We’ll be the first to admit that declaring 25 fragrances the very best is polarizing and contentious. Much of perfumery is a matter of personal preference, and the scent you love best might fall sideways with the next guy. But that’s why a list like this is necessary: If you’re on the hunt for a new scent — seasonal or perennial signature — then you’re going to swim through thousands of options, many of which are at a high price point.
So, by declaring these 25 the best, we’re narrowing that hunt down to a handful of universally adored fragrances. We’ve even sorted them by season, if you prefer warmer notes in winter, compared to crisp, fresh ones when the sun shines bright. (Plus there are five that we think wear best year-round.) So, take this roster for what it is: To us, it’s the 25 best, and to you, 25 of the best bets. None will gamble away your hard-earned money, nor your well-trained taste.
Perennial fragrances are the best candidates for a signature scent, in that they don’t swing too far from center with their notes; they aren’t overly woody or leathery like a winter scent, nor are they extremely floral or citrusy like a summer fragrance. They might fall clearly into one of those categories, but they are rounded and balanced enough to compliment any season. And, to be honest with you, most scents on this list could be a year-round signature scent. It’s not like we expect you to buy one for each season. Instead, use it as a guide for whichever essence you want to wear. Here, though, are five that we think fit the bill best.
Tom Ford Beau de Jour
The refreshing and dimensional Beau de Jour was one of the best smellers of 2019. So much so that Tom Ford upgraded it from Private Blend to Signature status. And it makes for a terrific year-round signature scent for its wearer, too, balancing between anchored notes like amber and patchouli, as well as fresh ones like lavender and rosemary.
Family: Fresh Spicy / Aromatic
Key Notes: Lavender, patchouli, oakmoss, rosemary, amber
Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
Unlike other floral scents, Carnal Flower shoots to kill. It seduces with musk and allures with fragrant tuberose. If you want a signature scent for dinner dates no matter the season, this is it.
Key Notes: Tuberose, eucalyptus, jasmine, coconut, musk
Dior Sauvage Parfum
A punched-up parfum that packs warm spices with crisp bergamot undertones, Sauvage does a favor for the senses: it incites optimism and stirs possibility. It warms like whiskey but soothes like wine.
Family: Woody / Balsamic
Key Notes: Sandalwood, frankincense, bergamot, tonka
Chanel Bleu de Chanel
We all know someone who wears Chanel Bleu EDP, perhaps one of the best signature scents of our time. However, it’s this powerful parfum blend that channels Bleu best: Less citrus, more wood and perennial potency.
Family: Woody / Aromatic
Key Notes: Lemon, cedar, tonka bean, incense, ginger, mint
Escentric Molecules Molecule 01
If you’re a subdued dude, then less is certainly more. Pick Escentric Molecules Molecule 01. It’s an “Iso E Super” cologne, a subtle but velvety scent that simply melds with your skin to create very personal, almost pheromonal results. No two wearers will experience the same results — but all results are positive, trust us.
Key Notes: Iso E Super
Spring scents are fresh, aromatic, and often woody or earthy. They share more in common with summer scents than winter, though our list plays strongly into woody scents as well. Think of a spring scent as something that evokes a dewy sunrise, and the optimism of new beginnings.
Calvin Klein Eternity for Men (EDP)
A re-up of Calvin’s original Eternity for Men, this EDP is a dial-up on cypress notes. That wood is further warmed by sage, nutmeg, suede and vetiver. Lavender lightens the load — enough to make this a shoulder-season staple, but one that you can sport all year.
Family: Woody / Fresh Spicy
Key Notes: Cypress, lavender, sage, suede, nutmeg, vetiver
Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt (Perfume Oil)
With all these woody and spicy notes, you’d think Bois de Balincourt would be a winter-weather wear. But it thrives in spring, thanks to an earthy essence that soothes like April’s first rain. (We like the roll-on perfume oil, but the EDP is every bit as satisfying.)
Key Notes: Cedar, sandalwood, amberwood, cinnamon, nutmeg, vetiver
Hermès Terre d’Hermes
Resin, lemon, and cedar are muddled together, creating an earthy, crisp cocktail that announces high taste. Terre d’Hermes is a candidate for your own signature scent, and one of the industry’s best recipes. Test it out in spring, to complement the awakening of your own senses.
Family: Woody / Citrus
Key Notes: Cedar, resin, pepper, lemon
Louis Vuitton Orage
Orage expertly toes an olfactive line, teetering between the freshness of iris and the potency of patchouli. The combination is like a silent lightning storm across a purple sky, the air ripe with the preciousness and power of nature, both at once. In a word: Alive.
Family: Citrus / Woody
Key Notes: Bergamot, vetiver, patchouli, iris
Histoires de Parfums 1828
An ode to the expedition-ist Jules Verne, 1828 tells his tale on the high seas: A wood chest carries spices gathered far and wide, their scent dispersed by the ocean breeze as the rising tide flirts its way to shore.
Key Notes: Grapefruit, tangerine, eucalyptus, pine, pepper
Summer scents are as bright, crisp, and sweet as the days are long. They bring to mind things like sailing, picnics in the park, beach days or road trips down the coast. Look for aromatic, citrus, and floral notes, above all else.
Just as the sun rises and sets, L’Homme uplifts with fresh, sweet notes of iris, violet, and neroli, but the sets on a foundation of amber, cedar and patchouli. It is perhaps the best rounded scent of the lot, and as rich as an endless summer.
Family: Powdery / Floral
Key Notes: Iris, neroli, amber, violet
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme
A burst of yuzu gives L’Eau d’Issey its essence, and makes it a crisp, refreshing frontrunner for summer. Supporting the argument are mood-boosting notes like vetiver, nutmeg and lotus.
Family: Citrus / Aromatic
Key Notes: Yuzu, lemon, lotus, vetiver, nutmeg, cedar
Ralph Lauren Polo Blue (EDP)
Polo is best in blue, with a scent that channels open skies and crystal-clear waters. You don’t need Croakies and Sperries for this scent to refresh and uplift — you could even summon it outside of summer to recall bright, boundless memories.
Family: Aromatic / Marine
Key Notes: Sea, suede, bergamot, vetiver, verbena
Le Labo Bergamote 22
Though its initial nickname was “Fire Cologne”, Bergamote 22 is anything for warm and punishing. Instead, it is crisp and alluring—accidentally sensual, but in an innocent summery kind of way. That’s fiery enough, maybe.
Key Notes: Bergamot, lemon, vetiver, orange blossom
Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò
This sea-inspired, summertime fragrance floats above its competitors with the refreshing and aromatic powers of bergamot and marine waters. In their wake is the grounding combination of cedar and rosemary.
Family: Citrus / Aromatic
Key Notes: Bergamot, orange, sea, rosemary, cedar
Autumn scents play well with the changing colors of fall, the sleeves of our shirts getting longer, and the days growing shorter. They might have some notes in common with summer — a powdery or floral essence here or there — but they’re much likelier to weigh into winter with woody, spicy and amber notes.
D.S. & Durga Mississippi Medicine
Leave it to D.S. & Durga to deploy ingredients like birch tar, cypress root, and cascarilla bark, all of which give Mississippi Medicine its backwoods-forward magic. It’s a spectacular potion that goes down best in cooling temps.
Family: Smoky / Woody
Key Notes: Cypress, birch, incense
Ermenegildo Zegna Florentine Iris
There’s nothing like a late-bloom floral to lighten the spirits as summer concludes. Zegna’s iris-jasmine-violet blend also combines a squeeze of bergamot and dash of musk give this a bright, albeit autumnal, finish.
Family: Powdery / Floral
Key Notes: Iris, musk, violet
Acqua di Parma Colonia Leather
Yes, we’re big fans of Acqua di Parma’s most lauded scent, its summery Colonia. But we think this leather spin on the scent deserves gold. It’s every bit as crisp and sweet, but leather, cedar and birch give it a fuller, fall-friendly finish.
Key Notes: Leather, birch, guaiac wood, orange
CoSTUME NATIONAL Scent Intense
CoSTUME’s Scent Intense emits a head-turning, mood-boosting amber wave, and one that wears well year round. It’s appropriate for work, but works just as wonderfully for inappropriate occasions.
Family: Amber / Woody
Key Notes: Amber, tea, hibiscus, patchouli, sandalwood
This golden grenade is an explosion of sensual essentials: spices, woods, leather and coffee. Arquiste never misses a beat with its fragrances, and Nanban is its most glowing scent of them all.
Family: Oriental Spicy
Key Notes: Pepper, myrrh, leather, saffron, sandalwood
Autumn scents play well with the changing colors of fall, the sleeves of our shirts getting longer, and the days growing shorter. They might have some notes in common with summer—a powdery or floral essence here or there — but they’re much likelier to weigh into winter with woody, spicy, and amber notes.
Penhaligon’s Roaring Radcliffe
“If hedonism were a perfume…” states Penhaligon’s of its own Roaring Radcliff, a rum-tobacco blend that celebrates debauchery. The scent is cheeky too, thanks to the inclusion of ginger bread—a spice that’s naughtier than nice, in a fragrance that’s both.
Family: Sweet / Tobacco
Key Notes: Honey, tobacco, rum, ginger
Amouage is one of the world’s most prestigious perfumeries, and Jubilation is its most timeless scents. However, it pairs best with winter, thanks to a rich and relaxing recipe of patchouli, resin, spice, amber, musk, woods and more.
Family: Balsamic / Sweet
Key Notes: Blackberry, oud, resin, myrrh, honey
Dolce & Gabbana The One (EDP)
Tobacco, amber, and cedar wood lay the groundwork of D&G’s The One, an aptly named scent that pulls people into its orbit. It’s magnetic, dynamic, romantic — all the things you want for warm, wintry wear.
Family: Amber / Tobacco
Key Notes: Amber, tobacco, ginger, cardamom
Comme des Garçons 2 Man
Incense, smoke, mahogany, nutmeg, leather. These notes leave no secrets about CdG’s 2Man: It is equal parts alluring and intellectual — the most mysterious in the room, as far as noses are concerned.
Family: Woody / Balsamic
Key Notes: Incense, vetiver, mahogany, leather
Maison Margiela REPLICA By the Fireplace
By combining clove, chestnut and vanilla, Margiela’s By the Fireplace is the olfactive realization of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”. It warms the skin and spirits, a better winter companion than Frosty himself.
Family: Woody / Vanilla
Key Notes: Chestnut, vanilla, guaiac wood, balsam, cloves