They say it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to master any skill. And when it comes to recommending fragrances to people, we hope that having sniffed a good 10,000 of these makes us somewhat of an authority on the topic. Prescribing a cologne to any one person comes with a lot of risks, starting with the investment in the product itself (upwards of $200 or even $600)—not to mention the fact that this scent needs to impress its intended audience (like a room full of colleagues, a spouse on the daily, or a first-impressions dinner date). And it also has to suit the demand of the wearer, whether it’s going to be used as a signature scent, a seasonal pick or an occasion-based fragrance. There’s a lot riding on this purchase, and no two people have the same variables in play. Thus, in making recommendations for the best cologne for men, we’ve got to really showcase the most universal favorites based on specific scenarios and needs. Below, we’re going to do exactly that.
The Best Cologne for Men
Best Signature Scent
The Best Spring Cologne for Men
Richard James Aqva Aromatica Blade of Grass
In the spring, you want a cologne that feels like “in bloom” with the world around you. Something green that lifts the spirits—and might even do the same all winter long, reminding you of sunnier days ahead. Richard James’ brilliant Blade of Grass scent is pretty on the nose with its name: Somehow, the blend of vetiver, green tea, fig tree and moss creates the essence of a freshly mown lawn. It’s as fresh and as spellbinding as a dewy April morning.
Etat Libre d’Orange Exit The King
We all lighten up in in warmer weather, and your seasonal scent should be akin to that “Summer Fridays” feeling. Choose something floral and green: we prescribe Exit the King for this season, a scent that is “chypre” or cypress-like. It’s got moss, flowers and even soapy elements, but underneath all of that is a soothing patchouli, musky, sandalwood simmer. It’s perfect for a soothing summer.
Arquiste Indigo Smoke
The best scents for winter will also feel hugely misplaced any other time of year, like a turtleneck or Christmas song in June. That’s because they warm the spirits with spicy or smoky notes, and for that reason they feel heavy on the senses. Take the exquisite Indigo Smoke, for example: it evokes the tradition of burning tea leaves in ancient China, with notes of black tea, incense, pine tar and guaiac wood. The result is hypnotic, and something that will feel polarizing come April—but from November through March, it’ll be hard to beat.
Dior Sauvage Elixir
Depending on your office—or your specific role in the office—you might need something that feels buttoned up and somewhat C-level. Still, you don’t want to intimidate with your fragrance, so it’s best to choose something that feels commanding but uplifting at the same time. Funny enough, these scents sometimes break seasonal conventions and, regardless of when you wear them, would otherwise be classified as fall or winter scents—or even evening ones (while lacking the sensuality of a date-night scent, of course). Choose something like Dior’s Sauvage Elixir, a highly concentrated spin on its signature scent, which casts a spice-tinged radius of cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and licorice. It gets gravity from vetiver, amber and patchouli, but owes its approachability to refreshing lavender and crisp grapefruit.
Gucci The Alchemist’s Garden A Gloaming Night
Your black tie scent should be a real top-shelf juice. It’s less sensual than a date-night pick, but as sexy as any cleaned-up gentleman can be. Gucci’s A Gloaming Night will turn heads on a variety of occasions (and is a worthy fall-to-spring pick, if you wear the fanciest pants in your workplace). But when unleashed at a wedding, gala or fundraiser, this patchouli-vetiver-cinnamon scent is the Dom Pérignon of the olfactory game.