We’ll let you in on a little secret: most of what makes a men’s cologne different from a women’s perfume is marketing. Sure, there are certain smells that are more masculine than feminine like musk or tobacco, but we’re living in an era where gender divisions are becoming less and less important. That’s why the best colognes this year aren’t exactly typical.
As in fashion, fragrances have trends, and 2019 is no different. What is different about this year, is that men’s colognes are getting lighter, fresher and using more florals. Ingredients that were typically relegated to women’s perfume counters are finding their way to men’s dressers. These new formulas don’t smell feminine, per se, but they are surprising, especially if you’re used to deep, dark, musky colognes.
So if you’re thinking of switching up your scent, for your wedding — or just daily wear — here are the key aromas you will encounter and where you can find them.
Chanel Bleu de Chanel, from $120
Citrus notes like lemon, bergamot and mandarin orange have the uncanny ability to evoke summer. They’re light and crisp with the sweet and sour notes that have always been part of men’s cologne, but they’re starting to take center stage instead of playing second fiddle. Look to Chanel’s Bleu de Chanel for a citrus cologne that’s well rounded enough to wear every day, thanks to the addition of cedar and sandalwood, but is especially suited for a beach location.
Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Night Vision, $98
You know how sometimes cologne can smell shockingly similar to Febreze? That’s thanks to a note called “fresh” in perfumer speak. Done wrong, it smells like cut grass grown in a laboratory, but done right, like in Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Night Vision, it’s herbal and natural smelling. This particular fresh scent is made up of green cardamom and green apple, both surprising ingredients in a cologne, but also the source of a spicy kick that gives this fragrance its name.
Abbott NYC Big Sky Cologne, $65
Marine notes can be misleading since they’re supposed to smell like a feeling more than an actual thing. They’re designed to smell like the wind off the ocean or the salt spray of waves. In short, they’re supposed to smell like water, which has no smell. And as with “fresh” notes, old marine scents inhabit the shallow end of the spectrum, whereas modern ones are comparatively deep. The spicy marine note in Abbott NYC’s Big Sky cologne won’t make you feel like you doused your head in seawater, but instead is mixed with an herbal element that’s more mountain stream.
Tom Ford Ombre Leather, $125
Earthy leather has long been a cornerstone of the men’s cologne world, but in the wrong hands it can be a downer. If it’s too heavy handed, the result can feel heavy and dated. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon leather altogether, especially when there is Tom Ford Ombre Leather, which is everyday-wearable and special-occasion-surprising all at once. Mixed with floral Jasmine, spicy cardamom, and earthy white moss, the leather shines through but doesn’t overpower everything. This cologne makes the best case for a more subtle way to wear traditionally masculine scents.
Armani Code Absolu, $90
If you’d asked us a year ago, we would have said vanilla is best left to ice cream. But now we’re seeing it used more often in men’s fragrance. Take, for example, Armani Code Absolu; the vanilla lends a soft, grounding note to other aromas that can get intense, like musks and ouds, and in this particular instance, gives a smoothness that smells the way suede feels. A dash of vanilla can round everything out and make you smell modern, not like you’re wearing cheap Chardonnay.