The 5 best men’s fragrances – aftershaves, EDTs and colognes
Liking a great aftershave or cologne admittedly is a very subjective thing. My idea of a great scent is probably very different to yours.
We’d both explain what are our favourites and why. And after arguing as usual you’d probably be right. But it’s my blog so I’m going to give you my top 5 best fragrances for men anyway!
In true pop-picker style I’ll run down from #5 to #1. I’ve shown alongside what the smell is described as by the brand marketeers and other internet fragrance experts.
At any point while reading you’re quite welcome (and wouldn’t be alone either) to say ‘What the hell does Sandalwood, Bergamot or Patchouli smell like anyway?
Aftershave vs. cologne vs. eau de toilette vs. perfume
First a brief explanation as to what the difference is between an aftershave, cologne, eau de toilette and perfume.
Essentially it’s do do with the concentration of the natural essential oils / perfume oils within the product. The more oils in the product the stronger it is and the longer it will last. Stronger doesn’t necessarily mean better though – as anyone gassed out by a strong perfume can tell you!
- Eau de Cologne. This tends to contain about 7% essence. It doesn’t last long, so can be frequently reapplied directly to the skin. It tends to be marketed in large sizes of up to 200 ml and is often applied by spray.
- Eau de toilette or EDT. Eeau de toilette can contain up to around 10% aromatic essence. The top notes – the first scent released by a perfume – are dominant, making it refreshing when it is applied. It then evaporates and fades away quite quickly. Eau de toilette and cologne are the most popular forms in which fragrances are sold. Confusingly the lines get blurred so sometimes this term is used to describe the same concentration as there is in men’s cologne.
- Eau de parfum. The concentration of oils is over 15%, sometimes reaching as high as 20%. It usually lasts well and is sold in small sizes. After the top notes have died away, the middle notes or heart notes of a perfume become noticeable. This is the focus of eau de parfum which makes it perfect to spray on hair or clothing.
- Perfume. The average concentration of essence in a perfume is 25% (though some can be up to 40%!), which makes it the longest lasting of all the scent categories. Only a tiny amount is needed, which is reflected in the sizes in which it is sold. It can also be called perfume extract or extrait and is often the most expensive version of any fragrance.
Usually any product aimed at men is a ‘fragrance’ whilst for the ladies it’s a ‘perfume’.
Top notes, middle notes and base notes
Using a musical metaphor, perfume is described as having three sets of notes making the ‘harmonious scent accord’. The immediate impression of the scent is known as the top note which then leads to the middle notes. The base notes gradually appear after as the final stage. All are created carefully by experts, who often can have backgrounds in chemistry or even design.
- Top notes or head notes. These are the scents that immediately hit the senses after application of a perfume. Top notes consist of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly. They form a person’s initial impression of a perfume and are therefore very important in selling a perfume.
- Middle notes or heart notes. These emerge just after the top note and form the main body of a perfume. It acts to mask the often unpleasant initial impression of the base notes, which become more pleasant with time.
- Base notes: The longer lasting scent of a perfume that appears after the middle notes. They are usually not noticed until 30 minutes after application.The base and middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume and bring depth to the fragrance or perfume.
Manufacturers of perfumes usually publish perfume notes and typically present it as fragrance pyramid, with the components listed in imaginative and abstract terms. Much like the naff arty adverts that often go alongside trying to sell such fragrances or perfumes!
My top 5 list
Calvin Klein Eternity for Men
The perfume shop says “The fragrance is fresh with woody tones and is very much a men’s classic. The initial coolness to the fragrance comes from a fresh mix of green botanicals, with a hint of lavender and mandarin”.
Whereas Fragantica goes into a bit more history – “launched in 1990. The nose behind this fragrance is Carlos Benaim.
- Top notes are lavender, mandarin orange, bergamot and lemon;
- Middle notes are coriander, lily, orange blossom, juniper berries, basil, jasmine, sage, lily-of-the-valley and geranium;
- Base notes are sandalwood, amber, musk, vetiver and brazilian rosewood”.
How anyone can smell anything individual with so may ingredients is beyond me!
Georgio Armani – Acqua di Gio
A number of different websites rank this as their number one and for good reason. It’s just such a good overall sweetly rounded scent. It’s also very cheap to buy too. This ensures it’s often in the top 5 best sellers. £30 for a 200ml bottle can at a push be found on eBay for example.
So what do the experts say it smells like?
Well Boots say “This aquatic, aromatic fragrance opens with a splash of fresh calabrian bergamot, neroli and green tangerine. Light, aquatic nuances mix with jasmine petal, crisp rock rose, rosemary, fruity persimmon and warm Indonesian patchouli to create a masculine scent that is both fresh and sensual. Natural and authentic, it is the perfect fragrance for gifting.”
Whereas Fragrance Direct say “Inspired by the freshness of the sea, Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio Men Eau de Toilette Spray is a soothing, aquatic scent that brings a sense of richness to any man. With notes of bergamot, jasmine, rose and ambe, Acqua Di Gio is an invigorating fragrance that lingers seductively on the skin. With a classic and sleek glass bottle, Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio is a perfect fragrance for the modern man.”
Calvin Klein – Obsession For Men
It’s also come right down in price for how good it is too. For example Amazon have a 125ml bottle on offer at only £23!
FragranceX comment that it is recommended for office wear, adding “Obsession is classified as a refreshing, oriental, woody fragrance. This masculine scent possesses a blend of lavender, mandarin, clove, nutmeg and amber.”
Fragrancenet.com say “A casual but distinctive daytime scent from the iconic Calvin Klein, Obsession cologne for men is a spicy, moderate fragrance that balances its citrus notes with musky undertones. First introduced by Calvin Klein in 1988, Obsession for men has a rich, appealing construction that combines dominant notes of spice and mandarin with low tones of musk, amber and sandalwood. This appealing and resonant fragrance is the perfect choice for a broad variety of daytime events.”
Issey Miyake – L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme
Wow, what a scent! I really love this smell. Very unique and recognisable.
Created by Jacques Cavallier in 1994 this is a great EDT to own.
The perfume Shop says “Since 1994, L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme has become a hallmark of sophistication in the world of fragrances. It awakens the senses with its blend of citrus, precious woods and spices. The pure, energising scent is perfect for a modern, independent man.”
I especially like Fragantica’s explanation – “Issey Miyake uses very unusual and rare materials in order to create perfumes that evoke the sense of timeless freedom and serenity. L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme was created as a universal Eau de Toilette perfect for any occasion.
L’Eau d’Issey for Men is a woody aquatic fragrance with:
- yuzu as in top notes, along with notes of bergamot, lemon and tarragon.
- A middle note is spicy and woody: nutmeg and water lily are an exciting and unexpected accord in this composition.
- An end note carries an intense woody scent which is sharp and enriched with tobacco,sandalwood, cedar, vetiver and musk.”
Acqua di Parma Colonia Eau de Cologne
Created in 1916 (1916!!) this is my fave cologne and one I’d always wear. According to Fragantica.com Colonia became a real symbol of Italian chic among American and European celebrities in the pre-war (1930’s) and post-war (1950’s) years. Cary Grant, David Niven, Ava Gadner and Audrey Hepburn were among the passionate admirers of Colonia.
It is in fact a unisex cologne and is possibly the greatest traditional eau de cologne available.
When you spray it on it has an initial invigorating, even cheerful burst of zesty freshness. Many other layers then reveal themselves afterwards to create an overall very elegant scent. Vintage even.
The great thing is as far as I know is it’s not especially well known either. So it’s quite unique to own and use.
I’d certainly recommend trying it if you can find it. The box and even the font on the bottle look timelessly cool too.
Here’s the blurb from the John Lewis website – “A unique and naturally fresh sensual scent that will linger for hours:
- Top notes:Grapefruit, Mint, Blood mandarin
- Heart notes:Rose absolute, Cinnamon, Spice
- Base notes:Leather, Wood, Amber, Indian Patchouli”
House of Fraser says “Fresh, light and suitable for all seasons, Colonia is Acqua di Parma’s signature scent. An exquisite blend of Sicilian citrus fruit, English lavender, rosemary, verbena and deep sensual notes of sandalwood, cedar and mysore, Colonia is modern classic dedicated for both men and women.”
Acquadiparma.com says “A fresh, refined, and timeless fragrance for a pragmatic and successful man who loves tradition. A composition born from sunny Sicilian citrus fruits and the harmonious blend of floral essences such as lavender and damask rose that merge with woody notes of vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli in the base.”
Hint: Don’t get confused with the very similar ‘Colonia Assoluta’ which is slightly different.
Other colognes that I hear are great but haven’t had a chance to try yet
- Bleu by Chanel
- One Million by Paco Raban
- Mont Blanc Legend for Him
Ones I’ve tried and meh..
- Man by Calvin Klein – underwhelming and a bit too bland in my view.
- Uomo Ermenegildo Zegna cologne – smells almost identical to Man by Calvin Klein
- Calvin Klein Contradiction Homme – OK but there’s better EDTs out there.
- Liz Claiborne Lucky Number 6 Men – this isn’t actually too bad. The bottle is a naff design though and the top spray nozzle gets lost all too easily (as I found when I opened the box in my car once, only for the top to get lost down the side of the seat – doh!).
- Chrome Cologne by Loris Azzaro – OK I guess. Nothing special in my eyes.
So what do you think?
Do you agree and like these men’s fragrances, or have I got it all wrong and I’ve missed a great one?
Do please comment below! I’d love to hear your comments.