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How to Select the Right Cologne

Marcus Milord

“Eau de Cologne” was first marketed by Johann Maria Farina in the city of Cologne, in modern-day Germany, in 1709. It was something only aristocrats could afford. A small bottle of “Kolnisch Wasser”, as it was marketed in Germany, would cost around ¼ of an average person’s monthly salary! Due to the expense, there were problems of competitors selling cheaper imitations. Nonetheless, it is rumored that Napoleon would consume an entire bottle of cologne every day!

Nowadays, you won’t have to spend ¼ of your monthly salary to buy a pleasant-scented cologne. You’ll notice that men’s colognes have certain qualities in common: they’ll employ more earthy scents, such as fragrant woods, musk, leather, or even tobacco. Men’s colognes will have lower concentrations of essential oils and will be sold in more sporty bottles, in darker shades.

We’ll examine some of the most popular colognes on the market, noting the particular qualities that make them best-sellers. Whether purchasing a cologne for yourself or as a gift, it’s worthwhile gaining a bit of background before making a selection.

Types of Colognes

In common parlance, “cologne” is a fragrance that is primarily for men, while perfumes are intended for women. But actually, the terms indicate different concentrations of aromatics, with perfume being the highest concentration, and cologne closer to the bottom, with no more than 4% essential oils. The full spectrum of fragrances, from the lowest concentration to the highest, looks like this:

  • Body Mist/Eau Fraiche: This formula will have somewhere between 1% - 3% aromatics, with the rest consisting of water. The scent of a body mist lasts for only about an hour., so you may have to reapply it.

  • Fine Fragrance Mist: These contain anywhere from 3% - 7% aromatics.

  • Eau de Cologne (EdC): Around 2%-4% aromatics, and a scent that lasts up to 2 hours. An example is the Liz Claiborne Curve Black Cologne. Its base notes are leather, sandalwood, and teak, while its top notes are violet, nutmeg and bergamot.


  • Eau de Toilette (EdT): Around 5-15% aromatics. These fragrances will typically linger for 2-4 hours and can be alcohol or water-based. You’ll notice that most of the offerings in our top 10 best men’s colognes are in fact eau de toilette. An example is the Lenora Faye Weekend Cologne Eau de Toilette for Men, which combines both a woody and mossy fragrance.

  • Eau de Parfum (EdP): Around 15%-20% aromatics. They can be alcohol or water-based, and the fragrance lingers for up to 8 hours. Although not a hard-and-fast rule, most eau de parfum are intended for women.

  • Perfume/Parfum: 20%-30% aromatics or essential oils, with an alcohol base. The fragrance can last up to 24 hours. An example is Ralph Lauren’s Polo Deep Blue Parfum.

What reviewers say

  • Cologne that matches a body wash or aftershave: Customers who bought the Bath and Body Words Freshwater Cologne were pleased when they noticed that it matched the scent of their body wash–so that they have the same refreshing scent the whole day!

  • Duration depends on other factors: Take note that the duration of the scent will depend a lot on how much you perspire. So, if most of your day is spent in an office, the scent will last longer than if you do a lot of physical exertion.

Important Features

  • Top, Middle, and Bottom Notes: When reading product blurbs about fragrances, you’ll notice that they’ll describe the fragrance’s top, middle, and bottom notes. Instead of musical notes, the terms tell you the order in which the fragrance’s scents reveal themselves.

    • The top notes are typically herbal or citrus oils that you notice immediately upon applying the fragrance.

    • The middle notes (or “heart”) become noticeable around 20 minutes after applying the fragrance. The middle notes can be as much as 80% of the essential oils in the formulation.

    • The bottom notes (or “base”) are the essences that evaporate the most slowly, during the “drydown” stage, when much of the fragrance has evaporated.

  • Scent families: You’ll encounter 4 scent families when you shop around. They are: floral, oriental, woody, and fresh. Each of them subdivides into more categories, and some even overlap. So, you’ll see “floral oriental” and “woody oriental” as well.

  • Sillage and projection: Two other terms that you’ll see when shopping for a fragrance are sillage and projection. Sillage is how the scents in the perfume diffuse as you walk. Projection is more what scent the people around you perceive. Duration is how long the scent lingers. For example, Burberry Weekend by Lenora Faye is considered to have “moderate sillage” and a long duration.

  • Seasonal fragrances: It’s perfectly acceptable for men to wear the same cologne all year-'round. But it’s also recommended that you wear a fragrance that matches the season. For springtime, citrus or fresh fragrance is more appropriate. In summer, scents such as bergamot, vanilla, and ambergris are preferred. You’d also prefer a longer-lasting fragrance, to deal with the hot weather. Autumn fragrances usually employ leather, patchouli, green leaves, and woods, and winter fragrances are usually a combination of woods, tobacco, and musk.


Top-Rated Brands

  • Dolce & Gabbana is a fashion brand that makes designer clothing, handbags, jewelry, cosmetics, and perfumes. Their Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme 4.2 oz EDT Cologne for Men New In Box is intended as a casual fragrance, blending citrus fruits with lavender, bergamot, sage, sandalwood, cedar, and tobacco.

  • Issey Miyake is a Japanese fashion designer, who also has a line of fragrances. His L'eau D'issey Pour Homme Cologne is considered a Woody aquatic fragrance, with citrus scents, along with coriander, sage, nutmeg, saffron, musk, cedar, and sandalwood.

  • The Italian luxury fashion company Versace was founded in 1978. Besides clothing, bags, and jewelry, they also make fragrances. Their Versace Pour Homme Signature Cologne for Men is an eau de toilette with middle notes of geranium, clary sage, blue hyacinth, and cedar.

  • Ralph Lauren is a fashion line, focusing especially on sportswear. Their line of fragrances includes the Polo Deep Blue Parfum Cologne for Men. It’s an aromatic aquatic fragrance, with top notes of green mango, grapefruit and bergamot.

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