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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 a shopping for a new scent to wear on the big day or a buying a special gift, searching for a fragrance can be dizzying (and we mean that both literally and figuratively). Smelling one after another at a perfume counter can get tricky, and it's even more seemingly impossible when you're ordering online.
For those who prefer to shop in person, 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 suggest. "See how these scents develop and you will naturally be drawn to one.”
Luckily, we've taken the pressure off by doing the leg work (or smell tests, rather) for those who prefer to order online. Ahead, a comprehensive guide to the best colognes for men, from sophisticated scents to woody blends. No matter which one you choose, you’ll surely keep it on your reorder list.
Read on for the best colognes for men.
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.
Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Toilette
A modern take on traditional masculinity, Yves Saint Laurent's Y Eau de Toilette blends earthy, woody scents with juicy freshness. At its base, soft notes of balsam fir, cedar wood, and marine ambergris embody the energy of a tailored suit that is refined and chic.
Jo Malone Oud & Bergamot Cologne Intense
Juxtaposition is the name of the game with this cologne. Citrus notes of Amalfi 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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 on 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.