It’s men’s cologne time, baby. Now that we’re well into the year, we’re due for another round-up of the best scents for men. This year’s selection builds upon a range of the best mens cologne and unisex fragrances that we’ve personally tried and tested.
You’ll find Valentino, Burberry, Histoires de Parfums, Creed, Comme des Garcons, Jo Malone, Maison Martin Margiela, Le Labo, Bottega Veneta and some more obscure fragrances from perfumeries all over the world.
From oriental, to spicy, woody and deluxe leather scented men’s cologne, we’ve got you covered with a couple of curve balls as well as some of the most iconic men’s cologne to exist.
Maison Margiela Replica Jazz Club
Maison Margiela began life as a French luxury fashion house in 1988 by Belgian designer, Martin Margiela. Since conquering the world of haute couture and ready to wear, the label focused their efforts on fragrances and the result is simply stunning to look at and even more appealing to wear.
The specifics of this particular scent known as Replica Jazz Club resurrects the essence of a hidden Brooklyn Jazz Club – a balmy base scent of musk, vanilla, tonka bean, vetiver, and tobacco leaves combined to evoke a familiar but forgotten moment. If sinking deep into a leather armchair with a cocktail whilst zoning out to the sweet tunes of a sax sounds like your kind of night then this is your kind of scent.
We picked up this fragrance in Milan and it’s the perfect mix of wood, whiskey and leather with an ever so slight sweet edge.
Expect notes such as Pink Pepper, Primofiore Lemon, Neroli Oil, Rum Absolute, Clary Sage Oil, Java Vetiver Oil, Tobacco Leaf Absolute, Vanilla Bean, and Styrax Resin.
Eight & Bob
A fragrance with an illustrious history. It all started when Albert Fouquet, the son of a Parisian aristocrat, embarked on a life as part of the elite French society in the early twentieth century. He was also a perfume connoisseur at heart during this time and in a room on the upper floor of the family chateau, Fouquet experimented with smells for his own personal use aided by Philippe, the family butler.
At social events he would surprise everyone with an exquisite fragrance that became increasingly in demand within the exclusive social circle he frequented. However, Fouquet continually rejected proposals to market his fragrance. Until he met John F. Kennedy. The American would eventually befriend Fouquet and requested that Albert send him eight samples, “and if your production allows, another one for Bob”. It was here in 1937 that Eight + Bob was born.
This amazing specimen became JFK’s signature aftershave. It has notes of amber and wood. Just simply an amazing fragrance.
TOM FORD Noir Extreme
Coveted menswear designer Tom Ford needs no introduction. His immaculately crafted suits evoke a classicism of a bygone era custom made for today’s world. As such, celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and Daniel Craig have been graced with Ford’s finest wears. One of his latest offerings in the fragrance department though is an amber drenched, woody oriental fragrance with a tantalising and delectable heart.
Tom Ford Noir offers a full-bodied masculine scent to men with extensive notes including Italian bergamot, verbena, caraway, baie rose (pink pepper), violet flower, heart notes: black pepper, nutmeg, Tuscan Iris resin, Egyptian Geranium, Bulgarian Rose and Clary Sage amongst a few more.
We picked this up in Dubai. It’s super.
Say hello to Mr. Burberry, a new fragrance for men inspired by both the iconic black trench coat and by London – a city of great contrasts. Long known for its makings in the quintessential styling of London’s best dressed, Burberry turned their attention to a brand new fragrance in 2016. The bolder and more masculine follow up to My Burberry was created by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian and features a structure of a classic aromatic fougère. In normal people terms that means a woody and herbal aroma inspired by the tradition of British perfumery.
Notes include zesty accords of grapefruit, cardamom and tarragon whilst the heart notes include birch leaf, nutmeg oil and cedar, followed by the base of sandalwood, vetiver and guaiac wood. Fun fact: The neck of the glass bottle is decorated with the same gabardine material Burberry uses to make its amous trench coats.
Icon By Alfred Dunhill
Step inside the wide world of Alfred Dunhill, a name that was established way back in 1893 and specialises in British luxury goods including ready-to-wear, custom and bespoke threads. We’re not here for that though. Under the label’s new creative director John Ray, Dunhill launched a brand new men’s fragrance in early 2015.
Its creator says that it’s the perfect expression of natural refinement, a translation of the luxurious and classic heritage of the Dunhill house with a touch of modernity. On the notes side, Icon is composed of an aromatic-woody scent with an opening of fresh bergamot and neroli absolute. Its heart note includes spicy and aromatic notes of black pepper, lavender and cardamom, leaning on a woody base of smoky oud, vetiver, leather and oak moss.
Serpentine by Comme des Garcons
French in sound but Japanese in origin, Comme Des Garcons is the work of label founder Rei Kawakubo. High fashion was the name of the game here but ever since its launch in 1969, the brand has branched into fragrances and one of their latest is Serpetine. This well-balanced unisex scent features notes such as grass, green leaves, galbanum, iris leaf, aldehydes, asphalt, musk, nutmeg, labdanum, cedar, benzoin, juniper and guaiac wood.
Pour Homme by Bottega Veneta
Bottega Veneta is a name which knows its way around Italian luxury circles and high fashion since 1966. For us though their standout winner is their first perfume for men, Bottega Veneta Pour Homme. The inspiration behind the scent was based on a journey of a man leaving region Veneto towards the north, towards the dolomites.
With adventure in its sights, the fragrance consists of refreshing top notes with accords of Calabrian bergamot, pine from Siberia and juniper from the Balkans. The heart adds spicy notes of Jamaican pepper warmed by Canadian fir resins enriched with Mediterranean clary sage, resting on strong Andalusian labdanum, leather and Indonesian patchouli.
1969 by Histoires de Parfums
The sexual revolution of 1969. What more can we say? The scent therefor evokes a feeling of romance in a bold outfit helped along by warm spices. Discovered this in Italy one year. Top note is peach; middle notes are rose, white flowers, cardamom and clove; base notes are musk, patchouli, mexican chocolate and coffee.
Ambre Nuit by Christian Dior
The Christina Dior name first came about in 1946 when its founder of the same name began creating fine luxury goods including fashion and leather goods. Today that name is recognised around the world and their fragrance for men is even more pioneering.
Ambre Nuit features bright and luminous fresh notes of grapefruit and sunny bergamot as an exciting overture to Turkish rose combined with passionate pink pepper. It’s a mysterious fragrance inspired by the baroque atmosphere and soirees of the 18th century so you can rest assured it’s defiantly elegant just like its fashion line.
Rose d’Arabie by Armani Prive
Started in 1975 by the man himself, Giorgio Armani has long been held in high esteem for its fashionable efforts. Extending this footprint into the perfumery sector sees the Rose d’Arabie by Armani Prive for men. The collection is named “La Collection des Mille et une Nuits,” and inspired by the medieval Arabic tales from 1001 nights. More specifically exotic mystery of the Orient with its warm, spicy and woody notes on the subject of rose, oud and amber.
Composition encompasses Damascus rose, patchouli, amber, saffron and precious wood mixed with golden dust.
UOMO by Valentino
** EDITOR’S FAVOURITE: Opens with bergamot and myrtle, succeeded in the heart by roasted coffee combined with gianduja cream, on a rich base created of cedar and precious leather.
Colonia Leather Eau de Cologne Concentrée by Acqua di Parma
Top notes of Colonia Leather Eau de Cologne Concentrée provide luminous scents of Brazilian orange combined with Sicilian lime. The heart adds rose and petit grain from Paraguay followed by leather, Atlas cedar and guaiac wood from Paraguay.
Cuir 28 by Le Labo
The fragrance features leather, vanilla absolute, woody notes, vetiver and musk.
Frederic Malle by Dries Van Noten
The fragrance features sandalwood, guaiac wood, tonka bean, vanilla, saffron, jasmine, musk, bergamot, lemon, nutmeg, cloves, patchouli, woody notes and peru balsam.
Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud
We picked this one up in Dubai. Darkest Damask rose. Rich and textural, wrapped with smoky oud wood. Spiked with clove, decadent with praline. Magnetic.
Encre Noire by Lalique
Top note is cypress; middle note is vetiver; base notes are musk and cashmere wood.
Forever Now by Gucci
Smooth leather and floral heart. There are also Moroccan and Bulgarian rose, jasmine from Grasse and exotic ylang-ylang. The base accords are vetiver, patchouli, precious woods, amber and musk.
Gentlemen Only Intense by Givenchy
Another D’Marge favourite. The composition opens with green mandarin oil, black pepper and birch leaf. Its magnetic heart includes notes of patchouli, Texas cedar and leather, placed on the sensual base of tonka bean, amber and incense.
Jardin d’Amalfi by Creed
Top notes: mandarin, bergamot, lemon, pink pepper and petit grain. Heart: cedar, rose and apple. Base: vetiver, white musk and cinnamon.
Oud by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Oud is enriched with woody and spicy notes of cedar, patchouli and saffron.
Santal Majuscule by Serge Lutens
The fragrance features sandalwood, cacao and damask rose.
Blue Encens by Comme des Garcons
This fragrance combines a strong fusion of mysterious incense and crushed artemisia, as contrast to frozen spices.
Sunday Cologne by Byredo
Top notes are cardamom, bergamot and star anise; middle notes are lavender, geranium and incense; base notes are vetiver, patchouli and oak moss.
Tobacco Oud by Tom Ford
The fragrance features agarwood (oud), tobacco, sandalwood, patchouli, spicy notes and whiskey.
Type D by Henrik Vibskov
Top notes are bergamot and pink pepper; middle notes are jasmine, african orange flower, cinnamon and ginger; base notes are sandalwood, tonka bean, vanille and styrax.
Upper Ten by Lubin
Before even scraping the scent’s surface, Upper Ten gives off a smoky, spicy suggestion reminiscent of the aromas of a late 19th Century Chicago gentleman’s club. However, on first spritz, top notes of Bergamot, Cardamom, Bay Rose, Saffron and Juniper Berry give way to Upper Ten as the scent of success that it is.
Velvet Orchid by Tom Ford
Velvet Orchid opens with bergamot, mandarin, Succan absolute (purified rum extract) and honey. At the core is Tom Ford’s distinctive, “timeless” signature – an imaginary accord of black orchid blended with notes of velvet orchid, which gives the perfume its name, with intense Turkish rose oil and jasmine and a new accord of purple orchid that grows in the wilds of southern Brazilian coast.
Whiskey by Commodity
Whiskey by Commodity is a Oriental Woody fragrance for men. Whiskey was launched in 2013. Top notes are bergamot, lemon and eucalyptus; middle notes are lavender, sage and ivy; base notes are amber, cinnamon, oak and black musk.
The Orchid Man by Frapin
The Orchid Man starts off fresh and exuberant with fragrant top nots of Madagascan Black Pepper and Calabrian Bergamot. As it settles, the aroma channels the iconic boxing glove with humid, hot and leather tones through base note additions of Patchouli, Black Amber and Oak Moss.
Royal Mayfair by Creed
Royal Mayfair by Creed is a Floral Fruity Gourmand fragrance for women and men. Top notes are gin, lime and pine tree; middle note is rose; base notes are orange, cedar and eucalyptus.
The pinnacle of British aristocracy can indeed be found in a bottle. This is one part of the Penhaligon’s Portraits collection, a tribute to the English spirit evoked by a fine balance of establishment, humour and provocation. The Penhaligon’s name has been around since 1870 so they’ve had ample time to hone in a fine selection of masculine scents with class. One of their latest from the Portraits range is the Roaring Radcliff, a scent that possesses hints of tobacco for a strong, smoky and distinctive offering. A hint of gingerbread adds a dash of sweet spiciness for that extra bit of charm.
A Brief History On Men’s Cologne
Once upon a time, pleasantly scented potions were a matter of necessity. One’s nose was constantly assaulted by the unpleasant odours of smoke, rotting food, and open sewers. And that was just the people – imagine what the actual sewers smelled like.
Long before modern perfumery began in the late 19th century, perfumes existed in some of the earliest human civilisations. The art of crafting scents began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, then was further refined by the Romans and Persians.
Knowledge of perfumery came to Europe as early as the 14th century, due in part to developments in the Middle East. Islamic cultures perfected the extraction of fragrances through steam distillation and introduced new raw materials to the industry. With that, fragrances were ready to move west.
Today’s colognes don’t perform such a purely practical purpose, but they do serve a more interesting one: helping you get lucky. Pair the right scent with the right man and some kind of sorcery happens. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, you just haven’t met The One yet (scent, that is).
Men’s Cologne Tips
The best mens cologne must be thoughtfully paired with the specific situations and occasions in which it will be worn. Seductive dark, tobacco and woody smells suit evening events, while fresher or citrus fragrances work better for everyday wear and the office.
The last thing you want to do is be known as the ‘too much men cologne’ guy at work, so choose appropriately and apply sparingly.
Most of the best mens cologne and fragrances can be purchased online, however we recommend trying them on in store first. Spray some on in the shop, then go for a walk and see how it smells after 15 minutes. Most mens colognes smell different on everyone. Your skin and pheromones react with the potion to personalise the scent, meaning you don’t have to drop thousands on a custom cologne to get something unique.
Tips From The Experts
Briony Wright, OdeLab.com
“Choosing a new fragrance should be a fun time but it does have the tendency to be overwhelming.
By the time you’ve sampled your fourth average fragrance at a large department store you’ll likely have scent fatigue so a better place to begin is a smaller boutique specialising in fewer lines which has done some of the ground work for you.
Decide whether you’re after something fresh and light or a heavier scent and stick to that category. Then just start spraying. Remember that any aftershave will smell quite different on your skin to how it comes across on a cardboard scent strip, so make sure you test the favourites on yourself.
It’s nice to ultimately have a collection including a fragrance from each scent category, for instance: a citrus, a woody, a floral, a spicy and a marine – this way you’re covered regardless of the mood or occasion.”
Samantha Taylor’s Top Picks, The Powder Room
Eight and Bob
The story behind this fragrance is almost as good as the smell. Whether the fascinating story of Albert Fouquet and JFK chance meeting is true or not, the fragrance is a timeless classic in the cologne style.
Serpentine by Comme de Garcon
Comme de Garcon do quirky very well. Serpentine is not just a snapshot of the London park, but of London itself including notes of asphalt and grass. It makes for a green fragrance with a dark heart.
Colonia Leather Eau de Cologne Concentrée
Aqua di Parma Colonia is a fragrance wardrobe staple, one that every man should own. This latest incarnation takes the sophisticated freshness of Colonia and combines it with the warmth of leather and woods. Delicious. Apply liberally in winter.
Dries Van Notten for Frederic Malle
An intimate self portrait that reflects the elements of Dries designs, this fragrance is an enveloping scent that stays close to the skin. A touch of vanilla sweetens the woods and spices.
Santal Majuscule by Serge Lutens
Santal Majuscule is an homage to sandalwood, creamy and smokey with a twist of cocoa. This is the perfect winter aftershave to wrap around you on a cold night.
Blue Encens by Comme de Garcon
I love this fragrance, I classify it as a men’s cologne wardrobe essential. A spicy incense with a cool blast of aromatic artemesia, Blue Encens is ideal for a business meeting or a lunch date.