The Men’s Guide to Fragrances for Beginners

Last modified on :

Lyndon Seitz
Your guide to this Review is Lyndon Seitz

How we review products

This post contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links

mens guide fragrance

A lot of men shy away from using fragrance, despite the evidence that scent makes a huge impression on the people around them, including women, coworkers, and bosses. Fragrance adds to a person’s invisible style, as it helps with wordless communication and makes someone appear put-together and well-groomed. Additionally, a good cologne can add psychological benefits that makes the wearer feel more confident while potentially decreasing stress.

The Notes of a Fragrance

Fragrances are complex mixtures, often composed in a few layers with ingredients that are referred to as notes, similar to wine-tasting.

While the term cologne is most often associated with masculine scents and perfume with feminine, these connotations tend to be inaccurate when talking about actual fragrance. Instead, both of these terms refer to the concentration level of the essence oil  in a fragrance formula, meaning that the best colognes are technically parfums. This is also the difference between terms like eau de parfum (EDP) vs eau de toilette (EDT).

The concentration of essence to water generally follows these naming guidelines:


  • Eau de Cologne 2-4%
  • Eau de Toilette 5-15%
  • Eau de Parfum 15-20%
  • Parfum 20-30%

This strength will dictate the fragrance’s sillage, which refers to how far from the body the fragrance can be sensed, and longevity, which refers to how long a fragrance lasts.

Fragrances have a cycle too, meaning the scent that you immediately smell when you apply the fragrance could be very different from the scent you smell on yourself 10-15 minutes later. It’s actually common to not like a scent when it first goes on and all you can smell is the top note, but love it after the dry-down when the top note evaporates and the heart and base notes dominate the scent.

  • Top notes are the first note you smell and the first to evaporate. These are often citrusy or aromatic.
  • Heart notes are the complex lingering scents that make up the more distinctive smells of the cologne. These tend toward a few categories, including floral, fruity, and spicy scents.
  • Base notes are the strong scents that bind everything together. They will be more noticeable the longer you wear the cologne.

How to Apply Fragrances

Linear Fragrances versus Non-Linear Fragrances

Linear fragrances will have the same scent profile the whole time you wear them. These might include cheaper fragrances, or the fragrances carried in deodorants, lotions, aftershaves, and the essential essences of beard oils.

Linear Fragrances will make a safer choice for office work situations or places where you don’t want your fragrance to dry down to a stronger base note after a few hours. While some people find it natural to start the morning in citrus and hit a midday vanilla around lunch time, others want to know exactly how they’ll continue to smell for the next few hours. This comes down to personal preference.


The fragrance in aftershave tends to be pleasant but short-lived, not much longer than the effects of a cut, to be honest.. This is due to aftershave’s high water-content. Additionally, most aftershaves use synthetic fragrances that are not oil-based, so they have a much lower longevity than perfume oil.

Aftershave is a great morning scent kick, and an invigorating ritual. However, if you’re interested in keeping that scent around all day, look into the fragrance notes of your favorite aftershave and find a cologne that fits a similar scent profile. Many aftershaves tend toward aquatic or aromatic fragrances.

Beard Oils

Beard oils derive their fragrance profile from essential oils, meaning that they are long-lasting but tend to have a more singular scent context. However, the beard  is a not a high warmth zone of the body, meaning that what you put on your beard will stay there and won’t be as likely to permeate, unless you blend the oil down into the warmth zone of your neck.

Beard oils will also have a shorter longevity, since the essential oils are bound to a strong base note fragrance. Using fragrant beard oil is a way to wear a casual and low-impact fragrance.


A good deodorant should perform two functions. It should neutralize some of your natural scents while making sure that your body odor doesn’t interfere with your cologne fragrance choice. In other words, your deodorant shouldn’t be your main carrier for fragrance. Instead, it should set the stage and nullify any scent contradictions for your fragrance. Natural deodorants for men tend to understand this, since they use simple essential oils, cleansing properties, and even clay to neutralize bodily scents.

guide to mens fragrances above cologne


Applying perfume or cologne takes experience to master, since many men are afraid to overdo it. Use this instinct until you become more comfortable with cologne application.

It’s a good idea to start slowly. Each fragrance that you try will be different, so it’s best to start slow each time, until you become comfortable with how much of a certain fragrance you might like.

Begin applying with a single spray on your chest. You need to apply the cologne directly onto your skin, trying not to catch your clothes. The best time to apply fragrance is when the skin is dry after a shower.

Choose a few areas for application where your body creates heat, such as your:


  • Chest
  • Neck
  • Jaw
  • Wrist
  • Forearm
  • Inner elbow

Don’t rub the cologne into your skin since this alters the way it evaporates over time. Also avoid the technique of spraying into the air and walking into it, since this only wastes the fragrance.

Fragrance Families to Try Out

Fragrances react uniquely with your personal smell and body chemistry. This means that something you like on someone else may not be one that you like on yourself. This is also why samples are so important in the perfume world, such that a sample set tends to make a better gift than a full bottle of blindly bought fragrance.


Gourmands are scents that give off delicious smells. Since smell is very closely related to flavor, this means that these scents can be very satisfying to enjoy and people will try to continue smelling it once it’s discovered. Spicy scents fit in well here with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Notes are often sweet, containing elements of vanilla, coffee, and fruity notes. Some gourmand scents can be overly strong or cloying, so watch out for overdoing it.

  • Rochas Man is a lighter gourmand that hits the rich notes of coffee and vanilla, as well as raspberry and balances it with a touch of woody florals.
  • Calvin Klein One Shock for Him is a heavier, darker gourmand with notes of dark cherry, tobacco, and amber.

Fresh, Citrus, and Aromatic Scents

Fresh scents remind people of airy summer days, freshly cleaned laundry, or a fresh from the shower scent. These often include aquatics which use masculine florals for an overall light and pleasant scent profile. This category also includes greens, such as grass, mint, or younger tobacco smells. A primary part of fresh scents are citruses, including bergamot, lemon, and orange.

  • Gianfranco Ferre L’Uomo has a sandalwood base with elements of spiciness and a slightly fruity freshness. This blend is part of a popular contemporary trend of balancing the fresh, sweet, and spicy.
  • English Laundry Riviera uses ambroxan, an engineered ingredient that’s very popular in contemporary perfume and cologne for its seamlessly fresh scent that offers a level of light woodiness.
  • Montblanc Individuel is a Fougere, or in other words, an aromatic fragrance that is light, woody, and very work appropriate. It smells sweet and clean at the same time.
  • Versace Pour Homme is a crisp, clean aromatic that’s breezy, light, work appropriate, and seductively alluring in the dry down.
  • Sean John I Am King is a casual, light fragrance that can be easy to wear anywhere. This one is also difficult to overdo, making it beginner-friendly.

Wood and Spice

Wood and spice are often characterized as autumn and winter scents, but one that’s well-balanced can fit any day. Wood scents are generally held together with scents such as amber, cedar, and sandalwood, and they might make you feel great after a trim. This category may sometimes also include oriental scents that have amber fragrances.

  • Burberry London is an autumnal scent whose spice and woodiness is enjoyable for everyone around and sets the holiday scene perfectly.
  • Calvin Klein Obsession for Men is a woody oriental that’s perfect for date night with complex and alluring notes that are intriguing and also comfortably warm.

Fragrance adds a level of style that influences the impression you make without having to add stylistic clutter to your face, wardrobe, or appearance. On top of that, scent does double-duty in making your appearance more charming, as it relates to the memories and personal experiences of those around you, while also helping you gain confidence.


  • Lyndon Seitz

    Every office has its clown, and for us, that’s Lyndon. As a fun-loving guy who likes to take the pressure out of tense situations, we rely on him for comedic support to get us through our hardest days. You’ll find him working on a lot of our food-related posts, from drinks to recipe tips, right on down to kitchen fixtures and kitchen gadgets. If there’s one thing we can say about him, it’s that he makes a mean chicken milanese, and he can’t sing (don’t ask him to, we beg of you). Linkedin: