA Majestic Oud 3.4 fl oz Eau De Parfum Unisex

AHUJA Majestic Oud 3.4 fl oz Eau De Parfum Unisex



Best high-end cologne: Aventus Creed

Aventus Creed

“Nothing works better than Creed Aventus,” says Christian. “It's a huge compliment magnet.” With top notes of lemon, pink pepper, and bergamot giving way to pineapple and jasmine, before the base notes of birch, ambergris, and cedarwood kick in, it’s a heady, complex scent that’s earned its place as a perennial top seller since its arrival in 2010. The only downside is that, although the fragrance itself will leave your nose delighted, the price tag may well make your eyes water.

  • Size: 100ml
  • Longevity: Strong
  • Notes: Bergamot, pink pepper, jasmine, ambergris, musk
Best high-end cologne
Creed Aventus Fragrance at Nordstrom, Size 1.7 Oz

Creed Aventus Fragrance at Nordstrom, Size 1.7 Oz



Best sustainable cologne: Henry Rose Jake's House

Henry Rose Jake's House

Talking of sustainability, if that’s a major consideration, Michelle Pfeiffer’s (yes, that Michelle Pfeiffer) Henry Rose might be your brand. Free from unwanted ingredients like formaldehyde and phthalates (chemicals that can adversely affect your hormones), the fragrance comes in packaging that’s 90% recycled. It also smells fantastic – watery-fresh on top with jasmine, peony, and musk underneath, it feels green in every sense of the word.

  • Size: 50ml
  • Longevity: Moderate
  • Notes: Jasmine, peony, musk, honey
Best sustainable cologne
HENRY ROSE Jake's House Eau de Parfum at Nordstrom, Size 0.27 Oz

HENRY ROSE Jake's House Eau de Parfum at Nordstrom, Size 0.27 Oz

Best DIY cologne: Olfactory NYC

Don’t trust the experts to create your signature scent? Make your own! Inside the Olfactory store, you’ll explore nine different core scents, one of which will make up the base of your fragrance. You’ll then experiment with other scents to layer on top until you find one you love, at which point you’ll get your own personalized bottle. And if you can’t make it to the store, you can order both the core and “tinkerer” sets ($20 and $25, respectively) to play mad fragrance scientist at home.

  • Size: 50ml
  • Price: $85
  • Longevity: Variable
  • Notes: Variable

How we chose the best colognes for men

All of our selections were made through a combination of personal, hands-on (or rather, nose-on) experience, expert advice, and thorough research, especially diving into customer reviews to ensure all of our picks have majority positive reviews. Since scent is an incredibly subjective experience, you can’t truly know if a cologne is right for you until you wear it, but you can be sure, at least, that every cologne on our list has passed the smell test for most people.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is cologne?

Although often used to describe a men’s scent, the word “cologne” is actually a term that refers to the concentration of fragrance oils in the product (in cologne, the concentration level is 2%-5%, compared to, for example, 20%-40% in perfume). For hardcore scent-lovers, the preferred term is “fragrance,” but if you say cologne, people will generally know what you mean.

What are “notes” in cologne?

Notes are the layers of fragrance that make up the smell of your cologne. There are three layers to consider: The top notes, the middle (or “heart”) notes, and the base notes. Top notes are your first impression of a scent, and are usually lighter, fresher smells, fading within an hour to reveal the middle notes. These middle notes are the core of the fragrance, generally warm and appealing but complex, and lasting a good two to four hours. They play a vital role uniting the top notes with the earthy base notes below, which are rich, smooth, tones that linger on the skin long after the rest of the scent fades away—essentially, the lasting impression of the cologne.

What are some common notes in cologne?

  • Common top notes: Lemon, bergamot, basil, orange, anise.
  • Common middle notes: Jasmine, lemongrass, pepper, cardamon, clove.
  • Common base notes: Amber, sandalwood, vanilla, musk, cedarwood.

What is “sillage”?

While longevity refers to how long a scent lingers on your person, sillage refers to how much of a “trail” you leave behind you in the air (it’s a French word that directly translates to the wake left in the water by a ship). So scents with strong sillage will definitely leave an impression, even after you’ve walked away.

How do I know if I’m wearing too much cologne?

Look, everyone’s mileage varies when it comes to cologne, but ideally people shouldn’t be able to smell you from across the room. Per the National Institutes of Health, humans can detect over a trillion different odors, so the nose is clearly a sensitive piece of equipment. In extreme cases, an overpowering cologne can even set off asthma attacks and migraines in others, so bear that in mind when considering whether another spray or five is required. If you’ve applied correctly, you’ll still notice pleasant wafts of your scent throughout the day, but it should never be a constant, inescapable deluge of scent.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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