So you’re ready to take your fragrance game to the next level. Good for you! A quality cologne will distinguish you from many other men, whose underarm deodorant (or lack of) does their aromatic speaking.
Not to say there’s anything wrong with smelling ordinary. But sometimes you need a little edge, and a good cologne will provide you with just that.
As far as purchasing a cologne is concerned, many men prefer to visit retail stores. The obvious advantage is the fact that you get to sample an assortment of fragrances before making a decision. But there are some disadvantages:
1. Your selection will be limited to what’s in inventory.
2. Attributes such as longevity and sillage may not be accurately assessed.
3. Every cologne will smell different when it’s on your skin and reacting with your body chemistry. Meaning, what you smell after you get home and spray some on will probably be different than what you smell on a sample card.
4. Your purchase may be influenced by the opinion of another person, like an attractive female customer service assistant who doesn’t understand your tastes as well as you do.
5. You’ll probably pay more than you need to.
With these considerations in mind, you may prefer to purchase your cologne on the internet, effectively rolling the dice and “blind-buying”, hoping for the best. I’ve actually had pretty high success blind-buying colognes. Now, I share my tips for doing so with you.
Tip #1. Consult the experts. YouTube is a great source for cologne reviews by various respected gurus and connoisseurs. Search “top men’s fragrances” at YouTube to find a myriad of top 10/20 cologne lists. Take some time and make notes of fragrances that sound appealing. Pay special attention to ones that make multiple lists. And don’t be too quick to dismiss a particular cologne because it got a bad review.
Tip #2. Read the customer reviews. There are a handful of popular fragrance review sites on the internet. I’ve found fragrantica.com to have the most useful information. Following is a brief guide to interpreting the information you’ll find at Fragrantica.
1. Examine the “Main Accords”. These are the general smells present in each fragrance. Base your decision to purchase a cologne on accords you strongly like, or dislike. It may take time, trial and error to determine what your tastes are.
2. Examine the bar chart. In the center column is a bar chart displaying customer opinions, including how many people love, like, and dislike the fragrance. Be wary of fragrances with large numbers of dislikes. Generally, the more liked and loved a fragrance is, the more likely you are to like/love it was well.
3. Completely disregard Fragrantica’s description of the fragrance. Most of these are mere fluff and have very little useful information.
4. Examine the Longevity and Sillage ratings of the fragrance. These are very important. Longevity refers to how long a given fragrance remains detectable. The best smelling cologne is of little value if it fades away after an hour or two. Be mindful purchasing colognes described as having poor longevity.
5. Sillage refers to how well a fragrance can be smelled by others. You may not wish to be the guy everyone smells from 10 feet away. If so, the sillage may not be critical to you. I personally wear cologne more for my own benefit than that of other peoples’, so I don’t get too hung up on sillage.
6. To reiterate, longevity is very important. And where taste in a particular fragrance is subjective and determined by the individual, longevity and sillage tend to be more a matter of science and fact. Meaning, a cologne notorious for its poor longevity probably won’t last very long on your skin, either.
7. Optionally read the customer reviews. If you do, don’t give much stock to them. Invariably some people will love every cologne, while others will hate it. Many people like to use five-dollar words, attempting to sound sophisticated without really ever saying anything. I’ve found that the best reviews (and the only ones I generally consider) come from women.
Tip #3. Purchase a cologne. I’ve made all my purchases on eBay, though there are other places to shop as well. When making a purchase, I suggest abiding by the following guidelines.
1. Only buy from sellers with outstanding customer satisfaction records. This is to ensure you don’t wind up with a fake/knockoff, which are known to exist.
2. While looking for good deals, avoid the really, really good deals, as these may be fakes/knockoffs.
3. Buy a 100mL (~3.4 oz) instead of a 50mL bottle, the reason being there’s so much better value in a 100mL bottle. Chances are that if you’ve done your homework, you’re going to like the cologne you’ve chosen, and wish to wear it from time to time–even if it’s not your favorite. You might as well have a good supply of it, again considering how little money you save purchasing a 50mL bottle.
4. Buy less expensive colognes on your first few purchases. Remember that you’re still trying to establish just exactly what your tastes are. And don’t always equate price to quality, as some very popular colognes are also very inexpensive.
At approximately $20 for 100mL, Perry Ellis Red 360 is a safe first-purchase in my opinion. This is a fresh, masculine fragrance that isn’t too loud, and is known to be liked by women.
At $10 for 100mL, Cuba Gold isn’t too big of a risk. In my opinion this has a somewhat unisex/metro smell. Many people liken it to Le Male, a more expensive and popular fragrance.
You can find other potential first-buy candidates by searching “top inexpensive cologne lists” on YouTube.
In conclusion. Acquiring the ideal cologne is a matter of trial and error, because even after finding one you really like, there are inevitably others you’ll like more. Ideally you should build a collection of fragrances, to provide yourself with options in the way you smell depending on the time of year, the occasion, and your particular mood.
Remember that due to many unpredictable factors, there’s an element of “blind-buying” even when shopping at retail stores. So whether you visit a retail store or shop online, spend a reasonable amount of time researching before buying. This will help ensure that each new purchase adds an appreciated fragrance to your collection, instead of going down as a regret.
All the best in your fragrance quest!
Gregg Boethin is a musician, entrepreneur, and fragrance connoisseur presently living in Oregon.