If you’re someone who likes to have more than one cologne—for various occasions, seasons, moods, and such—then the idea of a summer cologne is probably familiar. If you’re faithful to just one signature scent, then having a summery option is a terrific way to keep an upbeat, warming mood year-round.
What you deem a “summer fragrance” might differ from your friend’s definition. But one thing is universal, and that’s the feeling the scent gives you, says Clayton Ilolahia, evaluation and communications manager at Fragrances of the World. A summer fragrance should smell like the season. “I choose fragrances that put me in a literal summery mood, and these notes may vary from person to person. I lean towards a lot of fresh, light fragrances with notes of citrus, sea salt, green leaves, and clean musks,” Ilohalia says. In terms of common fragrance nomenclature, you might want to look for fragrances categorised as green, aquatic, aromatic, or citrus. That’s the typical roster of “summer” notes—but remember, it’s all subjective. You might find a heavier, woody, or spicy scent that has certain summery notes to it, which can also make it feel right for the season.
One category of notes gaining ground with guys is florals. Yes, they’re perfect for spring, but florals give levity to a scent no matter its other notes; this makes it a popular inclusion in summer scents. You can even wear florals in winter to cast an uplifting, optimistic radius. Ilolahia’s favourite floral notes in men’s fragrances are orange blossom (often listed as neroli) and rose. “Neroli smells floral but it also has bitter citrusy facets which fit perfectly well in men’s cologne,” he says. “And rose is a chameleon in fragrances. I like it in a combination with woody and spicy notes.”
Read on for our picks of the best summer cologne for men—and two of Ilolahia’s favourites as well.
Diptyque L’Eau Papier Eau de Toilette
Diptyque’s newest scent is a rousing, musky-woody cologne, and an olfactive love letter to paper. You know the scent; it probably sends you right back to your school days, which ironically were spent begging for summer vacation. Only now, as an adult, this blonde-wood, rice-steam, white-musk essence puts a soothingly youthful pep in your step. There’s a sophistication to it, too, and an almost gourmet finish—something to savour like a slow summer weekend.
Caswell-Massey 2571 Eau de Parfum
The legacy brand’s latest launch is a terrific pick for your signature cologne since it has perennial potential thanks to a balanced and layered recipe (It contains as many multitudes as you do, see, with a woody-floral-spicy-aromatic-ozonic-citrus-amber roster; the scent is, after all, an ode to earth’s many elements.) What makes it particularly suited to summer, though, is its liveliness, like everything is in full bloom, the sun high in the sky, and all of your senses are stimulated. Wear it in winter as a sunshine supplement, even.
Perfumehead Somewhere Extrait de Parfum
This long-lasting extrait is among the most highly concentrated fragrances on the market. That means it’ll burn as bright as the sun on the summer solstice, no matter the time of year. It’s a feverish blend of broody patchouli, bitter neroli, fresh jasmine, powdery orris, crisp bergamot, earthy oakmoss, and rousing musk. Perfumehead calls this scent “an escape”, which is fitting for any summer scent. It’s a break from the mundane, from work emails, from your Zoom calls or commute, and from all other responsibilities.
Tom Ford Mandarino Di Amalfi Eau de Parfum
What’s a summer scent roundup without a coastal Italian ode? That’s what this herbaceous, floral, and citrusy scent is selling to all of those who encounter its transportive powers. There’s a cleanliness to it, too, almost like a soapiness that helps reset the senses and relax the nerves like a long shower after a stressful day. Of all the scents on this roster, many of which are unisex, this is the best one for those couples who like to share a his-and-hers pick; it stays squarely centre of the road, even as it hugs the curves along those Amalfi cliffs.
Hermès H24 Eau de Parfum
H24 has been one of Ilolahia’s go-to summer scents for the past couple of years, since the new pillar fragrance launched in 2021. However, it started as just an eau de toilette offering and this eau de parfum was 2022’s more highly concentrated “punch up”, with a greener finish and some more prominent bitter undertones. “This green aromatic fragrance makes me feel energised but there is also an elegant serenity about it,” Ilolahia says. “It ticks many boxes and is a real pleasure to wear.”
Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 + Ginger Eau de Toilette
Escentric Molecules is continuing with its “remixes” on its classic, velvety, barely-there Molecule 01 fragrance. First came individual pairings with patchouli, iris, and (our then-favourite) mandarin, and the latest adds are another trio: guaiac wood, black tea, and this exceptional ginger-tinged spin. It adds a pinch of spice to the classic Molecule 01 formula, but almost like you’re slicing fresh ginger for an afternoon tea—nothing more complicated than that. And from the master of minimalism Geza Schoen, whose last name literally translates to “beautiful”, well… we happily expect nothing more.
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Nerolia Vetiver
Here’s a great play on bitter-floral neroli, as well as woody vetiver, one of the most universal and perennial notes in perfumery. This is a recent favourite of Ilolahia’s and a terrific spring-summer companion for the person with a fragrance wardrobe. It is among the lighter options on this roster, though, so don’t expect it to last much longer than lunchtime. That’s to its benefit, though, for anyone who wants to cast a refreshing but non-polarising aura, or who wants to wear different scents at different times of the day; perhaps a more electric scent would suit you at happy hour or on date night; this one feels more like a workday mood booster or weekend mood board.
Sisley-Paris L’Eau Rêvée d’Hubert Eau de Toilette
L’Eau Rêvée d’Hubert is that cool kid from summer camp—the one who somehow shot the winning layup and starred in the play. It’s got an incomparable minty-fresh kick that opens the scent, and graduates into a citrusy-green zeal that plays out for hours. Of all the picks on this list, it is also the best for layering—just as you might layer clothes on a frenetic-weather day, you can layer scents to help embolden certain aspects or draw out new moods altogether. Sisley-Paris calls it an “enhancer” for that reason, but it stands alone beautifully, no less.
Byredo Rose of No Man’s Land Eau de Parfum
Ilolahia called out rose as a chameleon in perfumery, and a terrific floral scent that more men should consider. Truth be told, the rose is in many fragrances as a subtle heart note, one that allows itself to be overshadowed by the top and base notes throughout the scent’s bloom. But certain scents, like Byredo’s, rose rightfully gets the spotlight, and those Turkish petals are countered beautifully with spicy pink pepper and alluring amber. This one is uplifting, yes, but its heftier notes keep it planted. You could wear this one year-round, too, given that balance between lightness and gravity.
This story was first published on Robb Report USA