The 10 best perfumes and fragrances for men

man aftershave
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From timeless classics to classics-in-the-making, our grooming expert Lee Kynaston picks out 10 stand-out scents for men.

Choosing the right fragrance – whether for yourself or as a gift for someone else – is never easy. So subjective is the process that it’s easy to come an olfactory cropper, especially if you base your selection on how something smells one someone else.

Having said that, not all eau de toilettes are created equal. Thanks to groundbreaking formulations, universal appeal or longevity in a notoriously capricious marketplace, some end up much safer bets than others.

Below are ten that fit that bill – from the timeless gentlemanly classic to a Gen Y essential. All you have to do is give them a sniff (try fragrance shopping after a workout – the increased moisture in your nasal passages will make your sense of smell more acute); allow at least thirty minutes for the fragrance’s ‘base notes’ to develop on the skin before judging; and when you get your purchase home apply it to your chest and collarbones rather than your neck and wrists (it’ll stick around longer). Oh, and never forget the first rule of fragrance: you wear it; it should never wear you.

The 10 best perfumes for men

The one to get fresh with: Dior Eau Sauvage

Described by fragrance historian Roja Dove as ‘one of the most important creations of the second half of the last century’ this timeless scent is that rarest of things: a citrus fragrance that’s light enough for work but one that’s sexy too. Which might have something to do with the fact that it was the first fragrance to use hedione: a synthetic ingredient which has been shown to stimulate an area of the female brain responsible for the release of sex hormones. Not so much and ultimate de toilette, then, as an oh! de toilette.

£49.50 for 50ml EDT from Dior

The versatile workhorse: Terre d’Hermès

Created by acclaimed perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena in 2006, this fresh-but-warm, slightly vegetal fusion of citrus fruits, spices and woods is now regarded to be a true contemporary classic. Featuring grapefruit, cedarwood and vetiver, with a minerally hint of flint, it ticks two crucial boxes men should look for when choosing a fragrance: it’s versatile – being fresh enough for day but warm enough for evening –  and has decent staying power on the skin. A new interpretation for 2018, Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vetiver, is good too.

£53.10 for 50ml EDT, John Lewis

The warm, woody one: Tom Ford Oud Wood

Solid, masculine and reliable, woody scents are the mainstay of a man’s fragrance wardrobe and this one, from the immaculately turned-out Texan’s acclaimed Private Blend Collection, is one of the best on the market. A fantastically warm and sensual mix of smoky oud, sandalwood, rose, cardamom and creamy tonka bean it’s the perfect special occasion fragrance. Men sporting a little facial foliage might want to check out Ford’s accompanying Oud Wood scented Conditioning Beard Oil too.

£155 for 50ml EDP from House Of Fraser

The mature classic: Givenchy Gentleman

In the same way that The Stones wilfully ignore what’s going on in the charts and quietly do their own thing Givenchy Gentleman has transcended fads and fashions to offer a timeless version of olfactory masculinity thanks to a holy trinity of butch 'base notes' (patchouli, vetiver and musk) and a kinky leather accord which makes it supremely sexy and provides fantastic longevity on the skin. Don’t confuse it with the black bottled (and confusingly named) Gentleman Givenchy by the way: a modern, hyper-commercial reimagining, it’s not a patch on the original.  

£49.50 for 50ml EDT from The Perfume Shop

The future classic: Dunhill ICON

Naming a fragrance ICON might seem like pure folly but Dunhill’s self-assuredness with this luxurious, gentlemanly evening scent turned out to be more than just braggadocio. A sophisticated spicy, leathery and smoky number launched in 2015, it has all the refinement and meticulous attention to detail you’d expect from Dunhill itself while the 100ml version of the bottle – a murder-weapon heavy, engine-turned cylindrical flask –  is a thing of unprecedented beauty.

£75.15 for 100ml EDP, John Lewis

The no-brainer boutique fragrance: Le Labo Santal 33

Cosmetic giant Estée Lauder may have snapped up renowned boutique fragrance house Le Labo a few years ago but, thankfully, the latter’s reputation for producing quirky, uncompromising fragrances has been unaffected. Signature scent Santal 33 (a sexy-as-hell mix of smoky wood, leather and spices) is perfect if you’re after something a little less mass-market than Gucci Guilty and is bulletproof by virtue of its cult status with both men and women. As a bonus, they’ll add your name and date of purchase to the label to give things a delightfully bespoke feel.

£125 for 50ml EDP, Liberty

The anti-austerity eau de parfum: Roja Parfum Vetiver Pour Homme

Staying power is a treasured – yet often elusive – feature of men’s fragrances but if you’re looking for one that will last all night (and well into the following morning) then this luxury take on sweet, earthy, smoky vetiver from British perfumer Roja Dove is your man. Deep and complex it’s has a sexiness that borders on the pornographic and while pricey, its tenacious staying power on the skin means it’s worth every penny. The Viagra of vetivers you might say.

£375 for 50ml EDP, rojaparfums

Perfect for younger guys: Yves Saint Laurent Y

Yves Saint Laurent’s latest fragrance for men, Y, ticks two boxes for fragrance buyers under 30: it’s both affordable and minimalist in nature. Research shows that Gen Y-ers in particular are (quite literally) turning their noses up at heavy, cloying, bombastic scents, preferring ones, like this light-as-a-feather, almost ozonic or metallic fusion of bergamot, ginger and violet leaf. It the originality to become a bona fide future classic but is perfect for the times and is the ideal starter fragrance for fussy teens.  

£40 for 40ml EDT, Boots

The tried and trusted success: Boss Bottled

Perfume snobs will slay me for including Boss Bottled in a list of great fragrances for men but here’s the thing: any fragrance that’s sold over 60 million bottles worldwide and hovered in and around top 10 best seller lists for 20 years is doing something undeniably  right. A fruity, woody fusion of apple, bergamot, cedarwood and sandalwood it’s safe and inoffensive and hence extremely wearable. By almost any man of any age, and therein lies the key to its success. A super-safe bet if you’re not sure what to wear or what to buy as a gift.

£39.99 for 50ml EDT, theperfumeshop.com

For grown up sensuality: Cartier Déclaration Eau De Parfum

Aromatic and leathery with a sexy animalistic undertow, this very grown up fragrance requires a certain self-confidence and maturity to carry off but there are few better fragrances better suited for hot dates than this one.  Make sure you by the parfum version though. There’s an eau de toilette too but in the same way that a langoustine isn’t lobster it’s not nearly good.

£88.95 for 100ml EDP, fragrancedirect