8 Classic and Modern Men’s Fragrances Tested
Choosing the right fragrance is arguably one of the trickier parts when defining your own style. You want something that works with your personality and matches your look, but also something that just smells, really, really good. These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but it is hard to choose because there are 1) lots of options and 2) different body and skin chemistry factors to consider. Let’s talk about the latter a bit.
Fragrances are a really personal choice because people have different body (specifically, skin) chemistries that can affect how scents interact once you’ve actually applied them. So what might smell great on one person may not necessarily work for the other.
That’s why choosing the right fragrance is a bit of trial and error, so this sample of eight is a good one to start with for some quick first impressions. Some of these are recommendations from you guys, others are ones that looked interesting and were worth a try. With each of the choices, I’ve tried each of these out at least five times just to get a sense of the fragrance, see what I like or don’t like about it, and how it performs on my skin.
1. Guerlain Habit Rouge
This one is a classic fragrance for a reason. It’s unique, easy to recognize and easy to adapt as a signature scent. It was created by Guerlain himself in 1965 originally, but re-orchestrated in 2003. Inspired by male perfumers, this was the very first fragrance just for them. The Habit Rouge name refers to the famous red jackets of equestrian riders. With that audience in mind, it’s easy to see why this is more of an elegant masculine scent that works across day and night.
The citrus is the first sniff, but it does unfold into this subtle floral and almost powderiness type scent as time goes on. It’s a small part of the scent, for those not a fan of floral and powdery scents, you might want to skip this one. In terms of staying power, it’s not amazing – it lasted about four hours on my skin but it is definitely worth trying if you like classic scents.
Top notes: bergamot, lemon, rosewood, basil, pimento
Heart notes: sandalwood, carnation, patchouli, cedar, rose, cinnamon
Base notes: vanilla, amber, moss, leather, benzoin, labdanum
SHOP HERE: Guerlain Habit Rouge, $45
2. Floris Elite
This your everyday scent, for sure. Floris has a lot of great scents (the No. 89, in particular) and Elite is no different. A British brand, Floris goes back to the 1730s, their clientele has included famous figures from history like Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and Florence Nightingale. Floris Elite was introduced in 1979 and named after Lotion Elite, which was an aftershave cream that was first featured in the catalog in 1851.
It’s a fresh green scent, with some mellow woody notes to help round it out. This is one of those classic gentleman’s scent with a little bit of an edge thanks to the grapefruit, lavender, juniper berry, and fir balsam notes. The other bonus? It has really good staying power, lasting about eight hours on my skin, making it a great contender for an everyday scent,
Top notes: bergamot, cedar leaf, grapefruit, juniper berry, lemon, petitgrain
Heart notes: bay, fir balsam, lavender
Base notes: amber, cedarwood, leather, moss, musk, patchouli, vetiver
SHOP HERE: Floris Elite, $80
3. Brooks Brothers Classic
Brooks Brother Classic is what that quintessential smell is that every Brooks Brother store has when you walk in. It’s a simple, classic scent that really fits with the brand’s classic aesthetic. It starts with some citrus notes and transitions to jasmine and herbal notes. A classic and refined scent, it’s one of those staples in your collection that you find yourself reaching for a lot. Plus, it’s got longevity, lasting for about eight hours on the skin. Coupled with a reasonable price tag at $42, it’s incredible value for money when looking for your next signature scent.
Top notes: citrus
Heart notes: jasmine, herbal notes
Base notes: patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver
SHOP HERE: Brooks Brothers Classic, $42
4. Brooks Brothers New York Gentleman
“When they approached me, they said, ‘We want to create a great classic for Brooks Brothers. Something without trend,’” […] “The idea was to create a tension between the fresh top and the base of mystery and comfort,”
This is one of those scents that’s moved into legend status, almost the holy grail of Brooks Brothers fragrances for many. With citrus and vetiver note, there definitely is some push and pull between mystery and comfort as Herpin puts it, but it’s just not quite at the mythical level that New York Gentleman is considered to be. It’s a clean scent, not super powerful and it fades away quite quickly comparatively so making it a weaker choice amongst the others.
Top notes: bergamot, verbena, petitgrain, mandarin
Heart notes: carnation, iris root, cumin
Base notes: oakmoss, vetiver, musk
SHOP HERE: Brooks Brothers New York Gentleman, $35
Aramis has been a fan favorite and considered to be a classic male fragrance. It was introduced by Estee Lauder in New York in 1964 and then made available in the UK exclusively at Harrods in 1965. Apparently named after a Turkish root that is renowned for its aphrodisiac qualities (or so says Estee Lauder), it really is a distinctive fragrance.
Scent-wise, it’s super-strong and almost pungent for some, so it’s a bit more of a decisive choice than some of the other more neutral scents we’ve covered. The heavy herbal notes and patchouli give it a retro, older feel. Honestly, it sort of feels like you’re reliving the 70s and early 80s with this one, especially since it’s a long-lasting scent too. While it has its fans, it’s a bit more a statement fragrance rather than an everyday choice.
Top notes: bergamot oil, artemisia, gardenia, galbanum, cumin
Heart notes: sage, myrtle oil, clove bud oil, jasmine, patchouli, orris
Base notes: patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, tree moss, leather, castoreum, amber, musk
SHOP HERE: Aramis, $35
6. Arquiste Misfit
A niche fragrance company, Arquiste is a personal favorite brand. Inspired by 19th-century bohemians, this scent is all about the evolution of patchouli across the ages and an interpretation of its essence. It has a lot of unique notes that help balance the patchouli and make it a clean and elegant scent. An incredibly rich, complex fragrance, it balances out its strength with a softness that makes it so sexy and intriguing.
And for history buffs out there, each Arquiste perfume, including Misfit, has a short history alongside its description to help contextualize the scent and its inspiration- in this case, patchouli. It’s clear that a lot of thought and detail goes into how the scent is designed and what notes are incorporated, and it really shines through in the way the scent unfolds.
Top notes: Calabrian bergamot, carrot seed, angelica root, French lavender
Heart notes: Bulgarian rose, ambrette seed, akigalawood, styrax
Base notes: patchouli, Spanish cistus concrete, Venezualean tonka bean, tolu balsam
SHOP HERE: Arquiste Misfit, $195
7. Les Élixirs Oud
Les Elixirs is a new fragrance company, describing themselves as an experimental olfactive design and development studio. Their scent Oud is highly concentrated at 20% or higher pure perfume, depending on the scent’s characteristics. This scent in particular, Oud, is absolutely amazing. Strong without being overwhelming, it’s incredibly elegant and sophisticated.
You can really get a sense of the oud and woody characteristics, but it has this light satin feel that keeps it from becoming too much. A great evening fragrance, Oud is one of those that could be used year-round because of the way it balances deep and subtle notes.
Top notes: Blood orange (Italy), cypress (France)
Heart notes: Cardamom (Cylon), timur pepper (India)
Base notes: Oud wood, vanilla bean extract (Mexico), patchouli “Cœur” (Indonesia)
SHOP HERE: Les Élixirs Oud, $185
8. Brut Classic Scent After Shave
Brut is one of those brands that has been around forever, and has amassed a lot of fame over the years. It’s often cited as one of the most classic fougeres and has been associated with the likes of Roger Moore and Elvis Presley, among others. One of the reasons why Brut’s popularity has endured is that it’s a classic scent that’s actually affordable.
It’s an incredibly masculine, old-school scent that takes you back a few decades. With notes like sandalwood and basil, it’s one of those timeless scents that might remind you of grandpa – but in a good way! It’s a classic for a reason, and it’s great to use after shaving.
Top notes: Lavender, Anise, Lemon, Basil, Bergamot
Heart notes: Geranium, Ylang-ylang, Jasmine
Base notes: Sandalwood, Vetiver, Patchouli, Oakmoss, Vanilla, Tonka bean
SHOP HERE: Brut Classic Scent After Shave, $11
If you’ve tried any of these fragrances, drop us a line in the comments and let us know what you think – and of course, chime in with your favorites!
He Spoke Style