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Best Cologne for Men 2023

best cologne for men

You’ve come a long way since high school. Gone are the days of Axe body spray, Drakkar Noir, and $10 men’s fragrance knockoffs from CVS. Now we’re grown men who know how they want to smell and — most importantly — how they don’t want to smell. Finding that signature scent is an olfactory art; a delicate combination of trial, error, and everything in between. Whether you’re going for the kind of smell that leaves a strong impression or gentle reminder, it all comes down to the type of fragrance you use. Here’s a little explainer of the differences between cologne, eau de toilette, and aftershave.


What is a personal fragrance?

Think of your personal fragrance as a cocktail of your favorite ingredients; an easy mixture of essential oils, extracts, and other aromatic compounds blended together to create a harmonious scent significantly better than a person’s stripped-down body odor.

Believe it or not, cologne — or some version of it — can be traced back to the 2nd millennium B.C., when a Mesopotamian chemist named Tappiuti distilled flowers, oil, and calamus with other aromatics as a precursor to what we now know as perfume. Jump forward to the 16th and 17th centuries, where personal fragrances were primarily used by the wealthy to mask the smell of B.O. from infrequent bathing. Since then, they’ve become a massive industry and — thankfully — a cultural norm. Now, you can smell like anyone or anythingyou want… provided you practice bathing in some way or another.

Eau de what?! The different kinds of men’s fragrances.

Parfum? Cologne? Eau de toilette?

How are we supposed to understand the nuances in these fragrances, let alone how you’re supposed to use them? Let’s talk about concentration -- and not the kind you use when you’re trying to leave a tip at the bar. Concentration determines the intensity and longevity of the aromatic compounds, or perfume, oils within your fragrance. The higher the concentration of aromatics, the stronger the smell.

Here are the different types of fragrances and their respective concentration levels:

Understanding men's fragrances.

Describing a fragrance isn’t too dissimilar from choosing a fine bottle of wine. Fragrances are known to have three sets of notes: top, middle, and base. These notes unfold over time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes,with the base notes gradually appearing as the legacy of the scent.

Top Notes: The scent perceived immediately upon application: these notes form a person’s initial impression, making it a vital part of discerning the body of the scent. Always remember to take the top note as part of the scent, rather than the whole shebang, as the first whiff doesn’t always showcase the full scent.

Middle Notes: The smell that gradually emerges prior to the dissipation of the top notes. The middle notes form the "heart" of a fragrance, masking any unpleasant initial impressions of the base notes.

Base Notes:Like a fine cocktail, the base and middle notes come together to reflect the main theme of a fragrance while presenting an overall scent. Base notes are typically very rich and robust, but won’t come through until 30 minutes after application.

How to apply a fragrance.

Step 1: Repeat after us: LESS. IS. MORE. The idea is for people to appreciate the scent, not be overwhelmed by it. Don’t get fooled into thinking dousing yourself in cologne will make it last longer. All you need is a spritz or two.

Step 2:Fragrances should be put on from bottom to top, with the application concentrating on pulse points; i.e. behind the ears, neck, armpits, and wrists. Keep in mind, you don’t need to hit all of your pulse points at once, so pick one and go with it.

Step 3: Let your scent sink in. By applying on pulse points, the fragrance will distribute evenly around the body. Spray and walk away.

The Five Best Men’s Colognes For Any Occasion

When you were in high school, choosing cologne was one of those far-off adult concepts like taxes, potlucks, or jury duty. You either showered yourself in Axe or didn’t shower at all. Now, we’re older, wiser, and generally know how we want to smell like as adults.

For most men, picking out a cologne is like getting a tattoo — or, at least, a tattoo that washes off in the shower. Whether you’re into Tom Ford, Acqua di Parma, or a casual spritz of Royall Spyce, finding your signature smell makes you who you are. To help guide you on that olfactory journey, we whipped up five men’s colognes and Eau de Toilettes that you have to smell to believe.