Choosing a fragrance can be one hell of a daunting task. It’s sort of like buying new underwear, minus the awkwardness: a very personal experience one might say, involving many stakeholders from the shop assistant to, in desperate times of need, your other half. Because opinions count, right?
Rambling aside, a great fragrance is a very powerful thing that can put you in a good mood, make you feel sexy and even make people remember you, so finding the right one is in a nutshell, of paramount importance.
From the pool to the gym, a night out with your bezzies and date night with your Mr, Mrs or crush, we’ve rounded up some of our current favourites to suit every man’s needs. But first thing’s first:
What’s the difference between an aftershave, eau de toilette and a cologne?
Well, it’s all down to one thing and one thing alone, strength.
Generally speaking, an aftershave is the weakest with most only containing around 1 per cent to 3 per cent perfume oil. The clue is also in the name – stocked with soothing and cooling ingredients such as aloe vera, the humble aftershave is designed to calm your skin after a session with the trimmer.
If you’re looking for something stronger, grab a bottle of eau de toilette (EDT), which is made up of roughly 4 per cent to 8 per cent perfume oil. Unlike an aftershave, an average bottle of EDT contains far too much oil so it cannot be applied to the face. Instead, focus on your pulse points (neck wrist or chest) and once applied should linger for between six to eight hours, depending on the brand.
For those looking for a happy medium, opt for a cologne. It’s not too weak, nor is it too strong and packs in 2 per cent to 5 per cent perfume oil to keep your nostrils and your colleagues (who secretly despise your perfume) happy.
But if it’s a powerful scent you are after, go all out on a parfum. Whilst rare and on the expensive side, a typical perfume contains 15 per cent to 30 per cent oil, which means you only need to apply a tiny amount each day.
How do you choose the right perfume for you?
To make choosing a scent less cumbersome, it’s best to put your preference into words before you head over to the beauty counter. A good starting point is to know your type: fresh, floral, citrusy, oriental, woody, spicy or just plain basic.
Once you’ve got your scent type down to a T, the next thing to master is application. Depending on what you buy, normally one to two sprays should suffice. Anything more and you’ll end up suffocating (as will anyone who comes within a stone’s throw of you). If you’re unsure, just do what every other sensible human would do and read the instructions.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start browsing.
Best men’s perfumes of 2021
Tom Ford, Soleil Blanc
Lowdown: It smells like an eternal summer in a bottle. Sultry and extremely powerful, this supremely floral fragrance is a dandy man personified. Inspired by the remote Paradise Islands, Soleil Blanc is part of Mr Tom Ford’s exquisite private collection and pretty much sums up everything his powerhouse brand is all about: absolute luxury and decadence. Warning: two sprays are plenty; otherwise you might suffer the dregs of a long headache.
Notes: Bergamot, Cardamom, pink pepper, pistachio, Ylang Ylang, tuberose, jasmine, tonka bean, coconut, benzoin, amber.
Reason to buy it? It’s an extremely long lasting and very distinctive scent guaranteed to get you compliments.
Best for? Office types ready to spice up their routine with a summery number.
Strength rating: strong
Acqua di Parma, Vaniglia
Lowdown: A sun-filled and playful interpretation of a vanilla pod’s lush notes. Warm in composition, Acqua di Parma’s has nailed its artistic and uber chic play on Madagascar’s precious bean with a sweet, hungerlust-worthy and long-lasting fragrance that’s seriously worth the hefty price tag.
Notes: Bergamot, mandarin, neroli, jasmine sambac, vanilla.
Reason to buy it? It’s perfect for blokes who like their stuff sweet, minus that horrible sickly feeling post sugar binge.
Best for? Guys who still believe pick n’ mix is king and who finish a tub of vanilla yoghurt in one sitting.
Strength rating: medium
Tom Ford, Lavender Extreme
Lowdown: Memories of Provence reign supreme in this super slick and supremely stylish Tom Ford knockout. Reworked and refracted, three distinctive varieties of the purple bloom have been combined with Italian bergamot and wild grown tonka bean to create a super fresh and everlasting oriental aroma that will drive your fans wild.
Reason to buy it? It’s extremely powerful. Be warned, I sprayed three pumps on my pressure points and became increasingly drowsy. Advice: spray with care.
Notes: Lavender and even more lavender with a hint of Bergamot and Tonka bean absolute.
Best for? Those seeking a calming and relaxing scent that will impress, as well as make your friends covet your fragrance with absolute envy.
Strength rating: strong
Lowdown: Exclusive to Harrods, this beautiful knockout takes its inspiration from Eastern spices and is packaged in a glorious, some might say, even collectible, wooden box that screams sophisticated, yet buzzingly modern gentleman. Though festive in appearance (think cute little red bow on top), it’s an all year delight perfect for date night or serious work dos.
Notes: Saffron, nutmeg, cypriol, sandalwood, Sri Lanka essence, cedarwood, Atlas essence and Vanilla absolute.
Reason to buy it? It comes with a royal warrant, has unisex appeal, packs in on-trend notes – should we go on?
Strength rating: strong
Best for? Classic and timeless lads who appreciate the perks of a modern twist.
Creed, Aventus Cologne
Lowdown: If you’re a man whose mantra is vitality, success and true grit, this hench bottle was made for you. Fruity, yet unfeminine, Aventus harmoniously marries a citrusy aromatic burst of ginger and mandarin with dark and earthy tones of patchouli and vetiver. Think depth boys, extreme depth.
Notes: Ginger, mandarin, pink peppercorn, mint, green apple, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, styrax, musk, tonka bean and birch.
Reason to buy it? It’s a sexy option for equally sexy men that prefer a culty, traditional option that trumps all the gimmicky market trends.
Strength rating: strong
Best For? Men who like that man scent, masculine types who work in the city (and in banking), basically.
Le Labo, Santal 33
Lowdown: Made in a lab and fresh AF for at least 12 months, New York-based Le Labo is for the trendy, contemporary guy in search of something bloody frivolous and new – our words, not their’s.
Born from the memory of an old Marlboro advert (can you get anymore manly?) the girls and boy at Le Labo HQ say Santal is all about embodying the spirit of the Great American West: personal freedom.
We’re not sure about the message behind all the marketing jargon, but we can attest to this, the stuff trapped inside the little bottle smells pretty damn good.
Notes: cardamom, ambrox, Australian sandalwood, papayrus and cedarwood
Reason to buy it? It’s addictive, comforting and just a little bit naughty.
Strength rating: medium
Best for? Men who like spice, leather and a little bit of musk.
Eight & Bob, Original
Lowdown: According to legend, founder and aristocratic socialite of Eight & Bob Albert Fouquet befriended and presented his fragrance house to the late JFK in the summer of 37, in France. The 35th president of the United States was so taken aback by the smell that he asked for eight samples, and one for Bob, too.
Months after his encounter with JFK, Albert received a number of requests for ‘Eight and Bob’ from numerous Hollywood stars and directors, among them Cary Grant and James Stewart. The small print reads: ‘in this bottle, you will find the dash of French glamour that your American personality lacks’ – daring, but, in some cases, savagely true for the times.
In short, you’re spritzing the scent of Hollywood all over you baby and oh how glamorous it is indeed.
Notes: dried wood, labdanum, violet leaves, amber, sandalwood, vetiver, cardamom, lemon, pink pepper.
Reason to buy it? Aside from the sweet smell, the super cool packaging. It comes in a neat little book that tells the story behind the brand and your perfume. It’s eccentric, and in a very good and Instagrammable way.
Strength rating: fresh meets a lingering medium
Best for? Millennials who like to show off. Big time.
Floris London No.89
Lowdown: A now iconic fragrance from purveyors of royal and London society perfumers, Floris. Created for the English gent in mind, No.89 is a classic blend with fresh citrus cologne top notes, neroli, lavender, bergamot and spicy woody characters reigning supreme. Comes in a lovely bottle too and Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond was also an avid fan of the fragrance.
Notes: bergamot, lavender, neroli, nutmeg, orange, petitgran, geranium, rose, ylang ylang, cedarwood, musk, oakmoss, sandalwood and vetiver.
Reason to buy it? Their current and previous clientele includes everyone from Her Majesty, The Queen to Sir Winston Churchill and even Oscar Wilde.
Strength rating: strong but not overbearing.
Best for? People who are proper posh (or at least try to be).
1707 Noir Eau de Parfum
Lowdown: The perfect remedy for the winter months, courtesy of Her Maj’s favourite grocer, Fortnum & Mason. Made in France by Micallef, the best adjective to describe this stellar mix is: intense. Warm and spicy, one spray is enough to ignite a room, let alone your nostrils, so, in hindsight, the £195 price tag really is quite worth it.
Notes: Top secret – Fortnum’s don’t even know what’s in it, but think oriental.
Reason to buy it? It’s presented in a rather nice, elegantly crafted and hand decorated bottle. Look out for the special limited editions ones too, as you never know, they might be worth some lolly years to come.
Strength rating: off the scale
Best for? Guys who appreciate the word ‘extra’.
Vilheim, Morning Chess
Lowdown: If you are yearning for the smells of summer, buy this. Taking inspiration from the warmer months shared with his grandfather, Vilheim’s creator Jan Ahlgren, believes in creating a fragrance collection that is one giant ‘tribute to the glamour and aesthetic of his grandfather’s era, expressed in our contemporary aesthetic and olfactory language’.
He’s done just that with Morning Chess, a vibrant scent that’s ripe, lush and smells almost like a brisk, mountainous sea-engulfed coast.
Flowery language yes, but for the sake of being succinct, summer meets winter in an Art Deco style bottle that was made to impress.
Notes: bergamot, Tuscan leather, galbanum, patchouli, black amber
Reason to buy it? It brings the seasons together in a unique scent that sets itself apart from the rest.
Strength rating: fresh to medium
Best for? Nostalgic types who love the outdoors and a touch of something extra subtle.
D.S. & Durga, Burning Barbershop
Lowdown: Bizarrely, this scent was created to paint an olfactory picture of the 1981 Curling Bros. barbershop fire in New York. Sweet, smoky and medicinal (don’t worry, it doesn’t smell like your normal course of antibiotics), Burning Barbershop is undoubtedly unique, and though it won’t be everyone’s first choice, the concoction nonetheless offers an imperfect scent ideal for men who like to experiment on the wild side of the fragrance spectrum.
Notes: spearmint, lime hemlock spruce, lavender absolute, Turkish rose, burnt oil, vanilla and hay.
Reason to buy it? Because who else do you know that owns a fragrance inspired by a barbershop burning down?
Strength rating: strong
Best for? Men who prefer smokier and stronger fragrances.
Tom Daxon, Sicilian Wood
Lowdown: Close your eyes and imagine you are alone in a citrus grove basking in the blazing Italian sunshine. Spoiler alert: this is what Tom Daxon’s Sicilian wood smells like.
Citrusy tones are enhanced by the dark and uber seductive base notes of amber, cedar and sandalwood. The effect? A fresh, albeit reviving scent that’s modern as well as understated at heart. In a nutshell, a bottle of Tom harkens back to the good old days of romance and escapism. If that sounds like your vibe, buy it now.
Notes: Lemon, tangerine, bergamot and cardamom, gaiac wood, jasmine, lily of the valley, amber, cedar wood and sandalwood.
Reason to buy it? Classically European from bottle to pulse point, this scent is light, oh so fresh and dare we say it, quite soothing.
Strength rating: medium
Best for? Men who dream of being on a constant Mediterranean escape.
Lowdown: Charmers and men blessed with the gift of the gab, this one’s for you. Created with the elegant and affable gentleman in mind, Carthusia blends all the smells of an open sea with fresh fruit, good Russian leather, and spunky, smooth to the touch cashmere all into one. Discreet and not at all overpowering, Uomo has everyday use written all over its gorgeous Capri-style bottle.
Notes: Bergamot, lemon, jasmine, amber and oakmoss.
Reason to buy it? It’s a top-notch choice for a serial Tinder dater.
Strength rating: fresh
Best for? Men who appreciate delicate, wholesome and charming scents.
Floris London, Bouquet De La Reine
Lowdown: Charismatic and oh so energetic, Bouquet De La Reine (The Queen’s Bouquet) was created by Mr Floris as a wedding gift for Queen Victoria when she married Prince Albert way back when in 1840.
The exact recipe has changed over the years with the most recent created to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Her Maj in 2002. Unmistakably imperial, the bottle’s elegant mix of sweet tuberose, juicy blackcurrant and violet leaf notes will add a touch of spring to your daily life.
Notes: bergamot, blackcurrant buds, peach, violet leaf, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, tuberose, ylang ylang, violet, musk, sandalwood.
Reason to buy it? It made us instantly happy as soon as we blitzed it all over our skin and clothes.
Strength rating: just right
Best for? Men who appreciate the wonders of a floral.
For it’s summery, warm, knockout long-lasting notes and for the fact we’re still obsessing over it, Tom Ford’s Soleil Blanc is our top ES Best Buy to nab right now.