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The Best Cologne for Men, According to a Fragrance Geek Who's Smelled Them All [GQ Feature]

Can't tell your EDPs from your EDTs? Not quite sure what a “vetiver” is? Here's how to navigate the booming men's fragrance market—and walk away with a scent that feels uniquely your own.

The best cologne for men might vary across budget, preference, and occasion, but each operates in service of the same fundamental goal: helping you smell really good. Cologne formulations differ substantially from one scent to the next, but what unites the greatest of the genre is their ability to smartly punctuate your personality—and enhance everyone else’s experience while they’re at it. The opposite is true of bad colognes, too (if you’ve ever been stuck in the elevator with a colleague doused in Axe you know exactly what we mean), so it’s especially important to choose wisely.

The choosing part is where we come in. Landing on the best men’s cologne for you starts with understanding fragrance families, and identifying which ones work in any given context. Woody, citrus, or aromatic colognes, for example, tend to wear well as daily “signature scents”—the smell your coworkers, friends, and the guy at your local bodega associate with you.

“Woody fragrances have depth, richness, and are more [inherently] masculine,” says Leila Zagwolsky, co-founder and CEO of the perfume discovery platform Luxury Scent Box (LUXSB). Aromatic and citrus colognes, on the other hand—scents Zagwolsky describes as “bright, refreshing, and energizing”—are better suited to year-round wear. They’re also better candidates for your signature scent than, say, a sensual spicy or leather option, though those sultrier formulations have their time and place.

Another Great Subtle Scent: St Johns Vetiver EDC

Vibe: The first cocktail you order on vacation | Key Notes: Vetiver, lime, grapefruit, amber, musk

Why we love it: St Johns Vetiver harnesses one of the most reliable notes in the fragrance world to warm and rapturous effect. It won't last as long as other options on this list, but that’s part of its appeal: If you're looking for a classically masculine scent for the occasional date night or fancy event, look no further.


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