We’ll be the first to admit that declaring 25 fragrances the very best could prove 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 “best men’s fragrances” declaration is necessary: If you’re on the hunt for a new scent — be it seasonal or a perennial signature — then you’re going to swim through thousands of options, many of which are at a high price point.
So, by selecting these 25 as 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/Signature Scents (and How to Pick One)
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.
How do you know which scent is best for your signature? In short, learn about the different fragrance families (like citrus, woody, oriental, floral or aromatic, among others), and inquire with anyone who wears a scent that you love. Figure out which family that scent is from, google it to learn its notes, and find a handful of options just like it. Order samples of those ones (or try them at the department store), and find one that suits you best. It’s a whole lot more rewarding than copping your buddy’s signature and claiming it as your own. (That is one of many mistakes men make when buying fragrance; in short, you should do a little bit of research, and there are terrific encyclopedic sites like Fragrantica, Parfumo, and Basenotes to help you.)
To be honest with you, most scents on this entire list could be a year-round signature. (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 so popular after its release that Mr. Ford upgraded it from Private Blend to Signature status. That is precisely why this aromatic/oriental scent makes for a terrific year-round signature scent for you, too.
Beau de Jour smells like: Lavender, patchouli, rosemary, and amber
Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
Unlike other soft floral scents, Carnal Flower shoots to kill, seducing with sophisticated powdery notes. If you want a signature scent for dinner dates no matter the season, this is it.
Family: Soft Floral
Carnal Flower smells like: Tuberose, musk, and coconut
Dior Sauvage Parfum
A punched-up woody parfum that packs warm spices with crisp undertones, Sauvage does a favor for the senses: it incites optimism and stirs possibility. It warms like whiskey but soothes like wine.
Sauvage Parfum smells like: Sandalwood, tonka, and bergamot
Bleu de Chanel Parfum
We all know someone who wears Chanel Bleu EDP, perhaps one of the best signature scents of our time. However, it's this powerful woody/oriental parfum blend that channels Bleu best: Less citrus, more wood, and perennial potency.
Bleu de Chanel Parfum smells like: Cedarwood, ginger, tonka bean, and lemon
Escentric Molecules Molecule 01
If you're a subdued dude, then less is certainly more. Pick Escentric Molecules' aromatic 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.
Molecule 01 smells like: Dry woods — and yet like nothing at all (that's the intrigue of 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, further warmed by aromatic notes. The balance makes this a shoulder-season staple, but also one that you can sport all year.
Eternity for Men EDP smells like: Cyprus, nutmeg, sage, suede, and vetiver
Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt (Perfume Oil)
With all these woody and oriental 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.)
Bois de Balincourt smells like: Cedar, sandalwood, nutmeg, and cinnamon
Hermès Terre d’Hermes
Woody, citrus, and resinous notes 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.
Terre d'Hermes smells like: Cedar, resin, and lemon
Louis Vuitton Orage
Orage expertly toes an olfactive line, teetering between aromatic and woody. 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.
Orage smells like: Iris, patchouli, bergamot, and vetiver
Histoires de Parfums 1828
An aromatic ode to the expeditionist 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.
1828 smells like: Pine, eucalyptus, grapefruit, and 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 florals and oriental spices, but the sets on a foundation of heftier wood notes. It is perhaps the best rounded scent of the lot, and as rich as an endless summer.
L'Homme smells like: Iris, violet, amber, cedar, and patchouli
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme
A burst of citrus gives L'Eau d'Issey its essence, and makes it a crisp, refreshing frontrunner for summer. Supporting the argument are mood-boosting woody-floral notes.
L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme smells like: Yuzu lemon, lotus, vetiver, and cedar
Ralph Lauren Polo Blue (EDP)
Polo is best in aromatic and aquatic blue, with this 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.
Polo Blue smells like: Marine notes, suede, bergamot, and vetiver
Le Labo Bergamote 22
Though its initial nickname was "Fire Cologne," Bergamote 22 is anything but warm and punishing. Instead, the citrus scent is crisp and alluring—accidentally sensual, but in an innocent summery kind of way. That's fiery enough, maybe.
Bergamote 22 smells like: Bergamot, lemon, vetiver, and orange blossom
Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò
This sea-inspired, summertime fragrance floats above its competitors with the refreshing and aromatic powers of citrus and sea waters.
Acqua di Giò smells like: Bergamot, marine notes, rosemary, and 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.
Sprightly, convivial, fresh, and effervescent. These all describe Diptyque's woody aromatic ode to 1960s Paris. It's a frontrunner for your signature scent, and melts away stress with its powdery projection.
Orphéon smells like: Powder, cedar, jasmine, and tonka
Ermenegildo Zegna Florentine Iris
There’s nothing like a late-bloom floral to lighten the spirits as summer concludes. Zegna’s floral blend also combines a squeeze of citrus and dash of musk give this a bright, albeit autumnal, finish.
Family: Soft Floral
Florentine Iris smells like: Iris, musk, and violet
Etat Libre d'Orange Exit the King
You know soap smells good, but you may not realize how wonderful that smell works in perfumery, too. Enter this unisex, aromatic sensation, Exit the King, which holds court with floral, earthy, spicy, and woody notes alike. But make no mistake: the soap is king here.
Exit The King smells like: Soap, musk, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, moss, and sandalwood
CoSTUME NATIONAL Scent Intense
CoSTUME’s woody oriental 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.
Scent Intense smells like: Amber, hibiscus, patchouli, and sandalwood
This golden grenade is an explosion of sensual oriental essentials. Arquiste never misses a beat with its fragrances, and this one is its most glowing scent of them all.
Nanban smells like: Myrrh, leather, pepper, saffron, coffee, and 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.
Krigler Palais Monarchie 218 Parfum
Palais Monarchie is an oriental gourmand creation sweet enough to drink, and it's a nod to Vienna's 19th-century coffeehouse scene, too—as well as the prestigious writers who met there (Stefan Zweig, Hermann Bahr, Rudolf Steiner). It boasts an incredible 100+ notes, too.
Palais Monarchie 218 smells like: Almond, pear, cinnamon, vanilla, whipped cream and Madeleine cake
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 woody oriental recipe.
Jubilation smells like: Patchouli, resin, oud wood, and myrrh
Gabar No. II Ground
Myanmar's ancient city Bagan is the inspiration behind Gabar's excellent Ground fragrance. That explains its powdery, powerful anchor, which both suggests lore and centers the mind.
Ground smells like: Woodbark, sandalwood, saffron, fig, musk, and orris
Comme des Garçons 2 Man
CdG’s soft oriental scent is equal parts alluring and intellectual—the most mysterious in the room, as far as noses are concerned.
Family: Soft Oriental
2 Man smells like: Incense, mahogany, leather, and vetiver
Maison Margiela REPLICA By the Fireplace
This is the olfactive realization of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”. It warms the skin and spirits, a better winter companion than Frosty himself.
REPLICA By the Fireplace smells like: Cloves, balsam, guaiac wood, vanilla, and chestnut