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The history of cologne, as you may have guessed, can be traced back to the German city of the same name. It goes back all the way to the beginning of the 18th century when Italian-born Giovanni Maria Farina concocted a scent, inspired by his native country. He named it Eau de Cologne, to honor the German city where he spent his entire life (you can still visit the Farina Daftmuseum there). His formula was lighter than regular perfume—it contained less than five percent perfume oils compared to ten to 20 percent for eau de parfum, and was an instant hit.
While the difference in concentration still counts nowadays when we talk about eau de cologne versus other types of fragrances, we tend to describe only men’s scents as cologne.
And when it comes to those, the undisputed leader on the market is Acqua di Parma thanks to their iconic Colonia cologne which has been around since 1916. And speaking of iconic, Giorgio Armani’s Aqua di Giò may not be as old as Colonia, but it has a cult following among men thanks to its crisp, Mediterranean-inspired aroma.
So whether you’re an old soul and prefer a more classic scent or always look to try new, modern fragrances, here are of the best colognes to try right now.
Christian Dior’s first fragrance for men, Eau Savage, dates back to 1966, but the company re-launched the scent in 2015 with a little help from Johnny Depp as its face. The inspiration behind it, according to François Demachy, Dior’s perfumer, was the great outdoors. He mixed Calabrian bergamot, Sichuan pepper, pink berries, and vetiver to deliver a balanced and powerful scent meant for the “nature lover.”
To buy: $77, sephora.com
Giorgio Armani Aqua di Giò
Arguably one of the most iconic fragrances of all time [link to Most Iconic Fragrances story if it’s live], Acqua di Giò’s fresh citrusy blend of neroli, bergamot, and green tangerine is inspired by the small Italian island of Pantelleria where Giorgio Armani himself spends his vacations.
To buy: from $48, giorgioarmanibeauty-usa.com
Acqua di Parma Arancia di Capri Eau de Toilette
This is another fragrance inspired by yet another dreamy Italian island—Capri. This is the ultimate vacation scent (it’s also unisex)—fruity and relaxing with a base of caramel and musk and top notes of sweet orange, mandarin, and lemon.
To buy: $171, sephora.com
Paco Rabanne 1 Million Eau de Toilette
Inspired by man’s universal attraction to gold, 1 Million has been seducing men for over a decade now. In fact, it is one of the best selling colognes in history. What makes this fragrance so wildly popular? A sensual base of leather and amber is blended with fresh top notes of blood mandarin and peppermint for a sexy and powerful scent.
To buy: $70, nordstrom.com
Burberry Mr. Burberry Eau de Toilette
Mr. Burberry pays homage to London and Burberry’s most emblematic piece of clothing—the trench coat. The renowned perfumer Francis Kurkdjian (who has his own line of fragrances) created the scent by looking to the past for inspiration—London’s 19th-century barbershops. Mr. Burberry’s woody composition includes heart notes of birch leaf, nutmeg oil, and cedar, and a base of sandalwood, vetiver, and guaiac wood.
To buy: from $71, sephora.com
Tom Ford Oud Wood
Agarwood, or oud wood, is one of the most expensive and luxurious ingredients in fragrances nowadays. Its distinct musky scent blended with sandalwood and vetiver are the base for Tom Ford’s sensual fragrance.
To buy: $235, tomford.com
Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne
Miss the ocean? With tasting notes of sea salt and musky ambrette seeds, Jo Malone’s fresh cologne will transport you to a breezy evening by the ocean.
To buy: $136, jomalone.com
Chanel Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum
The rich, masculine aroma of Bleu de Chanel features cedar bottom notes amplified by tonka bean and vanilla. New Caledonian Sandalwood adds to the intenseness of the scent.
To buy: from $95, sephora.com
Creed Green Irish Tweed
This all-time favorite scent by Creed is for the confident man who favors masculine and classic scents. It opens with notes of fresh lemon, verbena, and peppermint, followed by grassy violet leaves, and finishes off with notes of sandalwood and Florentine iris.
To buy: from $295, nordstrom.com
Byredo Eleventh Hour Eau de Parfum
Byredo describes its new Eleventh Hour fragrance as “the last perfume on earth” but don’t let this somewhat apocalyptic depiction turn you off. Promoted as an “exploration around the smell of things ending,” the fragrance’s top notes include the Nepalese plant Ban Timmur, a citrusy type of pepper, and bergamot. Carrot seeds, rum, and wild fig are at the heart of Eleventh Hour, followed by base notes of cashmere woods and tonka beans.
To buy: $250, byredo.com