holiday gifts 2017

What Colognes Make the Best Gifts? (And Don’t Smell Like a Mall Counter)

Best Colognes for Men
For any kind of man you want to be. Photo: Gary Null/NBC via Getty Images

You know what’s a surprisingly great holiday gift for men? A fragrance (whether we’re talking a cologne or eau de toilette or eau de parfum or what have you). Choose wisely, and the recipient will remember you each time he wears it (it’s the closest sense tied to memory, after all). But to unearth something more unusual than what you’ll find at J.C. Penney, we talked to ten stylish men about the scents they wear. These are the best colognes for men with sophisticated tastes. (And no, none of them is the ubiquitous Santal 33.)

“I can get experimental with fragrance, but this one is an easy, traditionally ‘masculine’ scent that still doesn’t feel boring. It’s like a gray wool blazer in that it could never be inappropriate, anywhere. If I don’t want to think too much on a weekday morning, it goes on.” — Jon Roth, style editor, Esquire

“To the wearer, it doesn’t smell like much besides an intermittent cedarwood note. The response from others is undeniable, though — velvety, mysterious, woody, sexy. The magic is a molecule that hovers close to the skin. I have never experienced so many people remarking how good I smell with another cologne.” — Evan Tye, director of public relations, Luxottica

“It smells like I just returned from a short walk in the woods after a light rain, the scent of tree needles still lingering. It’s light and refreshing and gives me a sense of place, a reminder of nature. I wear it every day … it’s one of my last steps post-showering in the morning. I just spritz a few times before getting dressed. I’d like to say that it is just a light suggestion, but you’d have to ask someone near me to verify that.” — Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus

“I tend to rotate between these three at the moment: Mister Marvelous by Byredo, which is a good year-round fragrance (and who wouldn’t love receiving a fragrance with such a label?); Frederic Malle’s L’Eau D’Hiver, which is a heavier more wintry fragrance; and Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino, which is much more summery. If I have to pick one, I’m going to say the Tom Ford because it’s light and quite zesty — it has lemon and mandarin in there balanced with some lavender and rosemary. And while I’m absolutely sure I am being duped by the fragrance’s aquamarine bottle and its name, it does take me to the Italian Riviera. And it’s the one my wife loves the most, which is obviously important.” — Dan Rookwood, U.S. editor Mr Porter

“For me, the smell captures the best of a midday summer’s rain. It’s a scent that feels familiar yet foreign, like a friendly smile that you can’t get out of your head. It is commonly mistaken for other scents from other more luxe brands. It’s my every day. On special occasions, I use a scent by Le Labo, but Balincourt is a scent that you never get tired of.” — Anthony Coleman, creative director

“Vetiver 46 is light, dry, airy and no two people have described it the same way, so it’s pretty moody — which I like. I’m also really sensitive to fragrances, and it’s the first cologne in a while that I’ve found that doesn’t attack my nose throughout the day, give me headaches, or break me out. I also like the shape and labels of Le Labo’s bottles. I generally wear it Monday through Friday, and usually apply a spritz to each wrist. If I’m socializing on the weekend, I’ll apply Oud 27, which is more floral, to my wrists and behind my ears.” — Claude Edwards, executive assistant at Mother New York