These aren’t the trendiest colognes. These aren’t seasonal colognes (though we do have recommendations for good summer and winter colognes). These are the classics. Time-honored, reliable fragrances that you know will make you smell great. They also make for great gifts.
They include big brands like Dior and Calvin Klein and younger labels like Le Labo. You’d recognize them out on the street—even if you’re not exactly murmuring to yourself, “Mmm, is that Chanel Bleu right there?” Some are new, like Prada’s, which is only a couple years old. While others are 40 years into their reign. (Here’s looking at you, Ralph Lauren Polo.) So if you’re in the market for a scent that has no chance of letting you down, then look no further than these 10 powerhouse scents from 10 powerhouse brands.
Hermès Terre d’Hermès
While it’s not the brand’s anchor scent for men, Terre D’Hermès is easily the fan favorite. It’s also a perennial favorite, with notes of orange, pepper, cedar, grapefruit, and vetiver to balance the senses from one January to the next. Furthermore, Terre d’Hermès is the foundation of many spinoff scents: This includes Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vetiver, which pronounces the vetiver for colder months.
Chanel Bleu de Chanel
Once you smell Bleu, you never forget it. That’s the power of wearing Chanel’s most popular cologne: People will forever associate it with you. Please accept the responsibility that comes with this power, too. Bleu is such a special blend of incense, ginger, and citrus, that it’s not to be wasted on the wasteful.
With such pedigree and stately presentation, it’s easy to mistake L’Homme for a legacy scent. It only debuted in 2016, however, but minted itself as a classic on the spot. It’s floral-forward, with prominent wood, amber, and spice notes to round things out; of these, iris and amber wear most prominently, which is a signature of Prada scents. In the brand’s field of high performers—and in the field of scents on this list—L’Homme is a winner.
Nothing is as balanced but pronounced as Sauvage, Dior’s pride and joy. It’s a recipe of contrasts: Crisp bergamot and spicy pepper top notes announce the scent, followed by floral, amber, vanilla, and cedar for a strong but well-rounded finish. And it plays a long game: Sauvage lasts all day, and it wears well in every season.
Ralph Lauren Polo
It’s hard to decide which color of Polo to cast as RL’s best. Each one has an army of fans behind it, that it creates some infighting of loyalists to one scent over the other. After nearly picking Red, a green light went off in my head: Polo, the original! The green bottle! But of course: Some 40 years young, it’s the scent that launched the others, and the obvious middle ground among loyalists. It’s a heavy one, too: tobacco, pine, oakmoss, and patchouli make it a cold weather staple—and the perfect “guaranteed win” gift for someone you love.
Calvin Klein Obsession
While Eternity tiptoes into consideration for Calvin’s best scent, Obsession is still the current victor. It’s sex in a bottle, to put things frankly: Notes of cinnamon, amber, sandalwood, myrrh, musk, and vanilla make it as broody and seductive as its name implies. Obsession leaves a positively potent impression, and imprints you beautifully in the nose of the beholder.
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme
If L’Eau d’Issey were a tea blend, it would have remedial powers. With notes of yuzu fruit, lemon, blue lotus, and vetiver, it’s as uplifting as a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and its wearers revere it as such. It coasts into the afternoon with deeper base notes: Amber, tobacco, cedar, sandalwood and musk join with vetiver for a warming experience.
Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male
If you practice scented seasonality, then Le Male might be your cold-weather staple (it’s about one jillion other guys’ preferred choice, at least). It plays with contrasts for a seductive finish: If one prominent notes lightens the spirits, the other balances with a warm embrace. Those lighter tones are mint, lavender, and orange blossom, juxtaposed against vanilla, cinnamon, and amber.
Le Labo Santal 33
While it’s one of the youngest of the pack, Santal 33 was an instant classic, and it shot Le Labo into the fragrance stratosphere. You’ve probably got 10 friends who wear the sandalwood-cedar-papyrus-leather blend, and they won’t stray from it—no matter the season.
Acqua di Parma Colonia
As it goes, you often either love or hate a scent. Polarity is common, since our tastes differ so greatly. Colonia, however, is the Mister Congeniality of the lot, with next to no naysayers. It shines in the spring and summer, with citrus, lavender, and rosemary notes at the forefront. It feels like something your grandfather might have worn,
Thanks to GQ South Africa for helping put this list together.