Buying a new fragrance is a high-risk investment. Maybe you end up choosing your liquid asset based on brand rep alone. Perhaps you succumb to all that TV-ad French sex talk and rush out to cop a bottle of Eau de Hard-on. Either way, purchases are more often than not based on perception instead of what actually matters: the fragrance on your skin.
We’ve all been there. But we can hardly blame the brands. After all, how do you sell a smell? But, with some bottles passing the $100 mark, your capital is most definitely at risk, so it pays to really understand the funk of a new fragrance and decide if it’s right for you.
Besides, you don’t want to smell like everyone else this winter. That’s why we’ve sniffed out the brands creating the best bottles from the inside out. Some are new this season. Others are modern classics. All are worth your cash. Here are the 10 best perfumes for men this winter.
1) IIUVO Soigne
The brainchild of an ex-Comme des Garcons creative and a musician, IIUVO is the nearest thing to a disruptive presence in an otherwise predictable industry (typically CDG in that sense, at least). Soigne and its counterparts are designed to evoke olfactory memories.
While it’s the almost Christmassy combo of spice and wood that kicks you in the nose, there’s a winning musk that lingers on the skin afterward. It’s intended to tick all those manly boxes. Sits somewhere between masculine-ideal and mulled wine.
Whether or not Soigne gives you unbidden recall of some old-school dude you may or may not have met, it’s definitely a memorable fragrance and a distinctive winter bottle that justifies the price tag. Cop.
2) Le Labo Santal 33
Le Labo's Santal 33 may have moved from fashion industry insider secret to a pleasant but not-so-shocking surprise on the morning subway to work, but that doesn't mean it's any less worthy of your money this winter.
"Do you remember the old Marlboro ads?," Le Labo asks us on the perfume's product page. "A man and his horse in front of the fire on a great plain under tall, blue evening skies... an icon so powerful that every man wanted to be him and every woman wanted to have him." Well, nope, we don't, but it's this legend of man that supposedly inspired the musky fragrance.
Warm and woody. Like a open fire burning cardamon, sandalwood and the savory tears of fashionistas everywhere. Spicy, leathery notes of musk give it a sexless but nonetheless addictive punch.
A "modern classic." If you're serious about fashion and fragrance, this should probably be in your collection.
3) Tom Ford Anthracite Noir
Seemingly not content with being a sick designer and filmmaker, Ford is nailing scents as well. As dark as his beard, Anthracite Noir is a heavy evening fragrance for all you nocturnal animals out there.
Anthracite Noir may not be totally unique in its composition — in fact, it’s not a million miles away from Soigne — but, as with almost all Tom Ford fragrances, your nose will pick up the quality straight away. The word "sensual" is overused in fragrance marketing, but this is that bottled.
Unequivocally one of the best fragrances for this season. It smells expensive. Which is important, because it is expensive.
4) Acqua di Parma Colonia Pura
The godfather of male fragrance updates its Colonia range infrequently but with a steely purpose. Colonia Intensa and Colonia Club were particular highlights. Pura deserves a place on that list.
Slightly more aromatic than the original sweet-fresh Colonia, Pura packs a bit more punch and a lot more spice. If you like a scent that turns heads, this will be to your taste. Apply judiciously so you don’t end up wafting like an overly perfumed Italian teenager.
Acqua di Parma never really put a foot wrong, so you don’t need us to tell you it’s good. If you’re looking for a statement fragrance for winter, this is your bottle.
5) Byredo Bal d’Afrique
There are multiple standout fragrances from the ever-expanding Swedish label Byredo — Gypsy Water, 1996 and more were close to getting a look-in here — but we've to go with Bal d'Afrique. Sexier than a smoky and expensive late-night jazz club, the scent collides the olfactory worlds of 1920s Paris with African culture, art, music and dance.
This straight-up nose-delighter is full of vibrance and life with top notes of African marigold and lemon, and deeper whiffs of musk and Moroccan cedarwood.
Complex fragrance, simple decision: cop.
6) Creed Aventus
While the perfume world continues on its path toward unisex and gender ambiguous fragrances, there's one scent that still takes pride in its manly manliness. Creed's Aventus "celebrates strength, vision, and success," and is inspired by the "dramatic life of war, peace and romance lived by Emperor Napoleon." There's even a silver emblem of a horse and rider on its bottle.
Think less blood, sweat and tears; more oak moss, musk, blackcurrant, bergamot, apple and pineapple.
If Don Draper was real and alive today, he'd wear Creed Aventus.
7) Tom Daxon River Oak
Some of us are born to run, others are born to... design and sell perfume. At least Tom Daxon was. His mother, Dale Daxon Bowers, was the creative director of Molten Brown for much of her career, but his own eponymous line is an altogether different beast. Its latest fragrance, River Oak, was launched this October and has more layers of smooth wood than you can shake a woody stick at.
Rich, sophisticated, refined — all the things you wish you were but probably aren't. Deep tugs of oakwood with splashes of bergamot, pimento berries, rum and amber.
A pure charm booster. One for those looking for a fragrance that nobody else has.
8) Ex Nihilo Midnight Special
Alternative Parisian perfume house Ex Nihilo tells you all you need to know about this fragrance right there in its name. It's special and it smells best at midnight: Midnight Special. One of the latest creations from perfumer Olivier Pescheux, MS is a big investment ($352 ain't cheap) with big returns.
A subtle balance between invigoration and comfort. Olivier apparently added a unique touch of rose jelly with a hint of grapefruit; to us it just smells great.
Expensive. Worth it. Treat yourself.
9) Kiehl's Musk
You know Kiehl's has got you covered for skincare and grooming products, but its Original Musk is also well worth a splash — especially when it's priced at just 50 bucks.
One for casual everyday wear, this OG Musk begins with a creamy citrus burst before paring down into softer floral and warm musk notes.
Safe from the rocket-high pricing of brand new fragrance drops, this bottle comes in at around $50 and still holds its own against its pricier counterparts.
10) COMME des GARCONS Wonderoud
Permit us a curveball here. This isn’t new, and not everyone likes oud — a scent created from a rare type of moldy wood – but if there’s a time to try something different, it’s during the cold months when your body, and passers by, can handle headier scents.
CdG’s offerings is on the more accessible end of the spectrum (some ouds are sickeningly overpowering), with a rich oiliness offset by light spice. Wear this, get noticed.
If, to you, finding the right winter fragrance means standing out from the crowd (and swerving the more commercial scents from the likes of Davidoff and Jean Paul Gaultier) then make this Christmas all about that oud.
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