The best men's cologne—spicy, fresh and woody scents to suit every budget and person

We select the best men's colognes—splash out on a luxe scent or find the perfect purse-friendly perfume

three of the best men's cologne by prada, paco rabanne, diptyque
(Image credit: Future)

The best men’s cologne is often a contentious conversation. Why? Because the smells we are drawn to, and the fragrances we buy involve many individual choices. A certain scent can provoke personal memories, and whenever you want to draw on certain emotions, one specific perfume might be what takes you there. Or, it could be that you just love a certain scent and want to wear it every day.

Just as with the best perfume for women, picking the best men's cologne can be as simple as favoring a certain brand because they’ve never let you down before. Maybe you know that flower fragrances or rose perfume will always hit the spot. Or it might simply be because we like the way a bottle looks, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. 

Either way, rounding up the best male fragrances out there is a job worth doing because you know what? Those boys are notoriously tricky to buy for. So if you're looking for the best Christmas gifts for men, 50th birthday gift ideas, or simply want to treat yourself to a clean, spicy, or woody scent, you can never go wrong with a bottle of something that smells wonderful. But where to begin? 

The best men's cologne: our beauty editor's top five

  1. Burberry Hero EDT | $99/£76 for 100ml—at Sephora (US) at Boots (UK)
  2. Chanel Bleu de Chanel Parfum | $155/ £113 for 100ml—at Nordstrom (US) at John Lewis (UK)
  3. Hugo Boss Boss Bottled EDP | $99/£76 for 100ml—at Ulta (US) at Lookfantastic (UK)
  4. Clinique Happy Cologne Spray | $59/£44 for 50ml—at Amazon (US) at Amazon (UK)
  5. Gucci Guilty Parfum | $98/£52 for 50ml—at Ulta (US) at Boots (UK)

How to choose the best men's cologne

  • Find out what they wear now. “The best piece of advice I could give when buying fragrance for someone else, is to find out what they already like,” advises Niamh Butler, head of training for Space NK. “It’s tempting to buy what you like the smell of, but you run this risk of them never wearing it.” Just make sure the scent you find is one he regularly wears. If you find something gathering dust in a drawer and wonder do perfumes expire the answer is yes, so it wouldn't be wise to base your choice on that.
  • Learn fragrance strengths. “The difference between an EDT and EDP is that there is a higher concentration of fragrance oil in an EDP. Therefore it will be more expensive but it will last longer on the skin. The EDT will be less expensive but need topping up,” explains Karen Harris, head of marketing for The Perfume Shop. “Aftershave has around 80-90% alcohol content and a low percentage of oils so it’s soothing to apply directly onto the skin post-shave. Cologne is another low concentration. They are great for every day, but with only  5% aromatic compounds the scent will fade quicker.”
  • Think about scent families. Finding out the ‘types’ of scents they like is more valuable than the specific notes contained within them. This is because perfumes are created like individual recipes, so even two bottles with the same notes can smell completely different. “There are some common fragrance families, which are citrus, green and fresh, woody and spicy,” explains Niamh. “By staying in the same fragrance family as to something they already wear, you’re more likely to give them something they like.” 

How to pick a fragrance they'll love

To help you navigate, we've divided our guide into four fragrance styles:

  • Heavy and woody Powerful and aromatic with notes of sandalwood, resins, and cedarwood. Best for those who like classic wood scents Aramis and Dior Homme.
  • Sparkling citrus Zippy and zesty with citrus fruits or botanicals like neroli and bergamot. If he likes Clinique Happy or Acqua di Parma Colonia he'll love these.
  • Musky and sexy Warming, heady, and a little bit comforting musk-based scents will be right for fans of iconic cologne 4711 by Muelhens or Burberry Touch.
  • Fresh and aromatic Clean-smelling, with green botanicals and ocean-inspired notes. Tom Ford Neroli Portofino and Davidoff Cool Water are great examples.

The best men's cologne, as chosen by our experts

Heavy and woody

Burberry Hero

(Image credit: Burberry)

1. Burberry Hero EDT

Best woody men's cologne overall

Specifications
RRP : $99/£76 for 100ml
Fragrance style: aromatic woody
Key notes: cedarwood, juniper, black pepper
Reasons to buy
+Understated+Modern but feels like a classic+Classy bottle
Reasons to avoid
-Might not be strong enough for everyone

If you judge a fragrance on how it looks and the advertising imagery surrounding it, then you'd be hard pushed to not fall head over heels with this new scent from Burberry. The face of the fragrance is the inimitable Adam Driver and the advert sees him running on the beach alongside a horse. And all of that is also reflected in the scent. It has an energetic edge to it, probably thanks to the bergamot and black pepper but there is a heavy earthiness in it too. It’s polished but also a bit raw at the same time. 

Chanel Bleu de Chanel Parfum

(Image credit: Chanel)

2. Chanel Bleu de Chanel Parfum

Best luxury woody men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $155/ £113 for 100ml
Fragrance style: woody citrus
Key notes: cedar, sandalwood, lemon zest
Reasons to buy
+There is no dud Chanel fragrance+Satisfying magnetic lid +Long-lasting on skin
Reasons to avoid
-Some might find it a bit overpowering

After the overwhelming success of the eau de toilette and Eau de parfum, it is probably no surprise Chanel created a parfum version to complete the Bleu set. It has all the familiarity of the other versions but with more cedar notes running through it, which makes it slightly heavier and potent as you would expect of a parfum. However, there is still also some lightness, thanks to the lemon zest, which makes this a fragrance that can be worn equally comfortably in the height of summer as the depths of winter. 

Calvin Klein Defy EDT

(Image credit: Calvin Klein)

3. Calvin Klein Defy EDT

Best budget woody men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $70/£60 for 100ml
Fragrance style: woody and zesty
Key notes: bergamot, lavender absolute, vetiver oil
Reasons to buy
+Set to become iconic+Works for both casual and formal occasions+Fresh top notes
Reasons to avoid
-Others will be wearing it too

If there’s any brand that does the high-low mix well, it’s Calvin Klein and this fragrance is typical of that. It’s low-key enough to be worn with a simple white tee and jeans (as the star of the ad campaign, actor Richard Madden does) making it a great choice for the more casual man in your life, but it also works equally well with a tux and a tie and when formality is required. It is a woody scent, but it has a freshness to it that prevents it from being too heady.  

Hugo Boss Boss Bottled EDP

(Image credit: Hugo Boss)

4. Hugo Boss Boss Bottled EDP

Best mass market men's woody cologne

Specifications
RRP: $99/£76 for 100ml
Fragrance style: spicy and woody
Key notes: chestnut, cardamon and dark vetiver
Reasons to buy
+It will suit every man in your life+A classic scent that will never go out of style+Nice and spicy
Reasons to avoid
-They may already have it

If you’re looking for the ‘everyman’ of male fragrances, then Boss Bottled may be it. However, this new Eau de parfum version is a little punchier and stronger than the original eau de toilette. The bottle follows the classic design, but the juice inside has been slightly refined to have stronger spicy notes of cardamon which is cut through with a slight sweetness of apple and cinnamon all with dark vetiver providing the long-lasting sexy aroma that lingers. It is strong but not overwhelming and sophisticated without being too OTT. If you're worried about how to buy fragrance online without actually smelling it, this ticks so many boxes it would be a safe choice.

Diptyque Orphéon

(Image credit: Diptyque)

5. Diptyque Orphéon

Best niche woody men's cologne

Specifications
RRP: $188/ £125 for 75ml
Fragrance style: sensual woody
Key notes: cedar, juniper, mastic and galbanum
Reasons to buy
+Master craftsmanship+Totally unique+Gorgeous bottle
Reasons to avoid
-Might be too eclectic

Behind every Diptyque scent is a story that gives even more meaning and understanding to what you smell. Orphéon was a nightclub/ bar not far from the location of the first Diptyque boutique in Paris. The notes in the fragrance all represent a different element of the club. There is cedar and vetiver to bring to life the coffee tables and dance floor. Juniper and lemon are in there to conjure up night’s drinking gin fizzes. Mastic and galbanum add a leathery note like tobacco and cigars. And then there’s powdery ylang-ylang for the women that would have been there and amber for the men. This is a scent like no other, which makes it the most special. 

Sparkling citrus

Valentino Born In Roma Yellow Dream EDT

(Image credit: Valentino)

6. Valentino Born In Roma Yellow Dream EDT

Best overall men’s citrus cologne

Specifications
RRP: $80/£55 for 50ml
Fragrance style: spicy and zesty
Key notes: mandarin, pineapple, baked gingerbread
Reasons to buy
+Surprising fragrance+A brand he might not have considered+Juicy and delicious
Reasons to avoid
-The bottle is quite heavy

There are lots of citrus notes in this fragrance making it quite zingy in nature, but they are paired with an equal amount of spice from ingredients like gingerbread and cinnamon, which create quite a warmth. It’s a fragrance that has the sophistication that older men might be after and a vibrancy that will appeal to younger guys too.   

Jo Malone London Orange Bitters Cologne

(Image credit: Jo Malone London)

7. Jo Malone London Orange Bitters Cologne

Best luxury men’s citrus cologne

Specifications
RRP: $150/£102 for 100ml
Fragrance style: juicy citrus
Key notes: sweet orange, bitter orange, amber
Reasons to buy
+It smells like nothing else +Zesty without being sweet+You can steal it too
Reasons to avoid
-Not for orange haters

It would be easy for this gorgeous cologne to tread into Jaffa cake territory, but of course, anything from the house of Jo Malone London isn’t going to be anything other than fabulous. The musty amber in this fragrance cuts through the citrus zest of the orange notes, preventing it from being too sweet and giving it a sparkling edge. 

Clinique Happy Cologne Spray

(Image credit: Clinique)

8. Clinique Happy Cologne Spray

Best budget men’s citrus cologne

Specifications
RRP: $59/£44 for 50ml
Fragrance style: crisp citrus
Key notes: kaffir lime, mandarin, yuzu
Reasons to buy
+Range of products with this scent +It’s a classic+Mood-boosting 
Reasons to avoid
-He’ll never wear anything else

Launched in 1999, this is a fragrance that has stood the test of time and for good reason. It is perfectly balanced; not too heavy, not too light, not too musky but not too sweet either. It’s the perfect amount of a little bit of everything and that makes it ultra-wearable for all ages and types. 

Paco Rabanne Phantom EDT

(Image credit: Paco Rabanne)

9. Paco Rabanne Phantom EDT

Best innovative men’s citrus cologne

Specifications
RRP: $75/£55 for 50ml
Fragrance style: energising aromatic
Key notes: styrallyl acetate, lemon peel oil, lavender
Reasons to buy
+The first of its kind tech +Mood-boosting ingredients+Bottle will make you smile
Reasons to avoid
-Could be too tech heavy for some

This fragrance is one of the first to utilize technology in its creation and delivery like no other. In terms of the juice, it contains a molecule called styrallyl acetate. It has been used in perfume before but normally in small amounts. Here it has been used with ten times the normal amount. The scent was then tested on young men, using A.I. technology, to find out which emotions it aroused in the brain. The creators discovered it made them feel good, more confident, and more energetic. Bringing new meaning to the power of perfume. Then there’s the bottle. By simply holding your smartphone up to the robot’s head you become immediately connected to the Phantom world where you can play games, learn the Phantom robot dance. But perhaps more importantly than all of that, it smells good. It smells really good.

Prada Luna Rossa Ocean

(Image credit: Prada)

10. Prada Luna Rossa Ocean EDT

Best understated men’s citrus cologne

Specifications
RRP: $75/£54 for 50ml
Fragrance style: leathery citrus
Key notes: citrus cocktail, lavender, vetiver
Reasons to buy
+Simple and elegant+Not trying to be trendy+Ultra classy for gifting
Reasons to avoid
-Citrus lovers might want more zing

Prada is the brand that excels in understated elegance and this cologne is true to that. It’s citrus by nature but it’s not an overwhelming zesty scent. There’s a subtlety and quietness to it, thanks to the vetiver and lavender, that make it modern and classic. Brooding and mysterious actor, Jake Gyllenhaal is the face of the fragrance and we can’t think of anyone that embodies this scent more than him.  

Musky and sexy

YSL Y Le Parfum

(Image credit: YSL)

11. YSL Y Le Parfum

Best musky men’s cologne overall

Specifications
RRP: $120/£72 for 60ml
Fragrance style: clean and sexy
Key notes: black cedarwood, lavender, grapefruit
Reasons to buy
+Lenny Kravitz is the face (who doesn't want to smell like him?)+The LBD of male fragrance+Too cool for school bottle
Reasons to avoid
-Might be too strong for some

Dark and powerful is how this fragrance is described by the brand, and we'd go along with that. As it is a parfum, it is a more potent version of both the EDT and EDP versions but there are still moments of delicacy, thanks to the lavender and grapefruit. It’s a great buy for the stylish man in your life regardless of age. 

Tom Ford Black Orchid

(Image credit: Tom Ford)

12. Tom Ford Black Orchid EDP

Best luxury musky men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $190/£120 for 100ml
Fragrance style: decadent gourmand
Key notes: black truffle, blackcurrant, bergamot
Reasons to buy
+As it’s unisex, you can wear it too+The ultimate sexy brand+Smells expensive
Reasons to avoid
-You may not want to smell like your man

This iconic scent is pure decadence and glamour in a bottle. The ingredients are rich and the scent is too, which makes it might the kind of scent someone is less likely to buy for themselves but would be desperate to receive as a gift. It's a spicy scent but there are sparkling notes which elevate it and stop it from being too overbearing. It’s a scent for new love, old loves, and true love.

Mont Blanc Legend EDP

(Image credit: Mont Blanc)

13. Mont Blanc Legend EDP

Best budget musky men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $78/£46 for 50ml
Fragrance style: fresh fougère
Key notes: jasmine, moss, fresh violet leaves
Reasons to buy
+Hip flask style bottle+Great name+Unusual scent 
Reasons to avoid
-Bottle may be too simple for some

Whilst this isn’t cheap as chips, it is an extraordinarily good price for the level of craftsmanship and high-quality ingredients contained in the slick, black bottle. It has a gorgeous mix of woody and leathery notes. But there is also lots of green, freshness in this which lifts it and makes it smell quite zesty. 

Gucci Guilty Parfum

(Image credit: Gucci)

14. Gucci Guilty Parfum

Best seductive musky men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $98/£52 for 50ml
Fragrance style: aromatic fougère
Key notes: pink pepper, Italian lemon, orange blossom
Reasons to buy
+This is one sexy scent +Transcends all ages+Lasts for ages on skin
Reasons to avoid
-If there's such thing as too sexy, this is it

If you’re looking for a new scent for your partner to add a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your lives, look no further. This gorgeous scent is masculine but contains ingredients that have always typically been reserved for female perfumes, such as orange blossom, which makes it extra special and stops it from being too intense. It is sugary but not sickly and when it dries down there’s an almost incense-like quality to it. He’ll smell great in it and you’ll love smelling it on him. Win-win. 

Dolce & Gabbana The One For Men Gold

(Image credit: D&G)

15. Dolce & Gabbana The One For Men Gold

Best designer musky men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $98/£77 for 75ml
Fragrance style: aromatic and spicy
Key notes: amber, patchouli, vetiver
Reasons to buy
+If he loves the original, he will love this+Visually appealing with a nice flash of gold+Well balanced scent
Reasons to avoid
-Might have had enough of ‘The One’

Whilst this is a musky scent, the amber and patchouli are heady base notes in this, there is a lot of zest and citrus which lifts it up and makes it sparkle. It’s the sort of fragrance that everyone will like, which is why the franchise has proved so popular, but with that gold bottle, it perhaps makes the perfect gift for the man in your life that lives with a little bit of extra flair. 

Fresh and aromatic

Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey

(Image credit: Issey Miyake)

16. Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey EDP

Best fresh men’s cologne overall

Specifications
RRP: $109/£48 for 75ml
Fragrance style: woody aquatic
Key notes: Yuzu, coriander, nutmeg
Reasons to buy
+He may already be a devotee+You cannot go wrong with this scent+Clean and sparkly aroma
Reasons to avoid
-Might be over-familiar to some

If ever there was a scent that encapsulated the 90s, surely this is it? Launched in 1992 it has been selling strongly ever since and for good reason. This is a great fragrance that suits everyone whether you’re buying it for your husband, son, nephew, or boss. It’s not too flashy, too overbearing but it still says something. It’s not boring. It’s a classic scent that mixes a bit of citrus, with the right amount of spice and woodiness. In short, it’s wonderful. 

Dior Sauvage Elixir

(Image credit: Dior)

17. Dior Sauvage Elixir

Best luxury fresh men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $155/£112 for 60ml
Fragrance style: spicy fresh
Key notes: lavender, grapefruit, liquorice
Reasons to buy
+Classic and sophisticated+Good staying power+Great for parties
Reasons to avoid
-Might be a bit too strong for some

This is a brilliantly spicy fragrance that has some serious potency so once it’s sprayed, it lingers on the skin all day. And once the abundance of aromatic notes has dried down you do get a very subtle zesty note come through thanks to the yuzu, which lifts it. There is an older man’s sophistication to this but it would make a great ‘evening only’ option for a younger guy too. 

David Beckham Infinite Aqua EDP

(Image credit: David Beckham)

18. David Beckham Infinite Aqua EDP

Best budget fresh men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: £35 for 100ml (UK only)
Fragrance style: aromatic and fresh
Key notes: lemon, fig, ocean breeze
Reasons to buy
+Great everyday scent +Affordable but still feels special+Surprisingly classy aroma
Reasons to avoid
-Not for celebrity fragrance refusers

This fragrance is inspired by one of David’s many drives along the Pacific coast highway. And whilst that might sound like bumpf, that is exactly what it smells like. There’s a freshness and outdoorsy-ness about it along with very soft and delicate notes that give a wash of floral to it which sums up being by the ocean but not being in the ocean. The bottle design is simple and elegant and it looks and smells far more expensive than what it is.

Carolina Herrera Bad Boy EDT

(Image credit: Carolina Herrera)

19. Carolina Herrera Bad Boy EDT

Best surprising fresh men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $76/£55 for 50ml
Fragrance style: spicy aromatic
Key notes: black and white pepper, sage, cocoa
Reasons to buy
+Smells like summer +Unique design+Peppery notes bring sophistication
Reasons to avoid
-The bottle won’t be everyone’s cup of tea

It’s hard to not judge a book by its cover and that’s true of fragrances and their bottles. There will be some that will adore the funky, lightning bolt-inspired design, but there might be those that would look at it and assume it’s not for them, which is a shame. Because the juice inside truly works for all. The heavier notes of pepper and cedarwood give it a heaviness and sophistication but there is also green bergamot that adds a lightness that makes it smell like sunshine in a lightning bolt.    

Jo Loves Cobalt Patchouli & Cedar

(Image credit: Jo Loves)

20. Jo Loves Cobalt Patchouli & Cedar Parfum

Best unique fresh men’s cologne

Specifications
RRP: $100/£75 for 50ml
Fragrance style: vibrant aromatic
Key notes: blue grapefruit, geranium, cedar wood
Reasons to buy
+A very happy scent+Everyone will want to know what it is+Cool cult brand
Reasons to avoid
-Might be too unique for some noses

Created during lockdown to celebrate freedom and living life, this is all those feelings in a bottle. The grapefruit adds some zing to set it apart from the cedarwood and it's the master craftsmanship that you get when you buy a Jo Loves fragrance that sets this apart from anything else. Quite simply because there is nothing else out there that smells anything like this.