Cologne – Invisible yet essential.
The way a man smells can make or break his look. With so many options, the challenge is finding something that works for you.
How do you get started?
In this article, we're going into the men's cologne types that you can expect to find and how to wear them.
Introduction to Fragrances
You need to know the basics before diving in.
Every fragrance consists of a mixture involving either synthetic or natural oils. When the oils are mixed, they are often dissolved in alcohol to keep the scent strong.
All fragrances feature three distinct levels of smell: Top notes, Heart notes, and Base notes.
Top notes form the lightest and freshest scents (florals, citrus, etc.) and last for about 15 minutes. Heart notes form the core of every cologne, lasting for about 3-5 hours. Base notes are where the denser molecules reside. Here is where you'll smell most of the musky and masculine scents, lasting for 5-10 hours.
Men's Cologne Bottle Terminology
You might have seen terms like “Eau de Parfum” or “Toilette” on bottles. It's essential to know what they mean so you understand where your money is going:
- Eau Fraiche: Only 1%-3% of perfume oil. Heavily diluted in either water or alcohol.
- Cologne: Mostly associated with masculinity in North America. Consists of 2%-4% concentrations.
- Eau de Toilette (EDT): 5%-15% conentrations dissolved in alcohol.
- Eau de Parfum (EDP): Though we associate “perfume” with women, it's a genderless term. It's also the category with the highest concentrations of oil at 15%-20%
Now that you know the basics, we can get down to business with the main scent profiles in various fragrances.
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Men’s Cologne Types 1. Aquatic Fragrances
Aquatic colognes remind you of the beach. Some say it reminds them of returning from the beach with a “salty” smell lingering on their clothes. They are also frequently referred to as “ozonic” fragrances.
Contrary to types like florals where natural oils can be extracted, you can't literally capture the sea breeze in a bottle.
So what do perfumers do?
In order to produce synthetic oils that successfully imitate the essence of the ocean, perfumers often use a method called Headspace technology.
What they do is capture the odor molecules immediately surrounding an object producing such a scent before isolating and replicating it. The equipment utilized resembles a dome that acts as a seal around the object. Perfumers then create a vacuum within the dome to physically remove the molecules.
Certain brands like Clive Christian make extensive use of this technology. They even try to capture the scents of addictive narcotics like coca leaves and opium for their fragrances.
How To Wear Them
You tend to link the beach to summer, and that's when aquatic fragrances really shine. Though among the more versatile scent profile, these men's cologne types work best on a sunny day when you're out by the water.
Aquatic Fragrance Examples
Armani Acqua di Gio is the top men's fragrance for this category recommended by my friend Steven over at Redolessence. It even rivals Drakka Noir, the first fragrance to use calone (an ingredient used in 95% of aquatic fragrances).
- Top Notes: Lime, bergamot, jasmine, orange.
- Heart Notes: Sea notes are dominant.
- Base Notes: White musk, cedar.
Cool Water by Davidoff is a timeless essence with over 30 years of history among men. It's affordable and potent while encapsulating key masculine scents.
- Top Notes: Aquatic/sea notes dominate.
- Heart Notes: Sandalwood, jasmine, neroli, geranium.
- Base Notes: Musk, tobacco.
Men’s Cologne Types 2. Floral Fragrances
Though commonly associated with feminine fragrances, we are seeing more floral scents in men's cologne. You can easily tell them apart by the scent of flowers, gardens, and blossoms.
Though not limited to these, scents that are common in such fragrances include jasmine, tuberose, and magnolia. Depending on the scent profile, you can further divide this category into subgroups like Green Floral, Floral Musk, Fruity Floral, etc.
Though you can find a large variety of scent profiles in floral fragrances, the two cornerstones are jasmine and rose. You will find them in this men's cologne type of the most.
Jasmine, also known as “The Flower,” strongly enhances top notes whether you can smell the jasmine or not. It refines and adds a bit of complexity to the fragrance. Rose plays a similar role in holding the liquid together as a cohesive fragrance.
How To Wear Them
Florals are best worn in the Spring to better complement the smell of blooming flowers. However, they can work in the summer as well.
It's also best to wear them during the day. The heat actually amplifies scents, and considering how strong Floral fragrances can be, you only need to apply a little (1-2 squirts) to achieve the desired effect. You can even spritz your hair for a subtler scent.
Floral Fragrance Examples
Dior Homme is often referred to as modern and metrosexual due to the presence of iris. One thing you'll notice immediately is that it smells like lipstick (but don't let that deter you).
- Top Notes: Lavender, sage, bergamot.
- Heart Notes: Iris, cacao, amber.
- Base Notes: Vetiver, patchouli.
Colonia by Acqua Di Parma is also a very popular men's cologne. It hails from the Italian coastal town of Parma which has a strong tradition of perfumery. The cornerstone scents feature prominently here.
- Top Notes: Rosemary, lavender, jasmine.
- Heart Notes: Rose, verbana.
- Base Notes: Faint patchouli.
Men’s Cologne Types 3. Oriental Fragrances
Oriental fragrances are distinct through their emphasis on amber. The oldest type of amber used in men's cologne is Shalimar. However, oriental fragrances are known to make use of truffle, patchouli, and vanilla notes as well.
Just as with florals, you can usually divide orientals into deeper categories like spicy orientals and woody orientals.
How To Wear Them
Orientals are considered to be the most seductive type of fragrance. As such, they will serve you better at night. This is the time where you'd typically be out to seduce your next lady or take some numbers from the bar.
Oriental Fragrance Examples
Tom Ford Black Orchid utilizes a very unique truffle note in addition to patchouli and vanilla. It does lean toward the feminine side, but can safely be described as unisex. Fragrance expert Steven Gavrielatos argues that it is one of the best expressions of an oriental scent that you can find.
- Top Notes: Truffle is dominant over some fainter citrus notes.
- Heart Notes: Orchid, spices.
- Base Notes: Patchouli, vanilla, amber.
Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens was released in 200 and developed by Christopher Sheldrake. It is another unisex fragrance that leans heavily on amber.
- General Notes: The fragrance as a whole is dominated by a combination of amber and resins. However, bay leaves and myrrh do come in as a close second.
Men’s Cologne Types 4. Spicy Fragrances
Though this belongs to the oriental family of fragrances, it is unique enough that I gave it its own section.
When it comes to spicy men's colognes, you will find many ingredients that are… well, spicy. In addition to the vanilla so often accorded to orientals, you will smell cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.
How To Wear Them
Since spicy fragrances comprise a subsect of the greater oriental family, its uses are very similar. You want to apply them mainly in the winter, where cinnamon and nutmeg are seasonally appropriate. Since they are regarded as being warm and sensual, application during the evening is highly recommended.
It would be a mistake to make this your daytime fragrance. Click here to learn a bit more about common men's cologne mistakes.
Spicy Fragrance Examples
Tom Ford's Noir Anthracite is not a well-received fragrance, but don't let that fool you. It is extremely daring, challenging, and not for the faint of heart. What sets it apart is an ingredient known as Cypriol (AKA nagarmotha) which lends it a smoky aroma.
Experience it with an open mind, and you won't regret it.
- Top Notes: Sichuan Pepper.
- Heart Notes: Spices.
- Base Notes: Cedar, Sandalwood.
The One For Men by Dolce & Gabbana is a well-known men's cologne. It was launched in 2008 with the goal of becoming a masculine classic. The EDP was then introduced in 2015, intensifying the already-potent scents in the fragrance.
- Top Notes: Coriander, basil, grapefruit.
- Heart Notes: Ginger, cardamom, orange blossom.
- Base Notes: Amber is dominant, then tobacco.
Men’s Cologne Types 5. Leather Fragrances
When it comes to men's cologne types, this category is the most formal. The scent of leather is produced with bitter-smelling isoquinolines or with smoky birch. These molecules serve best in replicating leathery scents.
How To Wear Them
As I said, these are formal fragrances. Though you could wear them in casual clothes, I don't recommend it. Leathery scent types exude power. Save them for the business meeting or formal events where you have to take charge.
Leather Fragrance Examples
Dior Fahrenheit brings in leather along with notes reminiscent of petroleum or asphalt. It may not sound appealing, but this is a classic fragrance from the 80s still favored by many men. It's easy to wear and not the least bit as challenging as Anthracite.
- Top Notes: Orange, lavender.
- Heart Notes: Honeysuckle, violet, nutmeg.
- Base Notes: Leather is dominant.
1740 Marquis de Sade is named after the birth year of a famous Parisian man who is also named in the fragrance. He was imprisoned countless times for his Dyonisian lifestyle. This fragrances thus sets out to embody masculinity and pleasure in one bottle.
- Top Notes: Bergamot, artemisia.
- Heart Notes: Patchouli.
- Base Notes: Leather & Immortelle are prominent.
Men’s Cologne Types 6. Gourmand Fragrances
Gourmand (pronounced Gaw-Muhnd) is a definitively masculine category among men's cologne types that has garnered popularity over the last few years.
They convey indulgence – scents that you could almost eat (but won't). We're talking chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. If it smells like a dessert, you can safely assume it's a Gourmand scent type.
How To Wear Them
These kinds of fragrances invoke comfort and indulgence. I also believe that imbuing yourself with scents such as chocolate can make for a powerful seductive tool.
You can wear this fragrance whenever you like, but I recommend it for the winter.
Gourmand Fragrance Examples
Mugler A*Men is a unique style of fragrance that brings chocolate and caramel to the fore. It also brings a distinct tar scent that is inspired by the spacey aesthetic the brand employs. Other expressions such as the Pure Malt are friendlier, but they deviate significantly in terms of scent profile.
- Top Notes: Lavender, fruity notes, coriander.
- Heart Notes: Caramel is dominant.
- Base Notes: Coffee is dominant.
Absolutio Parfum by Navitus is a potent fragrance by Steven Gavrielatos over at Redolessence. It exudes temptation. We're talking cherry, almond, apple, and coffee. As Steven himself puts it: Tempt or be tempted; the choice is yours.
- Top Notes: Almond, saffron, cinnamon.
- Heart Notes: Apple, toffee.
- Base Notes: Ambergris, oakmoss, caramel, chocolate, driftwood & musk.
Men’s Cologne Types 7. Chypre Fragrances
These fragrance types usually revolve around oakmoss, labdanum, and bergamot. They can also be divided into Floral Chypre, Leather Chypre, and so on.
A Timeless Fragrance For Men
Pronounced as “sheep-ra,” this genre of fragrance is based on the foundational Coty's Chypre launched in 1917. Though it is often wrongfully associated with the cypress tree, the name is actually derived from the French word for Cyprus – the island.
There are theories that these scent types date back to the Roman Empire, and the term “chypre” is mentioned frequently on 18th-century perfume manuals.
How To Wear
Chypre fragrances are widely regarded as elegantly versatile. You can wear them in a wide range of scenarios.
Personally, I find them to be very mature. This is certainly a fragrance type I'd picture on men who are well into adulthood. Use them primarily in the fall.
Chypre Fragrance Examples
Polo Green smells very old-school, but it's a masterful composition crafted by Carlos Benaim. It is also among the most well-known fragrances in the world – with most men having either worn it themselves or having smelled it on a family member. Polo Green takes inspiration from older fragrances such as Drakkar Noir and Quorum to make a truly unique concoction.
- Top Notes: Coriander, basil, juniper berries, bergamot.
- Heart Notes: Leather, rose, pepper.
- Base Notes: Tobacco is dominant, with hints of musk and oakmoss.
Primas Parfum by Navitus goes by the Latin phrase “Semper Paratus;” always prepared. It relies on a combination of green mango as well as bergamot, jasmine, and amberwoods. It captures earthy warmth and is ideal for adventurous men.
- Top Notes: Bergamot, green mango, grapefruit, rosewood.
- Heart Notes: Patchouli, jasmine, cedarwood.
- Base Notes: Oakmoss, labdanum, dark amberwoods & musk.
Men’s Cologne Types 8. Fougere Fragrances
Like Chypre scents, Fougere cologne types for men are based on the original Fougere Royale which was launched in 1882. The original made use of lavender, oakmoss, coumarin, and tobacco. As such, these are considered by some to be the building blocks of the category.
Fun fact: The name Fougère (foo-jair) is derived from the French word for a fern.
How To Wear
As far as men's cologne types go, Fougere is associated with traditional masculinity and strength. Some fragrance brands describe it as embodying a man who is cool under pressure and handles a crisis well. This is the man who, as Penhaligons puts it, is faithful to king and country.
Otherwise, this is an excellent fragrance type for the fall.
Fougere Fragrance Examples
Burberry Touch really hits on that lavender note that Fougere fragrances are known for. It even stands out amongst other fragrances – such as Le Male – that are known for the strength of their lavender notes.
- Top Notes: Lavender.
- Heart Notes: White pepper.
- Base Notes: White musk, tonka bean.
Le Male comes from the mind of Jean-Paul Gaultier, a big name in the fragrance world. It is a fragrance that is interestingly filled with contrasting scents, with both strong and mild scents playing their part in tandem.
- Top Notes: Lavender, bergamot, mint, cardamom.
- Heart Notes: Caraway, orange blossom, cinnamon.
- Base Notes: Sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, vanilla, cedar.
Men’s Cologne Types 9. Citrus Fragrances
As the name implies, scent types belonging to this category are composed of fruity smells. Bergamot, tangerine, and grapefruit feature strongly in such fragrances. Neroli is also a common scent associated with citrusy men's fragrances.
It's common for floral and chypre to also be included to round the citrus out. The very first Eau de Cologne was actually a citrus accord!
How To Wear Colognes For Summer
This is definitely a men's cologne type for the summer and best used in the daytime. Remember, though, that heat heightens a fragrance's projection. Use appropriately!
Citrus Fragrance Examples
A*Men Ultra Zest zeroes in on citrus with a great result. This men's cologne is essentially a blast of orange juice, with various types of the fruit dominating the initial stages. It is not until much later when you are introduced to coffee and vanilla.
- Top Notes: Strong orange, blood orange, ginger, mint.
- Heart Notes: Ginger, coffee, black pepper.
- Base Notes: Tonka bean, patchouli, vanilla.
Tom Ford Neroli Portofino introduces a hefty dose of neroli at the heart while also bringing orange, lemon, and myrtle to the fore.
- Top Notes: Bergamot, mandarin orange, lemon, lavender, myrtle, rosemary, bitter orange.
- Heart Notes: African orange flower, jasmine, Neroli, pittosporum.
- Base Notes: Amber, ambrette (musk mallow), angelica.
Men’s Cologne Types 10. Woody Fragrances
These fragrances set themselves apart by their woody character. They tend to remind you of nature and rely on scents like resin, bark, cedar, patchouli, and vetiver.
Like most fragrances, they can be split into subfamilies like woody oriental, woody leather, woody fruity, etc. They seldom stand alone.
How To Wear
This is a casual fragrance for casual wear. It is an aroma designed for more rugged men, so it may not match with business attire.
Though woody scents are flexible due to influence in several fragrance families, woody fragrances are best used in the fall.
Woody Fragrance Examples
Lalique Encre Noire Pour Homme was launched in 2006. The name literally translates to “blank ink,” and the packaging takes that to heart. It is woody from the outset, bringing forth top notes of cypress, the heart of vetiver, and base of cashmere.
- Top Notes: Cypress.
- Heart Notes: Vetiver.
- Base Notes: Musk, cashmere wood.
Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme Intenso has a unique combination of aquatic and woody notes. It has an extremely creamy texture, leading to a strong heart of tobacco.
- Top Notes: Water notes, basil, lavender, geranium, marigold.
- Heart Notes: Tobacco, hay, bran, sage.
- Base Notes: Labdanum, sandalwood, cypress, musk, amber.
Men's Cologne Types – Summary
There you have it – a comprehensive guide to the most common men's fragrance types. You should have no trouble going out and making the right decision for your needs. Good luck, gentlemen!