How to Choose a Cologne

how to choose a cologne How to Choose a Cologne
A distinct scent for a man is a necessity these days. It’s a scent-based signature that’s lingers on everything you wear, and stays in the minds of everyone you meet. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. You’d be surprised at the kinds of compliments you can get once you stop smelling like beer and spray-deodorant and move on to something with a little more depth.

With that in mind, EveryGuyed has put together a list of things to be on the lookout for with respect to colognes and perfumes. From the construction of fragrances, to picking and wearing cologne for yourself, this guide will have you smelling less like mom’s basement and more like a grown man.

Fragrance Construction

Colognes and other fragrances are constructed of top notes, middle notes, and base notes. These scents interact and work together to create the complete scent that you encounter. Most perfume houses guard their recipes and the composition of their fragrances carefully, but nearly all are made up of carefully layered scents.

  • Top Notes

    The top notes are the first impression that the scent will give you, usually bold scents with a touch of the ethanol that the fragrance is mixed with. Adjectives like ‘crisp’, ‘fresh’ and ‘citrusy’ are common, and powerful extracts are usually used here. The top notes will not last very long, and give way to the middle notes.

  • Middle Notes

    Soft floral notes are common here, so as to lessen the harsh impact of the ethanol. Middle notes usually last less than half an hour.

  • Base Notes

    Base notes are the lasting scent that a fragrance leaves on you; the least harsh of all the notes, base notes are long lasting, subtle scents. The base notes first emerge about 30 minutes to an hour after you apply, and linger until you shower or change.

These notes together create the layered, complex story that colognes tell. Does the cologne start with a blast of fresh citrus, and then give way to a smoky woodsy note? Or does it start with a jolt of lavender that transforms into vanilla? Though these complex notes are probably only going to be picked up by trained perfumers, a basic understanding of these notes can give help you distinguish a mediocre cologne from an extraordinary one.

Picking A Scent

When picking a scent, one of the first things to consider is personal style and image. Try a few different scents and figure out what impression each one gives, and if it’s true to your own style. It’s also wise to go out and smell various colognes, write down your first impressions and top three, and then return on another occasion. Your sense of smell is easily overwhelmed at the perfume counter, and a break is essential to discerning what scents have a lasting impression on you over time.

Stores keep tester cards for you to blast with cologne so you can get a sample without leaving the store smelling like you fell into a vat of the stuff. Similarly, many places keep coffee beans around, as coffee acts as a palette refresher – a sort of reset button for your nose.

Your sense of smell is easily overwhelmed at the perfume counter, and a break is essential to discerning what scents have a lasting impression on you over time

Once you’ve found a few you like, test them on your own skin. This is an important step, as colognes interact with your sweat, your body heat, and your individual body chemistry. There’s no telling how any single cologne might smell while you’re wearing it.

Wearing Your New Scent

One of the most common problems with men and cologne is an utter cluelessness when it comes to how to apply it. Stick to the following tips and you’ll be fine:

  • Our publisher prefers one single spray, but our editor has an entire cologne strategy. Two on the chest, one on the wrist, one on the neck.
  • The wrist and neck are ‘pulse points’ where your body generates the most heat, and the cologne will emanate outward from your body.
  • Cologne worn on the chest is kept away from the air, and will linger throughout the day and night.
  • Don’t hit yourself again if you can’t smell it. That’s the idea. It’s only supposed to be noticeable once you get up close and personal. Your sense of smell is weakest after waking up, so be careful with overzealous application.
  • Give yourself a quick refresher in the late afternoon if your cologne is fading and you think it’s going to be a long night. One spray ought to do it.
  • Don’t wear a powerfully scented deodorant with your cologne. Conflicting scents or unexpected interactions can smell unpleasant.
  • In the summertime, the combination of heat and sweat greatly amplifies the smell of your cologne; apply sparingly on those hot days.

Advanced Cologne & Fragrances

  • As you get more confident, you’re going to want to keep more than one fragrance. One for the office, one for nights out, one for special occasions.
  • Particularly sensitive noses will be able to pick out individual scents and be able to layer fragrances on top of their existing colognes. Scents like vanilla and cinnamon layer well.

Things to Watch Out For

  • Overwhelming base notes: Overpowering scents are undesirable. A too-strong base note is going to stick with you the rest of the day and annoy you (and your date) until you shower.
  • Powerful deodorants: There’s no telling how your new cologne might interact with your existing antiperspirant or deodorant. If that new bottle of cologne mixes badly with your Old Spice, consider switching to an unscented deodorant.
  • Patchouli: Common in colognes with a woody scent, patchouli base notes can transform and smell similar to camphor. If you’re testing something with this note, give it a few hours and see how it smells then.


  • Colognes have three scents, top notes, middle notes, and base notes. Top notes hit the nose as soon as you spray, middle notes after about fifteen minutes, and base notes after that.
  • Find cologne that gives off an impression you’re comfortable with. Would a rugged sandalwood scent hang better on you? Or would a classy lavender-based cologne be best?
  • Test, test, test. Test what you’re wearing thoroughly. This is going to be the scent you take out in the world, you should love it.
  • Spray sparingly, and if you can smell yourself, you’ve gone too far.


Got particularly great cologne you’re dying to share? Got the secret to making that smell last all day? Use the comments box below to start the discussion!





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What's on your mind?

  1. I always have trouble picking a fragrance…what with all the peripheral smells and distraction at a traditional fragrance counter/section. I find bringing someone along is essential to finding the right fragrance.

  2. Stick with a line that provides everything including shower gel, aftershave, cologne and deodorant. The fragrance will be more layered and you are less likely to overdo the cologne.

  3. I find testers to be essential. The deal about different notes is true and impossible to judge in a store (having smelled goodness knows what before). My girl works for one of these places and I never knew you could take a tester home to try out for a week. Wear it for a week and ask what chicks think. And do ask at least one girl that will give you an honest and unbiased opinion.

  4. Places like Sephora will usually provide you a test vial of anything you want. Definitely try it out for a few days before you commit.

  5. Really great article – explains a lot. I think when guys discover how nice a subtle scent can be they have a bit of difficulty choosing a fragrance for themselves. I know initially, I just used what was given to me as a gift. But then I started exploring scents on my own. This article a nice guide.

  6. My favorite thing about this piece is that is does NOT say to let a woman pick your cologne. You should pick it yourself because you like wearing it. Period.

    Why is this a good idea? Because, every woman has her own favorite scent to smell on a guy. What appeals to one woman may gross out another woman (if you are single).

    If you are in a relationship, you should still pick your own (but let her have some input too – unless you never want to sleep with her ever again).

  7. This was really very helpfull. I had no idea that colognes and perfumes had three notes. I also didn’t know you could take the testers home to try out for a few days. I must be shopping in the wrong stores. This article and the reviews were very informative. A good one to share with friends and family. Thanks.

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