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4 Different Types of Cologne

We spritz cologne on without even thinking about it. The family in which the ingredients belong, the type of notes the aroma offers, even the delivery method like spray or creams don't matter to us, as long as we smell rockin'. Want to learn more about your favorite scent?

Bottles of colognes

Everyone enjoys smelling nice. Perfumes, colognes, and eau de toilette are used to attract others to our sides, and we try every single thing out there to find what suits us. There are differences, though, between perfume and cologne.

The secret lies in the measures of essential oils, water, and alcohol at the base of the scent. Perfumes use up to 30 percent more essential oils than colognes which use maybe three to four percent. The two are distinguished in America as cologne designed for male use and perfume meant for women’s use. Are there types of cologne?

What Do You Know About Cologne?

Before we dive into the types of cologne, have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about? The main function of cologne is, after all, to smell nice. So why do men walk out of a store with what their Dads wore or a scent in the completely opposite direction? What is it about cologne?

About The Scents

Essential oils are at the bottom of almost any scent. However, citrus fruits whose juices and rind are used in perfume making don’t have essential oils, nor do a few flowers like lily. Thus, materials like spices, plant leaves, balsams, resins, grass, flowers, fruit, and wood often form the basis of perfume scents.

Features of Cologne

A close-up look at the perfume bottles.

Distinctions that make a cologne sweet, dry, or mellow can be described as:

  • Velvety. A soft scent without the chemical harshness
  • Full-bodied. A well-balanced scent with depth and character
  • Earthy. A scent that gives the impression of soil, of a leafy forest
  • Heady. An invigorating scent
  • Light. A fresh scent not sweet or earthy
  • Aromatic. A scent balanced between smell and taste
  • Coniferous. A scent reminiscent of pine trees and woods
  • Modern. A scent balanced by synthetic materials combined with natural
  • Flowery. The scent that smells like flowers
  • Thin. Scent devoid of softening influences against harsh components
  • Cloying. A sticky sweet overpowering scent
  • Evanescent. Quickly disappearing scent.

Styles Of Cologne

Perfume bottles and a pile of towels over a wooden surface.

Just as there are myriad colognes, there are just as many ways to apply them. Lots of people think only women enjoy creams, lotions, sprays, roll-ons, and other applications of scent. Au contraire. The scent is available to men in just as many applications:

  • Roll on. This application is for gentlemen irritated by sprays
  • Balm. The difference between balm and cream is that balm contains more oil than cream and liquefy on contact with skin. The scent remains on the skin longer
  • Creams. Some guys need creams to help lock in moisture after a shower
  • Tubes. If sprays or glass bottles annoy men, they can get their scent from a handy tube.

Benefits And Disadvantages Of Using Cologne

In general, people use cologne without even thinking about it. If they knew the benefits of using cologne, they’d definitely buy more of it:

  • Confidence booster. When we know we look and smell our very best, then we strut about with the utmost confidence. People are naturally drawn to confident people, scent and all
  • Mood enhancement. Feeling playful? Perhaps you feel thoughtful or pensive. Maybe you feel adventurous. Whatever your mood, your choice of scent gives it a boost. Other people see this and gravitate toward you
  • Personality trigger. Your choice of scent perks up aspects of your personality that might not have been accepted before. This gives you the chance to show everyone those aspects and to favorably highlight them for future referenceA perfume bottle on rocks.
  • Stress buster. A tiny touch of cologne does wonders for lifting depression and kicking stress to the curb. Once these are out of the way, life becomes much more fun and better smelling, too
  • Headaches begone. The right combination of essential oils in the right amount on your skin has a marvelous effect on headaches
  • Sleep promoter. Healthy, restful sleep is devout to be desired due to its supreme health benefits. Essential oils have been known for thousands of years to promote restful sleep, so why not in your cologne? Spray a dab of lavender on your pillow for a quieter heartbeat, lower blood pressure, less restlessness, and no more insomnia.
  • Aromatherapy. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to improve health through massage, bathing, and topical application. Essential oils are known to have antioxidant, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Wear some today!
  • Memory triggers. My grandmother wore Tabu until the day she died. That memory is so strong that whenever I encounter a woman wearing it, I remember grandmother with a smile. Lots of people wear a scent just because it reminds them of Mom, grandmother, or a particularly loved friend. Your scent will remind someone down the line of you, too.

Disadvantages Of Using Cologne

A hand holding a perfume.

Such a pleasant thing shouldn’t have disadvantages, but it unfortunately does:

  • Respiratory trouble. Perhaps the first and most important disadvantage of using cologne is that some folks use too much of it. You walk by, and it snatches the breath right out of your chest. Some people are allergic to some ingredients in colognes, which can cause anaphylactic shock. Other people get headaches from the sheer volume of cologne worn. The moral of the story: use cologne sparingly
  • Physical illness. Hyperosmia is an illness in which people are adversely affected by some smells or aromas. Discomfort can turn into an illness that is a step away from anxiety and depression
  • Haywire hormones. No matter what the cologne ingredients read on the label, they all contain phthalates, chemicals that are petroleum-based. These aim for the endocrine system which regulates thyroid function, diabetes, overweight, behavioral problems, and testosterone, to name just a few. These chemicals are found not only in colognes but in any scented product
  • Allergic symptoms. Topical applications irritate the skin. They also trigger allergic symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, itching, runny nose, muscle aches, and nausea. Rashes are common as well.
  • Headaches. Strong odors, even pleasant aromas, cause blood vessels in the brain to swell. This triggers the nervous system to fight back. Headache including migraine is one way of getting this stimulant out of the body. Choose a lighter fragrance to avoid this type of disadvantage.

Types Of Cologne

Now that you’re aware of what cologne is all about, you should know what types of cologne are available for your choice.


Perfume with flowers

Most floral fragrances bring women’s parfum to mind. However, in order to control the woodsy or leathery notes of men’s cologne, manufacturers toss in some floral overtones. Flowers used in colognes are often neroli, geranium, and lavender. They’re reminiscent of the flower tucked into the buttonhole of a man’s jacket.

Traditionally, floral fragrances belonged to two families: single floral and the floral bouquet. Today’s manufacturers have gotten away from the single floral fragrance due to men not wanting to smell like a rose. Floral bouquets combine different flower essences to accompany such masculine smells as tobacco, leather, and forests.

For example, the brand Power combines spicy aromas like cardamom, coriander, and bergamot with woodsy notes topped off with a floral scent. As the cologne dries, you get to smell each note until the final pleasing scent hits you.

Some perfumers, however, concentrate on one floral scent such as jasmine, for instance. Combine this with spices like clove, and you get a light green type of scent. Look for A La Nuit for these men’s cologne.


Perfume in a heart-shaped bottle.

An oriental cologne can be light or intense as the spirit moves you. It’s a most masculine scent heavy on what in antiquity was considered precious spices from the mysterious East.

A lighter cologne scent might feature an opening note of bergamot and cinnamon, for example. It might open into the floral fragrance of those mysterious tiny white flowers from the Orient, closing with a spicy aroma. Men might wear this scent in spring and summer.

Heavier scents suitable for fall and winter might include woody, musky, and/or citrus or spicy colognes. Men will be searching for cedar or another woody fragrance mixed with perhaps spicy aromas like nutmeg, coriander, or pepper. Toss in a touch of floral to soothe all that spice, and men have themselves a mysterious Oriental cologne.

Oriental scents are based on spices, vanilla, woodsy, amber, and some floral notes. Men’s oriental cologne is firmly seated in woodsy and spicy notes with a little floral thrown in to calm everything down. Expect a musky, mossy, deep woodsy aroma with a whiff of cardamom and closing with a sweet floral note.


Perfume spray bottle against a wooden bark tree background.

We build our houses of wood. Until the 20th century, ships and small boats were built of wood. Wood is strong, stable, and gives us a sense of security. In addition, who doesn’t love the scent of a fresh tree brought into the house for Christmas? We go hiking in the woods, build our homes and towns in and around the woods, so why not wear them in our cologne?

Of all the woodsy aromas we love so much, the top three are pine, cedar, and sandalwood. The smell of damp earth after a rainstorm makes us smell the trees as beads of water dapple their limbs. This thoroughly masculine scent is attractive to everyone, and that’s why we wear cologne after all, yes?

Woods are a bit heavy, though, so they’re cut with spices and florals for a well-rounded presentation. The result is deep, smoky, yet with a light touch of vanilla and rose.


Perfume with palm leaf and white shells.

The word fresh conjures up freshly cut grass, the breeze blowing across a body of water, the smell of orange and lemon, as well as anything light and airy. Fresh is all about nature, about the brighter, lighter, sunny side of life. So is the cologne.

When you can mix grapefruit, apple, peach, and orange with geranium, rose, jasmine and violet added to oak, cedar, musk, and incense to form the base of the light, airy colognes then men have a fresh scent that will (a) last all day, and (b) delight everyone who is near.

History Of Cologne

Most people are aware of the emergence of cologne from Cologne, Germany made by Giovanni Maria Farina. He was an Italian transplanted into Germany. He missed his homeland so deeply that he concocted a fragrance to remind him of his Italian roots. We’ll talk about this down the line, but this wasn’t the first instance of cologne being used.

The Ancients

Perfumes in vintage bottles.

Life in antiquity was brutal. Religious rituals were important for appeasing the gods in the case of natural disasters or life just sucked. Incense and colognes were integral to any ritual as these purified the air as well as the wearer.

The colognes would seem crude to us, but back then they were a mixture of the essential oils of flora and fauna (yes, fauna) plus whatever fruits were around. Hopefully, you mixed a pleasant smell the gods would enjoy, so they would take pity on you.

The Egyptians

Egyptian perfume bottles on a hand-woven Omani rug.

Generally, recorded history lists the Egyptians as the first to use colognes in their religious rituals in addition to smelling nice. Colognes have always distinguished the upper classes from the little people. Let’s face it: it’s always the upper classes that get onto most of the hieroglyphics and pictographs, isn’t it?

Cologne was believed to be the sweat from Ra the sun god. Nefertum was the goddess of scent. She is pictured wearing a headdress of water lilies which was the main ingredient of cologne in those days. Archeology has dug up recipes for cologne which was part of daily life if you were royalty or the aristocracy.

The ingredients for Egyptian cologne came from Africa in the form of myrrh and woodsy scents. It was a big trade item and formed the basis of international relationships between the two.

The Persians

Perfume bottles with orchid flowers against a pink background.

Ancient Persians were the next to experiment with scent. Their royalty and aristocracy were also heavily invested in cologne, even having paintings of Darius and Xerxes holding their cologne bottles and the flowers that went into them.

It’s believed that Avicenna, a Persian doctor, and chemist, played with distillation in order to develop a cologne not oil-based as the Egyptian version was. He is thought to be the father of distillation and the discoverer of base alcohol. Thus, the Persians led the way in cologne making for many hundreds of years.

Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman blown glass perfume bottles.

Archeology in addition to the writings of Pliny the Elder has illuminated recipes for cologne. We are now able to recreate the scent worn by Julius Caesar, for example. The ancient Greeks and Romans were careful to document every little thing in their lives, and this included the scents they used for beautification as well as ritual endeavors.

Cyprus was believed to be the home of the mythological goddess of love Aphrodite. What is believed to be the oldest perfume factory in history is located there. The thinking goes that the perfume factory-supplied scent for temples and the persons who worshipped there. The scent was used in public baths, in beauty and health products, and, so rumor has it, on the soles of the feet.

Ancient China

Jade Bottle with tassel

The ancient Chinese weren’t big on scented bodies. They believed that scent purified their rooms and disinfected them. It wasn’t until the later dynasties that rulers and the aristocracy wore scent on their bodies. At that time, “perfume” was carried around on the person in pouches containing herbs. These were also used for medicinal purposes.

Ancient Europeans

Vintage European Eau de cologne bottles

Middle Ages Europe suffered from what they called “bad air.” Miasmic fog and unhealthily human-packed cities with their trash and offal contributed to the disease. Europeans needed something with which to combat this, so they carried around little sachets or pomanders containing aromatic herbs and spices. These were believed to keep your personal space clean which in turn fought infections.

Add to this the fact that the Crusaders brought back to Europe the cologne making secrets of the East. The first cologne was thought to be Eau de Hungary, the queen of Hungary’s personal brand of cologne. It’s thought to contain alcohol that had been distilled with herbs and spices like rosemary and mint.

Ancient Italians

Far removed from ancient Rome, the Italians of the Middle Ages are responsible for lots of cool things. One of them was the creation of 95 percent alcohol combined with herbs and spices to make a scent called aqua mirabilis.

Fast-forward to Catherine de Medici, who, when she married the French king, had her own cologne formulated by an Italian. Thought to contain water with bergamot and orange, the idea spread far and wide to England, Germany, and points north and south. And that brings us to Cologne, Germany.

Cologne From Cologne

Aerial view of Cologne, Germany.

Giovanni Maria Farina was homesick for Italy. Consequently, he devised a scent that would remind him of “a spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after rain,” as he wrote to his brother. He combined tobacco, jasmine, rosemary, lemon, orange, thyme, bergamot, tangerine, lavender, neroli, and grapefruit essential oils and called it cologne for his new hometown.

Farina wore his Eau de Cologne or water of cologne out of homesickness, but it caught on so fast and furious that crowned heads all over the known world wanted it. Given the times, it was expensive, but Farina’s miracle water was a huge hit.

The factory remains in Cologne to this day. It is joined by two other perfumeries based in the same city, however, the other two call their colognes by other names and even numbers to distinguish them from the original cologne.

It seems that today’s colognes just need a celebrity name printed on the bottle to cause a new sensation. Katy Perry, Calvin Klein, Giorgio, Elizabeth Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Yves St. Laurent, and Usher are just a few. The enduring classics, though, include Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. The variety of ingredients makes all colognes worth checking out, but there’s always that one that fits everyone like a glove. The cologne that best describes me is Giorgio Gold, for instance.

Where To Buy Cologne

Woman picking out a perfume on a display shelf.

While it seems as if you can find anything your imagination can name in any store including convenience stores, there really are myriad places from which to purchase cologne. You may not find it in grocery stores, but you’d be surprised what they carry come holiday time.

Generally, any store that carries a wide variety of products will carry cologne. For example, almost every pharmacy has a glass case filled with colorful boxes of cologne. Dollar stores might carry knock-offs, but they do carry cologne. Big box stores like Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Sears, Macy’s, Saks, and Neiman Marcus are just a few that carry colognes.

One of the places you might not think would carry colognes is the post exchange on any military base in the world. However, these soldiers and their families are limited to what’s around them in many cases, especially overseas. They need a PX to give them a flavor of home. They have access to groceries, clothing, shoes, jewelry, hardware, and other accouterments of the home. This includes cologne.

Of course, there are the kiosks in malls that carry everything from sneakers to handmade keychains and jewelry to photographs to, you guessed it, cologne. These are in effect freelance contractors selling a major company’s wares, but cologne is often one of the best-selling items in mall kiosks.

If you’re annoyed at pulling up to a very long traffic light, your attention might be distracted by someone tapping on your window. In his hand will be a cardboard box of cologne. He, too, is an independent contractor selling whatever wares his company makes. I, personally, have bought my Giorgio Gold from such contractors.

The last place you can expect to find cologne is in a perfume store often located in malls. These stores offer every name under the sun as well as the tried and true classics. I just love Chanel No. 5, and it’s to one of these perfume stores that I go to get it.

Cologne can also be obtained online if you don’t want to fuss with mall traffic.


What Are The Top 10 Men’s Colognes?

1. Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million. A combination of grapefruit, citrus, blood mandarin, and cinnamon added to leather and patchouli make a warm, masculine scent attractive to everyone.

2. Invictus By Paco Rabanne. Masculine scents like oakmoss, bay leaf, and patchouli combine with the fresh notes of grapefruit to make a bold cologne all men would appreciate.

3. Chanel’s Blue de Chanel. The perfect example of an Oriental cologne, Chanel mixes masculine cedar and incense for a woodsy aroma added to citrus for a fresh note. Most seductive, guys.

4. Sauvage By Dior. Feeling like a wild, free scent? Try a mix of salty yet sweet ambroxan with patchouli combined with pepper and bergamot for a feeling of freedom.

5. Code By Armani. A scent to warm these cold winter nights, Code mixes Tonka bean, leather, and tobacco with olive blossom, bergamot, lemon, and star anise. Now get out there and make use of those cold winter nights!

6. Gucci’s Guilty. No need to feel anything but admired wearing lemon, lavender, and patchouli.

7. Only The Brave Wild By Diesel. This admixture was created for the man who only sees one way to go: his own way. It’s an amalgam of sweet, spice, and citrus on a masculine woodsy base. Sample some of this lemongrass, pepper, grapefruit with floral overtones of lavender and geranium. Then notice the nutmeg and coumarin atop the masculine base of cedar, moss, and vetiver. Coconut water rounds out the sensational experience.

8. Essenza By Acqua di Parma. The perfect summer cologne, Essenza Colonia offers wearers a light scent of neroli, citrus, and floral tones of rose and jasmine.

9. Aventus By Creed. A bestseller, this smoky yet light cologne combines birch and patchouli for a masculine base atop which is bergamot, black-currant, apple, and pineapple for a fresh, spring-like scent.

10. Noir Extreme By Tom Ford. Another Oriental fragrance, men enjoy the masculine presentation of leather and patchouli with overtones of coriander, black fig, black plum, and a touch of black truffle. A woodsy, Oriental scent for the man’s man.

How Strong Is Too Strong?

Since scents and people differ, the old axiom “less is more” should be used in answer to this question. Most people don’t bathe in the stuff but spray some on pulse points and behind the knees. The general rule of thumb is two sprays and absolutely no more than four.

What Men’s Cologne Gets The Most Compliments?

Actually, this is more a matter of personal preference, but a few colognes do stand out:

  • Chanel Allure Homme Sport
  • YSL Y Eau de parfum
  • Viktor & Rolf Spicecomb Extreme
  • YSL La Nuit de L’Homme
  • Dior Homme Intense

What Size Cologne Bottle Should Men Buy?

Scents come in sizes from one ounce up to three and a half ounces and on up. Men testing what scent best fits their personality and lifestyle should buy one-ounce bottles especially if they’re going to buy multiple bottles.

Remember you’re only going to dab it on, not bathe in it. Also keep in mind that the shelf life of cologne isn’t that much, and exposure to sunlight weakens the product. Buy smaller sizes and keep them out of direct sunlight.

How Many Bottles Of Cologne Should A Man Have?

Every man should have one bottle of their signature fragrance. This will be the defining scent that best represents his personality and character. Most men have two bottles while others have more than that. It depends on if you want to wear a light spring and summer scent in those seasons in addition to a fall and winter scent at the appropriate times.

Should Men Try Cologne Before Buying It?

Absolutely. Skin is just as different as scents. In the first five to 20 minutes of your test, the top notes of the fragrance will evaporate. The middle notes will be smelled for the next couple of hours. It’s the last note, though, that will carry the scent through the day.

That’s if you buy a cologne heavy on essential oils. Lighter formulations such as eau de toilette don’t contain a big concentration of essential oils. It will burn off your skin quicker.

The types of cologne matter as well. Obviously, floral or fruity scents don’t last as long as woodsy, amber scents. It’s the heavily woodsy colognes that last longer than their lighter brethren.

How Can Men Choose A Good Cologne?

The first thing and most important is to research. Men should know the types of cologne (floral, fresh, Oriental, and woodsy) in addition to the scent families. This means that florals combine some herbs and perhaps citrus while woodsy might contain earthy tones like freshly cut grass.

Ask around. Your workmates, the guys at the gym or church, even the guy behind the counter at the grocery store have their favorites. They’ll be happy to share their knowledge with you, so don’t be shy. You can even ask women what men’s cologne smells best to them.

Know thyself. It’s okay to buy a scent just to attract women, but are there aspects of your personality or character that you want to highlight? Maybe you find lots of things funny and inspire others with your jocularity. Perhaps you have a softer side that loves his puppy and plays with his sister’s baby. You might find adventure in the wildest places, so you’ll need a cologne that defines that part of you.

Last but not least, try everything from pop icon fragrances to the classics to popular brands like Cool Waters or Draakar. Your defining scent is out there, so happy hunting.

What If A Cologne Suddenly Smells Bad On A Man

Finding your signature scent took years. You finally found one that doesn’t smell like Dad or on the other end of the spectrum your granddad. Your cologne is the perfect representation of you, and you love it. But. What in the world would cause this perfect scent to smell bad?

  • It’s kept in the medicine cabinet of a steamy hot bathroom. These change the composition of a cologne until it smells like an old abandoned basement. Cologne should be kept in a cool dry place such as the inside of your closet or a dresser drawer.
  • Your body’s chemistry is messed up. Lots of things affect our skin like medications, stress, bad diet, and age to name a few. If your cologne has recently begun to smell bad, take the time to correct the stress in your life along with those other things.
  • Your scented bath products are clashing. Body wash by Axe, deodorant by Right Guard, and your peppermint shampoo are all vying for attention. Your cologne shouldn’t. Streamline your bath and body products to the same category as herbal, for example, and then layer your cologne on top of that.
  • You have dry skin. If your skin feels like a week in the Sahara, then your cologne will lose its top notes instantly. Use an unscented body lotion, applying cologne immediately thereafter.
  • It’s the same bottle you had since you were a boy. Properly stored, cologned usually hang in there for two to four years. After that, it’s time to buy a new one. If it smells bad and looks dark, yeah, it’s time to bury that dude.


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