If you’re looking for some good ideas for your holiday shopping but just don’t know what to get, why not play it safe and go for a classic: fragrance. Gifting the best cologne for men can be a great way to give an ultra-personal and long-lasting gift they’ll cherish every time they wear it.
Whether shopping for a husband, a dad, a brother or even yourself, everyone has different likes and preferences when it comes to fragrance, which makes nailing down the perfect scent quite daunting. Luckily, there are plenty of great options for you to choose from.
To find the best colognes for men, we researched the bestselling — and best-smelling — top-rated scents of 2023 that’ll make an excellent gift for your favorite guy. (You can see the best perfumes for women here.) Along with these 25 picks, we’ve also answered some of the frequently asked questions when it comes to wearing cologne, since the world of fragrance is vast and varied, and you don’t want to get caught wearing too much cologne.
There are a few techniques for how to apply cologne, and ultimately it’s up to personal preference. Generally, you’ll want to spritz from 6 inches away from your body so the fragrance can hit specific points without being too concentrated. It’s also important to apply cologne to your skin rather than to your clothes. This will help the fragrance last longer, and as you wear it throughout the day, the fragrance will react with your skin’s pH and the notes will settle. This is why the same fragrance may smell different on two people.
One spritz on each of the pulse points — the neck and the inside of each wrist — is a good guideline for applying cologne without overdoing it. If you like particularly bold scents or if you’re sensitive to smell, you could also opt for spraying one wrist, then dabbing that wrist on the opposite one as well as the neck. However, be careful not to rub the fragrance around too much, as this is believed to degrade the fragrance molecules, effectively changing the way the cologne smells.
Cologne’s longevity depends on a number of factors. The ingredients of the fragrance itself will affect the wear time. Alcohol-based colognes will have a shorter wear time than fragrance oils. This is because it’s the oils in fragrances that carry the aromatic compounds, so the higher the oil content, the stronger and longer-lasting the perfume. In fact, colognes have a lighter concentration of oils than perfumes, which is what sets the two fragrance categories apart. So if you’ve ever wondered about the difference between perfume and cologne, it’s the concentration of fragrance oils, not necessarily the gender of who the products are being marketed to.
Your skin also has an affect on how cologne wears. Sweat can interfere with how cologne smells, so it’s best to apply it to clean skin. In addition, dry skin won’t hold onto fragrance as well as moisturized skin, so remember to use a neutral body lotion before spritzing your fragrance too.
The environment is another factor to take into account. Fragrances don’t project as much in colder climates, so you may feel like reapplying your cologne to make a stronger impact. On the other hand, fragrances will carry further in warm, humid climates; however, since sweat is more likely a factor in those conditions, your fragrance may wear out faster.
Whether you’re traveling with cologne as a holiday gift or packing it for yourself, bringing fragrance on a plane can be tricky. The biggest factor to keep in mind here is that the TSA only allows liquids of 3.4 ounces or less in carry-ons. If you’re planning on bringing a full-size bottle of cologne, you may need to check your suitcase. Travel-size colognes or refillable fragrance atomizers are another option for making sure your cologne gets through security.
If you *completely* don’t know where to start when it comes to finding the right cologne for him, a variety set is the way to go. Macy’s sells its own cologne sampler that allows your guy to smell 17 different sample-sized colognes, so he can make sure he finds the right one before buying a full size bottle.
Filled with 14 fragrance samples from Armani, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren and more, this variety set is chock-full of designer colognes. It also comes with an empty travel-size atomizer that you can fill with your favorite scent as well as a coupon for $15 off a fragrance purchase of $50 or more from one of the brands included in the kit.
Sephora’s cologne sampler comes with eight designer fragrances and your choice of a full-size cologne. You’ll find favorites like Gucci Guilty Pour Homme, Viktor&Rolf Spicebomb Night Vision, Maison Margiela “Replica” Jazz Club and more. Once you’ve picked your favorite of the bunch, you can redeem the included scent certificate online or in store for a full-size bottle of your chosen cologne — at no extra cost.
This deluxe sampler includes six exclusive mini sizes of popular colognes, including Valentino Uomo Born in Roma, Moncler Pour Homme, Yves Saint Laurent Y and more.
From Jazz Club to By the Fireplace, Maison Margiela makes some of the best unisex fragrances out there, inspired by specific places and vibes. This sampler set includes 10 minis of the brand’s fan-favorite scents, so you get a bit of everything.
Try four of Le Labo’s bestselling fragrances for under $100. The glass vials house a travel-friendly 0.17-ounce amount of each scent, which will last you a surprisingly long time, thanks to Le Labo’s impressively strong fragrances.
A great option for the man who is already into the world of fragrance but wants to try something new, DS & Durga’s captivating scents offer something different from your standard cologne. From gourmand Pistachio to mysterious Debaser, these luxe unisex fragrances are worth a sniff.
From masculine Dark Rum to fruit-forward Strawberry, Malin + Goetz’s six travel-size fragrances offer a range of scent profiles to explore.
A clean, woody fragrance, this Chanel scent boasts a 4.8-star rating for a reason: The citrus and amber notes complement each other perfectly, while the cedarwood adds an element of punch. “I have literally about 100 colognes and this is one of my go-to colognes for everyday wear,” writes one reviewer. “Great for business folks that have to wear a suit like me and need a day cologne.” So, if you’re looking for an everyday fragrance you can get a ton of use out of, consider this one.
If you look forward to winter for warm days by the fire instead of the snow and cold temperatures, this Maison Margiela cologne needs to be on your dressing table ASAP. With notes of vanilla, chestnut and clove, it’s a woody, sweet scent. Designed to be comforting yet sensual, it’s the ultimate cold-weather fragrance.
You wouldn’t think of rosemary as an ideal cologne ingredient, but this Armani Beauty scent is an aquatic-inspired option that’s super fresh and clean. Acqua Di Gio is ideal for the man who doesn’t want an overpowering, woody fragrance.
One of the most distinctive colognes on the market, Dior Sauvage contains hints of ambroxan, Sichuan pepper and reggio bergamot, making it perfect for the man who wants to stand out from the crowd.
With ginger, tobacco and cocoa, this high-end Tom Ford cologne is the ultimate sweet and spicy scent for the person who just can’t pick between the two. With over 43,500 “loves” on Sephora.com, it seems the high price tag hasn’t deterred consumers from trying it out, either. “I can smell it on my skin for hours, which is exactly what I wanted and expected from a luxury fragrance,” writes one reviewer. Well worth the cost, to be sure.
Named after the ancient Greek god of love, Versace Eros uses mint leaves, lemon zest and green apple to bring about a fruity, cheerful vibe — no woody scents in sight. For an energizing scent that’ll provide a pick-me-up throughout a long workday, this is absolutely the option to choose. “It’s masculine without being overly musky, and as other reviewers have noted, something about it just sets it apart,” writes one reviewer. “It’s fresh yet a bit sweet, and manly but not overpowering.”
AllSaints’ Sunset Riot unisex eau de parfum is meant to juxtapose the calming sunset with the chaos of a riot, so this fragrance is woody yet floral. It’s masculine and feminine at the same time, with notes of pink pepper, orange flower and cedarwood.
If the bright gold bottle doesn’t lure you in, the scent most definitely will: This Paco Rabanne cologne boasts notes of rose, musk, cinnamon, peppermint, patchouli and white wood, among many others. This leads to a multilayered fragrance that starts off with citrus top notes, spicy middle notes and woody base notes — everything you need in one fragrance.
Using fig leaves to give it a unique edge, Versace Dylan Blue is a cult favorite, with a 4.7-star rating on Sephora. Other fun additions include violet and black pepper, which gives a sultry touch to an otherwise modern fragrance. Described by one reviewer as “clean, masculine, sexy and not too sweet or powdery,” it’s a great option for those looking for something that’s a bit outside the box.
While not a new cologne, Santal 33 has developed a devoted following in recent years, especially among city-dwellers. Le Labo describes Santal 33 as an open fire, inspired by the American West. With rich and woody notes of cardamon, iris, cedarwood and leather, this fragrance is addictive and described by one reviewer as “the scent of the gods.”
Designed as an experiment in contrasts, this YSL scent uses cardamom, cinnamon and cedarwood to create a spicy scent with subtle woody accents. A true seductive fragrance in every sense of the word, it’s the one scent to try for a special date.
Inspired by the founder of Byredo’s Indian upbringing, Black Saffron combines notes of Asian pomelo, juniper berry, black violet, raspberry and vetiver for a fragrance that’s leathery yet fruity.
Notes of sage, spices, roasted almonds and citrus make this spicy cologne perfect for those who want a strong, noticeable scent.
The warm, floral scent of this Tom Ford Black Orchid cologne will have you feeling sophisticated and luxurious all night long. And if its notes of truffle, black orchid and plum don’t pull you in, the stunning golden bottle definitely will.
This mineral, woody cologne by Jo Malone has notes of ambrette seeds, sea salt and sage. Its fragrance story focuses on the windswept shore of rugged cliffs for a cologne meant to be as energetic and spirited as the crashing waves.
This warm and spicy scent from Burberry has refreshing notes of mandarin tree and violet leaves paired with cedarwood and white pepper. Its clean yet aromatic fragrance makes it great for everyday use. With a 4.8-star rating, reviewers at Sephora absolutely love this cologne.