Searching for the best colognes for men is quite the daunting task. I would know—I’ve been on the hunt for weeks. Earlier this year, I decided I wanted a new spring scent. I’ve never been a big cologne person in general—I’ve met far too many people who overpower you with their scent the minute you meet them, their lavender or citrus notes punching you right in the face—but there’s something about this past year that’s made me want to invest in a new cologne. The idea of spritzing myself at home, with nobody around to smell it, seems like the ultimate act of self-care. Like it’s a part of my morning ritual that’s purely for me, myself, and I.
As I began my hunt, I found that the market is overflowing with simply far too many options: From fruity, sweet top notes to woody or musky base notes, there’s a million different combinations and possibilities. How am I to know what suits me best? Still, I went into the quest with an open mind, considering everything from light and fresh, to heavy and musky—and in the process, I managed to find a number of crowd-favorites that can appeal just about anybody’s tastes.
Below, I sniffed some enduring classics—like Calvin Klein’s Eternity, which has been around since 1988—and some new favorites, too, such as The Last Day of Summer from Gucci The Alchemist’s Garden (Gucci’s high perfumery line), which smells like what I can only describe as a warm summer hug. (The latter ended up being my new spring pick—with Tom Ford’s Oud Wood and Maison Margiela Replica’s Jazz Club as runner-ups.)
No matter what your sensory preferences are, though, just remember that the perfect fragrance simply does not exist—some simply won’t match your personality, and what you like could also depend on the season, vibe, and mood you’re feeling that day. That’s part of the fun of experimenting with different fragrances—don’t be afraid to try something new.
Below, the 19 best colognes for men in 2021.
Gucci The Alchemist’s Garden, The Last Day of Summer
This scent from Gucci’s haute perfumery line, The Alchemist’s Garden, allows you to cling onto a summer feeling year-round. It’s a warming, cozy scent made up of cedarwoods, cypress, and nutmeg, with woody undertones of patchouli and vetiver. Bonus: the lacquered glass bottle is super chic, too.
Le Labo, AnOther 13
You may know Le Labo for its signature Santal 33 scent, but Another 13 is one of its more slept-on fragrances that deserves just as much hype. A collaboration with AnOther magazine, the scents is equal parts musky and fresh, composed of ambroxan, jasmine petals, moss, and woody ambery notes.
Celine, Black Tie
Alluding to Celine’s excellence in black tie and tailored silhouettes, this evening scent is built for a night out. It’s composed of white orris butter, cedar, tree moss, and vanilla—striking the right balance between musky and sweet. Think of it like a sleek dinner jacket that will never go out of style.
Tom Ford, Oud Wood
Oud wood is one of the most precious and expensive ingredients for any perfumer, and this scent by Tom Ford nails the woody scent. Combined with cardamom, sandalwood, and vetiver—with hints of tonka bean and amber—a few spritzes of this signature scent is like warming up to a nice cozy fire.
Frédéric Malle, Geranium Pour Monsieur
Created in collaboration with master French perfumer Dominique Ropion, this scent is described as “like an eccentric Englishman in a blue velvet jacket,” an appropriate takeaway. A bright fragrance, its top notes are mint, aniseed, and geranium, while the base notes include sandalwood and frankincense.
Inspired by nature and its raw materials, this scent from Dior perfumer François Demachy is earthy and woody. Warm notes of bergamot, pepper, and amberwood take cues from a desert landscape—but can be still be worn in the dead of winter, thanks to its refined, non-overpowering finish.
For the well-read, this scent takes cues from old books and their leather-bound pages. It’s also inspired by one of Byredo’s best-selling candles—so you know it’s good. Top notes of peach, plum, peony, and violet add a sweet touch to an otherwise woody ground base of leather, patchouli, and vanilla.
Jo Malone London, Myyrh & Tonka Cologne Intense
Drawn from the sap of the Namibian myrrh tree, this earthy scent is combined with warm almond and vanilla notes of the tonka bean for a rich, full-bodied finish. A hint of lavender and honey lightens it up and makes it a year-round scent for any occasion.
Giorgio Armani, Acqua di Gio
Released in 1996, this classic scent, inspired by the ocean, has stood the test of time for a reason. The earthy fragrance is the ideal everyday scent, combining cyprus, musk, bergamot, neroli, rosemary, and patchouli for a fresh finish.
Maison Margiela Replica, Jazz Club
Imagine yourself in a dimly lit jazz club with the perfect cocktail, surrounded by cigar smoke and leather chairs. This scent is the next best thing: Warm and spicy, it has notes of pink pepper, rum, and tobacco. Perfect for the fall-winter months when you want to hibernate in full cozy mode.
Polo Ralph Lauren, Black
Some classics never die, and Polo Ralph Lauren’s Black fragrance stands the test of time. A bold fusion of iced mango, lemon, and tangerine is combined with sandalwood, sage, and patchouli noir for a bitter-sweet end result. Bold and aromatic, it’s the ultimate scent to get noticed in.
Calvin Klein, Eternity for Men
Another enduring classic from 1988, Eternity is a romantic floral fragrance that was inspired by lasting love. Clearly, the love affair with this scent carries on, too: It’s decidedly unisex, and works for both him and her. Notes of freesia, mandarin, sage, white lily, patchouli, and sandalwood make for a timeless blend.
In a chic, art deco-style bottle, Versace’s Eros scent is both fresh and tropical. Notes of mint, orange, and woody vanilla are all refreshing—like taking a dip in the pool on a hot summer day. It obviously wears well in the summer, but is a pretty universal cologne overall. Make your own rules on when and how you wear it.
Chanel, Bleu de Chanel
Fresh, clean, and sensual, this men’s scent from Chanel includes notes of citrus, labdanum, sandalwood, and cedar. It can easily transition from day to night (a musky undertone makes it perfect for a date).
Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Grand Soir
Imagining what a “magnificent Parisian evening” would smell like, Maison Francis Kurkdjian came up with this wonderful blend of vanilla, amber, tonic beans, and cistus labdanum. Indeed, it’s the perfect scent for a night on the town.
Ermenegildo Zegna, Essenze Florentine Iris
Florals? For men? Groundbreaking. Velvety and complex, this scent is floral-heavy but masculine, with notes of jasmine, violet leaves, bergamot, and musk. An ideal choice for spring as the leaves and flowers bloom.
Prada, Luna Rossa Sport
This upbeat, zingy scent takes cues from the pulsing spirt of boat racing; it’s an awakening scent to boost your mood in the morning. Notes of lavender, ginger, juniper berries, tonka beans, and vanilla are the perfect thing to spritz on yourself post-workout—or when you’re about to hop on your first Zoom meeting of the day.
Hugo Boss, Boss
Launched in 1998, this enduring cologne is a cult-classic thanks to its classic, masculine scent. Fruity and citrus top notes of apple, lemon, and plum are balanced against a hefty floral and spicy base, including geranium, sandalwood, and vetiver.
Acqua di Parma, Colonia
One of Acqua di Parma’s most popular scents, Colonia is a fresh, citrusy scent that suits any occasion. It includes key notes of lemon, bergamot, lavender, and patchouli. A few sprays of this is like drinking a tall glass of orange juice.