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Men’s fragrance is an obsession: where once mass-produced aftershaves left gents smell like clones in the 90s, now there is an eau du parfum or aftershave for every type of man, every scent preference, every occasion. It’s delectable. It’s louche.
No more do you have to rely on one of the bland ‘fresh, clean’ aftershaves that seemed to dominate the markets of yesteryear. Instead, you can plump for woody, spicy, oud-laced, amber-soaked, sugary, or herby scents.
It can, however, be tricky to navigate the world of perfume, with write-ups as esoteric and vague as wine descriptions, talk of ‘top notes’ and ‘long tails.’ Don’t fret. If you’re after a new scent, be it for a man you love, or yourself - we’ve deciphered the jargon and found the best fragrances for men available to buy right now.
How do I choose a perfume? A jargon-buster
If you’re gifting perfume, you first need to consider what kind of scent your other half would like.
Each perfume has a variety of different ‘notes’. These notes determine the overall scent and they consist of three different layers called base, top or head, and middle or heart notes, and they all work in together to create a specific smell.
The top notes are the ones you will smell when you first spray the perfume, followed by the heart notes and the base notes. It’s the base note scent that will last the longest on the skin, so each of the notes are important.
Broadly speaking, all perfumes can be divided in to four categories; floral notes, oriental notes, fresh notes and woody notes.
Once you have decided which kind of scent you want - and crucially which kind of scent your other half would prefer - you can go ahead and make your choice.
We’ve chosen perfumes from across the four categories, so there’s bound to be something below that will delight on the man in your life - even if that’s you.
Oo, this lush fragrance does double duty - a sophisticated, subtle killer in the workplace, a sexy, spicy scent when you get up close and personal with someone.
A delicious, simple combination of vanilla and wood, offset with citrus and spice (red pepper, ooo) - it dries down onto the skin beautifully, smelling woody with a touch of sweetness.
Lasts for 6-7 hours, it’s beautifully balanced.
If you’re after something tastefully smutty, this is for you
Look, there isn’t anything subtle here, and if you’re one who tends to the flamboyant, Invictus is for you.
Bottled in a ‘trophy’ flask, with a name that’s the Latin for ‘undefeated’ - this is a statement cologne for a man who enjoys things bold.
Invictus comes on strong, citrus-led, with top and middle notes that are fresh, bold, mandarin sweet. It’s not complex, but it dry-downs to a slightly spicy, floral number.
That said, this is wear equally well for day or night - just don’t be too liberal with the spray, it’s a strong scent.
Paco Rabanne Invictus will work very well if you’re a gent who likes a sweet, aromatic fragrance that won’t challenge anyone. A good ‘casual’ scent.
Put aside any prejudices you may have related to Johnny Depp’s endorsement of this and the billboards that have been doctored to read ‘Sausage’ - this is a good mid-range option.
Indeed, we have a good friend that has nick-named this ‘the compliment catcher’ as every time he wears it he gets murmurs of approval from ladies.
It starts with a crisp, spicy mix of bergamot and pepper to announce the fragrance, but dries down to something more mellow - a mix of gentle amber, vanilla, and cedar for a strong and long-lasting finish. It wears well on the skin as a woody scent.
In base terms, its the perfect scent to wear if you’re expecting someone to nestle in and bury their head on your neck for the night - or maybe more.
Tom Ford is known for his sensual, sophisticated products, and his attention to detail is unsurpassed. Almost all of his men’s scents are delicious (Neroli Portifino is an Italian orange grove on a sunny day, Noir is an amber, dusky, carnal trip) - and smack of class.
Tom Ford for Men, in his customary striking flacon, is a brilliant perfume for daily wear. It’s a woody musk, but it balances those deeper tones with a freshness.
What’s lovely is that it develops on the skin over the day, so you’ll smell different notes as it develops, with ginger, lemon, mandarin, bergamot, violet leaf and basil early, then it mellows to pepper, orange blossom and grapefruit blossom.
It’s not a long-lasting scent, though, so you will need to reapply to go from day to night.
This is sold-out nearly everywhere (it’s available on Amazon but costs £40 than the Harrods link below, if you want an indication of the mad scramble for it) and we completely understand, as we couldn’t stop huffing it like contraband - it’s intoxicating.
If you’re after a lighter scent for warmer weather that doesn’t smell cloying sweet or fruity, you’ll adore this (EVERYBODY adores this, in our experience) - it smells swoongingly of a basil plant blooming in a hothouse in the midday sun.
For a herby, lighter scent it has impressive staying power.
‘Apple’ isn’t a term you see often in men’s fragrance description, and this Boss perfume will make you feel that’s a shame. After all, apple - with it’s crisp, fresh, juicy tartness - is a gorgeous fragrance.
That opening burst of apple develops into something darker, with a spicy cardmom, vetiver (think clumps of fresh mown grass) scent that sits warmly on the skin and last well.
This is an excellent day-to-day scent, at a good price point.
This is an iconic scent: JFK wore it, and it’s characteristics read like a description the ideal gentleman, at once sexy but clean, strong but elegant.
It’s like slipping into an immaculately tailored suit. It carries the scent of spring meadows, mown glass, fresh herbs warming on the kitchen window. If that sounds confusing, it’s anything but - just a clean scent with a fresh greenery to it. You can’t lose.