Some men wear the same cologne for years—decades, even—and others swap their scent depending on their mood or the occasion. Whether you're shopping for a new scent to wear on the big day or you're buying a special gift, searching for a fragrance can be dizzying (and we mean that both literally and figuratively).
We tapped Celine Roux, Head of Global Fragrance at Jo Malone London, for tips on where to start your search for your signature scent. "Firstly, think whether you are looking for something fresh and uplifting or woody and warm—this will naturally steer your choice," says Roux. "In general, I would say it’s always good to have freshness within the scent.” Roux also recommends trying a range of colognes, saying most people avoid certain fragrances due to a single ingredient, but the blend can be completely unexpected. "Try opposite fragrances on each arm, leaving them to settle on your skin," she suggests. "See how these scents develop and you will naturally be drawn to one.”
For a real-time scent test, avoid the tester strips and spritz one to four pumps of the cologne you're interested in on clean, dry skin—ideally, your pulse points, such as your inner wrists and neck—and let it sit for a while before purchasing to see how it reacts with your body chemistry.
If you're not sure where to start, fear not. We've done the leg work (or smell tests, rather) to help you find the perfect fragrance. While choosing a scent will ultimately come down to personal style and preference, we considered each cologne's longevity, freshness, and overall value. For those who want something warm and woody, our favorites include Chanel Bleu de Chanel and Versace Eros. Looking for a fresh and citrusy fragrance? Opt for the Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio.
Chanel Bleu de Chanel
Bleu de Chanel has everything you want in a cologne: freshness and longevity. It's crisp, refined, and elegant, but not in a way that reminds you of grandpa. It's not too musky, either. Instead, it boasts a woody cedar undertone with lingering traces of grapefruit, making it a fresh, clean-smelling option. The scent itself is also very strong, meaning one spray of this can last the entire day, but you can still apply it generously if you choose.
Price at time of publish: $90
We don't know what's cooler, the beautiful Art Deco–style bottle or the addition of mint in this fresh and tropical scent. Infused with orange, Italian lemon zest, green apple, tonka beans, amber, woody vanilla, vetiver, and moss, this fusion of scents wears well in the summer but is a pretty universal cologne overall. A few spritzes of this will last all day, and even better, it layers well with other colognes if you want to mix and match your scents.
Price at time of publish: $75 for 1.7 oz bottle
Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio
Gracing the necks of men everywhere since 1996, this modern classic is one of those scents that works all the time. Musk combines with bergamot, neroli, rosemary, and patchouli to scream earthy in the best way. The scent isn't too overpowering, making it a great option for those who find themselves sensitive to certain smells. And, fortunately, it's still very long-lasting.
Price at time of publish: $75 for 1.7 oz bottle
Tom Ford Tuscan Leather
As the name suggests, Tom Ford's Tuscan Leather merges leather and suede with notes of jasmine for a sensual and sophisticated scent, and the addition of saffron warms things up even further. A little goes a long way with this cologne, and it lasts for hours on end. We also love the brown bottle that's carved to mimic the shape of a chess piece. It will look great displayed on the bathroom counter with any other personal grooming products.
Price at time of publish: $175 for 1.0 oz bottle
Dior Sauvage Elixir
The epitome of a modern classic, Sauvage is a spicy, fresh scent sure to grab the attention of anyone you pass. This warm blend of amber and cedar, topped with pepper and lavender undertones is unique yet sure to be a fan favorite for years to come. It's not too overpowering, and the scent does last a long time on the skin.
Price at time of publish: $165 for 2.0 oz bottle
Maison Margiela Replica Jazz Club
Aptly named Jazz Club, this whiskey-colored cologne bottles the smell of a dimly lit jazz club billowing with cigar smoke and decorated with leather chairs. Warm and spicy, it boasts notes of pink pepper, rum, and tobacco. We love that it works as a unisex cologne, and it will garner a lot of compliments when you wear it. The only downside is it's not as long-lasting as other options on this list, but it does come in a convenient travel size if you want to take it on the go to reapply.
Price at time of publish: $144 for 3.4 oz bottle
Jo Malone Oud & Bergamot Cologne Intense
Juxtaposition is the name of the game with this cologne. Citrus notes of Amalfi Coast-inspired lemon and orange rival woody tones of cedar and oud—it all unites to form a clean, masculine fragrance. Since oud can be polarizing, this balanced blend is a good choice for those who want to experiment with the ingredient. It layers very well with lighter scents, so you can customize it to your liking. No matter how you wear it—alone or mixed—it will last a long time on the skin and is a great scent to take you from your office to a night out on the town.
Price at time of publish: $205 for 3.4 oz bottle
Prada Luna Rossa Ocean Eau de Toilette
Aptly named, this aquatic cologne is a breath of fresh air. Fusing clean bergamot with sensual vetiver and a touch of elegance via iris, this classy blend is great for everyday wear. The light scent isn't too overpowering, so it works well for those who don't want a strong scent. It's also great for layering with other colognes if you want to experiment. It lasts for hours on the skin, so you can expect to smell this in the morning and at the end of your day.
Price at time of publish: $100 for 3.4 oz bottle
Gucci The Alchemist's Garden, The Last Day of Summer
This one is a work of art, from the lacquered glass bottle to the warming, cozy scent. With notes of cedar, cypress, and nutmeg, along with woody undertones of patchouli and vetiver swirling inside, this scent from Gucci's Haute perfumery line is luxury at its best. It's designed to layer with the other fragrances in the line, so you can build your very own custom scent.
Price at time of publish: $350
Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Parfum
This fragrance makes its mark right from the start with a trio of fresh notes, bergamot, ginger, and apple at its core. Juniper berries and geranium add to the freshness, while vanilla tonka bean gives it a hint of sweetness. Finally, sage and a big dose of amber give this blend a warm, woody feel. It has great longevity on the skin, and the nozzle sprays a generous amount, so one spritz is all you need.
Price at time of publish: $115 for 2.0 oz bottle
This blend of juniper, cedarwood, and spicy black pepper exudes a sense of luxury and sophistication. Bold yet fresh, this cologne was created by creative director Riccardo Tisci and is truly an icon in itself. It generally lasts a few hours on the skin, but if you want all-day wear from this scent you will need to reapply. Still, it's not overpowering and great to wear every day.
Price at time of publish: $87 for 1.7 oz bottle
Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt Cologne
Just about as close as you can get to bottling actual ocean air, this sea salt cologne is an excellent scent for summer and beyond, and an added note of sage provides a freshness that's perfect for the outdoorsy man. Overall, it's very subtle but still strong enough to garner compliments from anyone passing by. While it may need to be reapplied, its light nature layers well with other colognes so you can customize your scent.
Price at time of publish: $80 for 1 oz bottle
Calvin Klein Eternity for Men
Calvin Klein Eternity is a classic fougère blend packed with green botanicals, including sage and vetiver. Subtle tones of woodsy cedar make it a fresh, outdoorsy smell that can be worn casually or as a daily recurrent. Since it lasts long on the skin, this pick can easily be a signature scent for anyone.
Price at time of publish: $67
While bright and citrus scents most often describe more feminine scents, Hermès's first fragrance was designed with "the contemporary man" in mind. Featuring notes of clary sage, narcissus, and rosewood, it's perfect for spring and summer. However, the warming rosewood makes it a year-round favorite, too. If you aren't someone who likes to wear the same scent days in a row, this one may change your mind. It's long-lasting and perfectly unique.
Price at time of publish: $82 for 1.6 oz bottle
Hugo Boss BOSS Bottled by Eau de Toilette
Crisp and fresh at the top, thanks to green apple and bergamot, this musky scent is sophisticated yet suitable for everyday wear. It's also injected with cardamom and cinnamon, which gives it a warmth that wears well as the day goes on. Still, it's not overpowering, so it's great for those sensitive to strong smells. Overall, it's a cologne you can rely on for any occasion, including your wedding day.
Price at time of publish: $96 for 3.3 oz bottle
Celine Black Tie
Formulated for a night out (think date nights, nighttime wedding receptions, and honeymoon outings), Celine's Black Tie is an impeccably tailored fragrance. Composed of orris butter, cedar, tree moss, and vanilla, it strikes just the right balance between musky and sweet. This unisex cologne will last for hours, making it well worth the high price tag.
Price at time of publish: $240 for 3 oz bottle
Byredo Mojave Ghost Eau de Parfum
Escape city life and be transported to the Mojave Desert with this evocative scent. At first, it gives off notes of amber, violet, and magnolia, and as the blend is worn throughout the day, heady notes of musk and amber emerge. While it's on the subtle side of scents, it's still strong enough to garner plenty of compliments from anyone passing by. It's great for both everyday wear and for special occasions.
Price at time of publish: $200 for 1.6 oz bottle
What to look for in a men’s cologne
Personal fragrance is so, well, personal. The truth is, there are no rules when selecting a cologne. It all comes down to what smells right to you and what wears best on your skin. That's right, the same fragrance can smell different on your skin as it does on another person. First, decide if you'd rather lean into a woody or more fresh scent. It's also a good idea to consider how long scents are made to last–do you want something that lasts all day or a fragrance that only smells for a few hours between spritzes?
If you're not sure what the best scent is for you, it's always a good idea to test out fragrances at a department store counter or boutique. Just don't try too many at once—take breaks with fresh air and a whiff of coffee beans, which are said to help reset and neutralize smells.
What is the best way to apply cologne?
It's best to spritz it directly onto clean, dry skin—after a shower is ideal—targeting pulse points, such as inner wrists and neck. Hold the bottle three to six inches away from your skin and try not to exceed four pumps.
How do I shop for a cologne?
Since it's such a sensory experience, it's best to hunt for a new signature scent in person. Visit a cologne counter and get your favorite ones in direct contact with your skin. Pro tip: stay away from the tester strips and spritz them on your skin for a real-time scent test. If you have time, let the fragrance sit for a while before purchasing—you may find that the scent interacts with your body chemistry and changes slightly as you wear it.
Do I need to buy a new cologne for my wedding day?
Not if you don't want to! It's fun to experiment on special occasions, but if you have a scent you already love, feel free to hold it close on your big day. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and at ease at your wedding—if you're going to try a new cologne, give it a few test runs ahead of the event so you will be sure it doesn't overwhelm.
Why Trust Brides
Brides contributor Stephanie Montes has been testing the latest trends in skincare, hair, and makeup and exploring all things current in clothes and accessories for over 10 years. Stephanie's bylines have also appeared on Elle, Byrdie, Who What Wear, Women's Health, Well + Good, and more. In her career, she has interviewed countless experts, including luxury perfumers.