This article was produced in partnership with Blu Atlas
This year it’s time to prioritize your scent and branch out to new colognes you haven’t tried before. To get you started on the right path, we’ve put together this list of absolute must-have fragrances. Keep scrolling to find your signature scent in 2023.
How Do Scent Notes Work?
If you’ve done your cologne research, you’ve probably noticed the word “note” thrown around a lot when it comes to how fragrances smell. But what do notes actually mean and how do they work?
Top notes are the first ones you’ll smell when you spray your cologne. They’re often the lightest notes in the mix, and appear as a kind of welcome committee that introduces the rest of the fragrance. These will stick around for about 5–15 minutes, so if you’re not convinced by the top notes, give the cologne a little bit more of a chance!
Top notes are often made up of citrus elements (such as lemon or bergamot), light fruits (think grapefruit or berries), and herbs (like basil or sage).
Mid notes, also known as heart notes, make up the foundation of the whole fragrance and are considered to make up around 80 percent of the whole aromatic experience. So, yeah, you’ll want to make sure you like the mid notes of the cologne you choose, as these will stick around for 2–4 hours on average.
Mid notes are potent and polished, and usually consist of spices or intriguing scents like lemongrass, jasmine, or ylang ylang.
Once the mid notes have faded, it’s the base notes’ time to shine. They last about 4–6 hours after applications. If the top notes are the intro and the mid notes the meatiness of the fragrance, the base notes are the ones you can count on to deepen complexity and convey intensity.
Typical base notes are warm additions such as vanilla, musk, or tonka bean, which create a comforting effect.
How Do You Find the Best Smelling Cologne for You?
While certain colognes smell objectively higher quality than others, choosing the right scent for you comes down to personal preference. That being said, there are a few ways to narrow down the search when looking for your signature scent.
Find Your Favorite Scent Profiles
There are four scent profiles that make up the majority of colognes: woody, floral, oriental, and fresh.
Woody colognes are just what they sound like—earthy and full of forest-like scents. If you’re naturally drawn to the woods or love the smell of evergreens, this is probably the scent profile for you. Most typically masculine scents fall into this category, although that shouldn’t give you an excuse to avoid checking out the other scent profiles.
Floral fragrances have some flower notes, yes, but also include sweet and enticing fruits and sensual oils. You may think of floral fragrances as being typical of women’s perfumes, but in reality many of the top men’s colognes include a floral note or two. It’s all about balance!
Oriental scents are categorized by warm spices, herbs, and resin notes. Think cardamom, myrrh, or vanilla. These take colognes to a place of seduction, and make for complex and unique scents.
Fresh notes include anything considered “aquatic,” citrus, or white flowers. If you like colognes that make you smell like you live by the sea, then consider fresh your go-to scent family.
Understand How Scents Fit Seasons
Typically, warm summer days are associated with aquatic and floral scents, while the dead of winter means it’s time to bring out the oriental blends and fall encourages the use of woodsy colognes. When picking a year-round scent, go with something that makes you feel great, no matter what category it falls into. And, hey, if you feel like wearing a dense, oriental cologne on the hottest day of the year, go for it!
Familiarize Yourself With the Classics
Trying out iconic scents is a great way to get started in the world of cologne and figure out what suits you. This means sampling the most popular colognes or browsing the descriptions of designer brand fragrances to see what options are out there. Then, once you’ve established what scent profile and blend you like the best, you’ll have a much easier time finding colognes you love.
Test Before You Buy
The great thing about colognes is that you often can test them before you buy. Some brands offer sample sizes you can order before you commit to a whole bottle. Otherwise, make your way to the nearest department store and visit the fragrance section, where plenty of test strips await.
How Did We Choose Which Fragrances Made the List?
Faced with all the great smelling men’s colognes out there, we had to make some tough choices. A few factors went into making the call:
Most of the best smelling colognes for men have one thing in common: high-quality ingredients. This means leaving out harsh chemicals and toxic additives and opting for sustainably sourced, naturally derived ingredients that bring with them authentic and pure scents.
There is something to be said for recognizable brand names, especially when those brands back up their reputation with great products. Many of the colognes on our list you’ve probably heard of, and others are new to the game but are sure to make a name for themselves.
In the past, fragrances for men have stuck to the basics: woodsy notes, leather, and tobacco. We think you deserve much more complexity than that, so we’ve chosen blends that highlight unique ingredients or come with scent profiles that you have never before imagined. In 2023 it’s all about setting yourself apart!
The number one factor that went into choosing the products for this list? Feedback from users. That means choosing scents that men rave about, that are supported by hundreds of five-star reviews and recommendations from sources who know what they’re talking about when it comes to men’s colognes!
Is one of your resolutions for 2023 to find a new signature fragrance for yourself, but you’re worried a cologne won’t have the bold new scent you’re looking for? The Blu Atlas’ Atlantis has to be the first scent you try this year, since it’s undoubtedly one of the best smelling colognes for men.
Not convinced yet? Imagine an aroma inspired by the island of Bali and its beautiful coastal jungles, with notes of citrus fruits such as bergamot and lemon woven expertly into clary sage, oak-moss and other delightful scents. To us, it smells like bottled adventure. That’s what you have to look forward to with this cologne from Blu Atlas, thanks to a vegan formula and no harmful sulfates and parabens.
2. Ralph Lauren Polo Black
It may be a new year but that doesn’t mean you should stray too far from the classics, especially when the classics include a scent as unmistakable as this one from Ralph Lauren. While used by mainly young men, the intoxicating notes of mango and patchouli join sweet and woody accords and a hint of nutmeg-infused espresso for the ultimate seductive aroma.
While you may be tempted to make this classic eau de toilette your signature scent, Ralph Lauren himself recommends saving this one for special occasions when you want to bring out the big guns. No matter when you use it, this cologne is sure to put a swing in your step.
[From $48; ralphlauren.com]
3. Acqua di Giò Giorgio Armani
This scent has been cherished by men for nearly thirty years, and we know why. Let’s start with the fact that it is an Armani creation, ensuring that you’re in for a luxurious treat. Then there’s the attractive Mediterranean scent that feels like an aromatic Amalfi coast experience. This effect is thanks to a smooth blend of Italian citrus with sensual jasmine combined floral and nutty notes atop a musky base of patchouli and amber.
Throw this cologne in your suitcase for any beach vacation, or dab it on your pulse points in the summer. This scent is unpretentious yet sophisticated, just like its packaging and just like its brand.
[From $36; giorgioarmanibeauty-usa.com]
4. Dossier Musky Oakmoss
Alright, so you want to smell like Armani, Versace, or Gucci without the luxury brand price tag. Go for this cologne by Dossier, which is inspired by high-end scents but available for a fraction of the cost. This cologne in particular is inspired by another favorite on this list: Creed’s Aventus. Like the pricier scent, this packs a lot of energy into a few drops.
Bergamot, rose, and oakmoss are the main aromas in this refreshing scent, and when those top notes fade, you’re left with a musky base that lasts throughout the day. You may be surprised by this scent--not all is as it seems with Dossier’s Oakmoss.
5. Claus Porto Musgo Real
Even though this formula is marketed as an aftershave, we say go all out and use it as a cologne! That’s because it doesn’t just smell great, it feels great for your skin, too. Aloe vera and witch hazel tackle any irritation on your face and leave your skin relaxed while the scent lingers.
Bergamot and patchouli are the two greatest components of this fragrance, which unfold and release notes of lavender and violet, musk and vetiver. Plus, Claus Porto has been around forever, so you know you can trust them to create a high-quality product.
6. Pi Neo by Givenchy
Licorice notes lie at the heart of this scent, making it an enticing choice. The first notes you’ll pick up from Pi Neo, however, are bergamot and mandarin, followed by cedarwood and spicy safraleine, then a warm base of patchouli and vanilla reveals itself. All of these aromas come together to produce a refreshing and masculine scent experience.
Men say that this fragrance from Givenchy outlasts many of its competitors, and will stick without you throughout a long day and night. That means that this cologne will become your go-to travel scent, or will be your favorite pick-me-up just when you need it.
7. Hawthorne Work and Play
This brand has made the list of best smelling colognes for men thanks to the unique way it works. Simply visit the site and fill out a quiz so that Hawthorne can match you with the right notes, then they’ll recommend two scents: one for work and one for play. You might be nervous entrusting your cologne choice to a brand, but rest assured knowing that each scent has been designed by award-winning perfumers!
Each of the options you will be matched with is based on classic accords such as aquatic, woodsy, or fruity blends. They’re all made with the highest-quality ingredients and are free from harmful chemicals. If you have a hard time choosing the right cologne, why not entrust Hawthorne with the decision?
8. Calvin Klein Defy
Calvin Klein has come up with some iconic fragrances over the years, and their latest is no exception. They characterize this scent as being the best of fresh citrus mixed with the best of masculine woods notes. Earthy vetiver oil from Haiti complements bright bergamot and addictive lavender over a base layer of warm amber.
Users credit this fragrance as having an alluring effect, thanks to its welcoming scents layered in a unique way in order to keep you coming back for more. If you’ve been searching for your signature scent without luck, you may have just stumbled upon your new favorite cologne.
[From $70; calvinklein.us]
9. Replica Jazz Club
The idea behind Maison Margiela’s Replica line is that each scent encapsulates a place that men are drawn to. Among the mix are experiences such as a beach walk, sitting by the fire, or lazy Sunday morning, but Jazz Club, in particular, stands out.
Close your eyes, take a whiff, and appear in the midst of a lively night at a Brooklyn club in 2013. There, you smoke cigars and sip on rum to the tune of soft jazz. Woody spice, pink pepper, tobacco leaf, and rum are to thank for transporting you to this particular scene. An unforgettable aromatic experience!
[From $32; maisonmargiela-fragrances.us]
10. Duke Cannon’s Proper Cologne
This brand gets its inspiration from the military, and creates straightforward scents in eye-catching packaging. Men who are drawn to earthy scents will love Prescott, a warm and woodsy blend of citrus, oakmoss, and tonka bean. It’s not overwhelmingly woodsy, however, and well-balanced with some lighter notes for a subtle earthy effect.
Duke Cannon is another brand that gives you the choice to leave your signature scent up to fate--or at least up to their quiz. Get some help identifying which accords fit you best, then check out these affordable colognes that are made with natural oils.
11. Snif Ex on the Beach
Ex on the beach packs a lot of personality into a little bottle. That’s because it’s all over the board, with notes that are sensual, floral, and woodsy all at once. This unique blend comes from a combination of fig, ylang ylang, jasmine, peony, cedarwood, and orange blossom.
Sounds too intense for you? The great thing about snif is that they offer samples before you buy, allowing you to try out a scent and send it back if it isn’t right, or keep it if it is. With intriguing aromas, natural ingredients, and warm, welcoming effect, this one will definitely be a keeper.
12. Nautica Blue
Nautica is a classic scent for men who are drawn to aquatic accords. Everything from the tropical fruit and crispy, woodsy notes to the name and the light blue bottle brings to mind a day at the beach, or maybe even a whole vacation. An addictive blend of pineapple, jasmine, and bergamot gives way to musk, sandalwood, and cedar for a breath of fresh air.
Are you an outdoorsy fellow who feels most at home on the open ocean, in the salt air, or cruising along on a boat? You may just be a Nautica man, and, if so, this one’s for you.
13. Versace Eros
This fragrance from Versace is the secret to any successful date night. The Greek god of love would certainly approve of this scent’s notes of vetiver, neroli, geranium, and vanilla that embody passion while also retaining a sense of playfulness.
While this luxurious cologne is truly something special, that doesn’t mean you should count it out of the running for your favorite daily scent. That’s because it’s masculine but also light, a subtle sensual aroma that draws people in without overpowering.
14. Judith Leiber More is More!
If you’re into high-tech stuff, you’ll love this cologne from Judith Lieber. The bottle is made up of three chambers, each housing a different scent. This gives you the chance to test out combinations or wear each scent profile on its own. With a spicy option, an aquatic fragrance, and a leather scent, you’ll never run out of ways to smell your best!
The spicy fragrance features ginger, lavender, vanilla, and amber, while the aquatic chamber has citrus, woods, and black pepper notes. Then, the leather option is teeming with rich, earthy hints of lemon, leather, and patchouli. Whichever one or ones you use, make sure to have fun with it!
15. The Nue Co. Forest Lungs
For men who feel most at home among the trees, there is this cologne from The Nue Co. The idea behind forest lungs was to achieve the same effect that compounds called phytoncides produce when you’re in the woods. These compounds have been shown to instantly calm you down and work to reduce stress. In fact, The Nue claims that 96% of users feel calmer after spritzing this on!
Woody and smoky notes of cedar, pine, patchouli, and bergamot transport you to the forest, whether you’re sitting at your desk, bellied up to the bar, or just lounging around at home. Plus, this formula is made with sustainable ingredients and is free from harsh chemicals and other toxins.
[From $30; thenueco.com]
16. Creed Aventus
If you’re craving a confidence boost, give this scent from Creed a try. Men say this formula makes them feel powerful without being overbearing. Citrusy, fruity top notes fade and reveal pink berries, patchouli, birch, and jasmine that then give way to base notes of musk, vanilla, and oakmoss.
Creed ensures a top-notch product thanks to strict quality control that means only rare, hard-to-find ingredients make it into the formula. That’s partly why this scent isn’t widely available, and why you’ll pay a pretty penny for it. Even so, for men in search of the perfect subtle power trip, this versatile cologne is the way to go.
[From $335; creedboutique.com]
17. Jimmy Choo Man
Before Jimmy Choo’s fragrances exploded in popularity, Man arrived on the scene. It became a cult favorite thanks to its approachable blend of lavender, honeydew, pink pepper, and woodsy notes that make for a great day-to-day scent.
This cologne suits bold men who are sophisticated, powerful, and driven by adventure. The fragrance is modern and refreshing while reminding you of some forgotten time when all was well…
[From $120; macys.com]
18. Tom Ford Black Orchid
Tom Ford is an expert perfumer who comes up with unisex fragrances that are among some of the classiest on the market. While you can’t go wrong with any Tom Ford scent, choose Black Orchid when you’re looking for a sensual scent during the colder months. Give yourself an intense air of mystery each time you wear this cologne, and make an intriguing first impression.
Earthy truffle, black currant, Amalfi lemon and seductive ylang ylang and jasmine form the top notes of this fragrance, while spicy and fruity notes make up the mid layer and warm, musky scents lie at the base. Its oriental and fruity accords are not to be missed.
[From $140; tomford.com]
19. Arquiste Misfit
This straightforward, versatile cologne works great for any occasion. An interesting blend of intense and light scents means this will be your chance to reinvent yourself in 2022. Patchouli grounds this cologne in an earthy base, then bergamot, lavender, balsam and tonka bean create an engaging effect sure to bring this to the top of your list.
The best part about this cologne? Chances are that no one you know will own it. That means you get to set yourself apart as a Misfit each time you dab this on and tackle your day.
This fan favorite goes easy on your budget, but that’s not why men love it. First, you’re drawn in by floral notes and Douglas fir, but it’s the earthy herbs and black pepper base that really hook you. You’ll be reminded of the boldness of youth when you smell this, and it will bring back all that adventure and confidence you possessed when you didn’t have a care in the world.
21. Dolce & Gabbana The One
Ok, if you haven’t already added this fragrance to your cologne collection, 2022 is certainly the time to do so. This iconic scent has captured seduction and made it available to you year-round. Captivating top notes of basil, grapefruit, and coriander instantly attract, then cardamom, ginger, and orange blossom add some complexity to the mix before amber, cedar, and tobacco go in for the kill.
This scent was first released as an eau de toilette (as pictured) before coming out as an eau de parfum years later. You, and everyone around you, will be so addicted to this fragrance that you’ll want to opt for the eau de parfum just to ensure it hangs in the air a little longer.
22. DedCool Red Dakota
DedCool is proud of their line of unisex, vegan fragrances that are absolutely irresistible. Take Red Dakota, for instance, which features summery floral notes of gardenia and citrus that smell great on everybody. Users claim that this cologne is surprisingly complex and its strength persists throughout the light fruity notes. They also love how confident this blend makes them feel, in all its refreshing glory.
Tips For Applying Your Cologne
So you’ve purchased a cologne with a scent you love and brought it home. Now what? Check out these tips for applying your cologne so that the scent lasts:
Apply to Pulse Points
Your pulse points include your wrists and under your neck. Think of these as the warm areas on your body, where you will naturally spread the scent of the cologne more efficiently than if you apply it anywhere else. Simply dab a few drops of cologne in these areas, or give yourself a spritz on the wrists and rub it into your other pulse points.
Don’t Overdo It
At some point you’re going to have to trust that your cologne will last without overcompensating and spraying it all over your body. Just a few spritzes or dabs will do. Scents naturally fade over time, as top notes evaporate and mid or base notes stick around. This is part of the aromatic experience, so just enjoy the ride rather than trying to smell like a top note all day long.
Stick to Skin
Go ahead and spray your cologne onto your clothes if you want to, but it’s a waste of product. If you apply cologne to your pulse points, they’ll do the work for you, and before you know it your clothes will smell like your cologne anyway.
Have you found your signature scent for 2022 yet? Pick out one of the best smelling colognes from this list and we promise you can’t go wrong!