Grooming

Best Fall and Winter Cologne for Men

Men's Fall and Winter Colognes

Of the five senses, smell is the one most strongly tied to memory.

For some, one whiff of pipe tobacco can bring back a flood of memories of quiet evenings spent with a grandfather.

For others, a certain deodorant may evoke the sensation of lining up for high school football practice.

And it isn't just images that come to the forefront of the mind – scents are also very powerful at arousing emotions.

Every time I sample a new cologne, I get a snapshot of a moment in time, a specific person, or an unexplained feeling.

Upon realizing what a profound effect smell can have, I started using it to my advantage.

I'll intentionally select a fragrance to use consistently for a few months, marking a chapter in my life that can be easily revisited later.

For example, I have a cologne that reminds me of my last semester of college and another that brings back all the excitement and uncertainty of living in my first apartment in the big city.

So make some lasting and easily recalled memories this season with a new fragrance.

After sampling dozens of options, here are my favorites.

Best fall and winter cologne

While sweet, spicy, and woodsy scents may be too heavy and cloying during the summer heat, they're perfect for a fall and winter cologne.

I've combed through the current offerings and narrowed down a list of very wearable fragrances that'll be perfect to welcome autumn and carry you into winter.

Just for reference, I'm not interested in what's the newest or most popular fragrance on the market (even though some of these are relatively new).

I'm perfectly okay with wearing scents that have been around for a decade or more, provided they haven't been ruined by every Jager-bombing, spiky-haired clubber (Aqua Di Gio, I'm looking at you).

John Vavartos Oud

fall and winter cologne john varvatos oud

Although oud has been in use since ancient times, this ingredient is the new kid on the block as far as popular fragrances are concerned.

This essential oil is harvested from Agarwood that's been infected with a certain type of mold. It sounds gross, but as a result of this infection, a sweet, woody resin is secreted and harvested.

Priced at almost $38,000 USD per liter, oud oil is one of the most expensive fragrance ingredients on the planet.

It's even more expensive than gold.

John Varvatos Oud shares a lot of the smoky, woody notes as his Original and Vintage offerings, but with the addition of the sweet aromatic oud.

The fragrance starts out smelling a lot like a campfire (if you've ever used Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap, you'll know what I'm talking about).

Within a few minutes, the strong campfire morphs into incense.

The lasting impression is incense and oud. This is a very smoky, woody fragrance.

Polo Red Intense

fall and winter cologne polo red intense

If you're a fan of citrusy fragrances, look no further for your cold weather go-to.

Polo Red Intense starts off with notes of grapefruit and cranberry. Once it dries down a little, the warm, spicy ginger starts to come through.

It eventually calms down to a sophisticated woody scent with notes of cedar, but it doesn't lose any of that sweet citrus.

My overall impression of this fragrance is “sugared grapefruit”, in a masculine way, of course.

It's bright and fresh like a summer scent, but strongly anchored with wood and spice.

Black Orchid by Tom Ford

fall and winter cologne tom ford black orchided

Don't worry, this cologne doesn't smell like flowers.

But it is a unisex fragrance, so it takes a certain confidence to pull off.

Think of Black Orchid as a purple velvet dinner jacket. It's bold, rakish, luxurious, and will get plenty of attention.

This is an evening fragrance and probably best reserved for special occasions rather than daily wear.

Other than saying, “I absolutely love this scent,” I have a really difficult time describing it.

It's sort of sweet, fruity, with a little oriental floral upfront, then woody vanilla after it calms down.

Rather than describe it with individual notes, I think calling it rich, seductive, heavy, and dark fits the bill.

I've also stumbled across a poor man's version of this wonderful fragrance.  Champion by Beverly Hills Polo Club seems to be a direct copy of Tom Ford Black Orchid.

It's not quite as good and smells a little synthetic as it's formulated with man-made oils, rather than naturally derived essential oils.

But at only $20, it's a steal.

Legend by Montblanc

fall and winter cologne montblanc legend

If you're looking to revisit Abercrombie Fierce, this is its older, more sophisticated brother.

I was instantly taken back to high school after sampling this scent.

Up front, I get a lot of pineapple and bergamot, and then it dries down to reveal sandalwood.

Overall, Montblanc Legend is fruity and woodsy. It's a very familiar and comforting scent.

Some may frown upon this cologne as being juvenile given its similarity to Abercrombie Fierce, but it really is a crowd pleaser.

Sauvage by Dior

fall and winter cologne sauvage dior

First things first – I did not like this fragrance very much on the initial spray.

It was a decent scent, but was a little overly sweet and nondescript out of the gate. Maybe there was some dark fruit and powder notes in there, I'm not sure.

So I struck it from my list.

However, I found that over the next few hours, I couldn't keep the back of my hand (where I sprayed the sample) away from my nose.

After this cologne dries down, it leaves a sweet, peppery, leathery aroma. And this is the first time I've been able to isolate and enjoy pepper notes.

Sauvage by Dior would be a great everyday fall and winter cologne, provided you put it on well in advance of heading out the door.

Gentlemen Only Intense by Givenchy

fall and winter cologne givenchy gentlemen only intense

Gentleman Only Intense by Givenchy opens with mandarin, black pepper, and woody notes (which is apparently birch leaves).

The fruity notes fade to allow pepper and tonka bean (which to me smells strongly of almond) to come through.

The tonka bean remains throughout and is accompanied by leather.

My overall impression is that this fragrance opens with a clean scent and dries down to leave a slightly sweet, earthy, and smoky aroma.

This is a perfect everyday fall and winter cologne for the office.

Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford

fall and winter cologne tom ford tobacco vanille

With the exception of Black Orchid, Tom Ford fragrances tend to be more of a choice for connoisseurs, rather than the casual wearer.

Unlike Tom Ford, most mass-produced colognes have so many fragrance oils in the mix, it's difficult to identify the individual aspects and the scent develops more of an overall impression.

In contrast, there is no missing the tobacco and vanilla in Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille.

This scent is like plunging your head into a jar of fresh, aromatic pipe tobacco.

It's a very refined, masculine, and rich scent and has excellent longevity. You'll wake up the next morning smelling just as you did the night before.

Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford is one of my all time favorites!

Burberry London

fall and winter cologne burberry london

If you asked 100 fragrance enthusiasts what their favorite fall and winter cologne was, you'd probably get 100 different responses.

But if you asked them to recommend the gold standard fall and winter cologne, the majority would sing the praises of Burberry London.

This fragrance is the definition of a warm, masculine scent.

It really does have it all with notes of wood, leather, tobacco, spice, and a little citrus.

As a fall and winter cologne, you really can't go wrong with Burberry London.

Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf

fall and winter cologne spicebomb

This is the most obviously great smelling cologne I've ever come across!

What I mean is that it isn't extremely complex, an acquired taste, or incredibly sophisticated.

It's good in the way that ice cream from Dairy Queen is good.

It isn't going to win any culinary awards and professional pastry chefs will turn up their nose at it, but 99% of us will absolutely love it!

Since Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf can be a little overpowering, it's best to go easy on the application.

Another fragrance that is very similar, in my opinion, is Valentino Uomo by Valentino.

Dior Homme by Christian Dior

fall and winter cologne dior homme

Dior Homme has notes of iris, lavender, leather, and cocoa.

It starts out with a lot of powdery freshness from the iris, some lavender, and a little waxy aroma.

As it dries, the powder starts to fade and the sweet cocoa and leather notes come through.

I would sum it up as sweet and exotic. I detect mostly iris, leather, and cocoa.

This fragrance is so warm and inviting on the skin, you'll draw people close to you like moths to a flame.

Enhancing your experience

A lot of thought and care goes into both formulating and selecting fragrances, so you might as well get the most out of wearing them.

Applying cologne

Back in high school, I would just spritz my cologne all over my clothes and get on with my day.

But it would fade quickly.

I've since changed my routine and have had much better results applying directly to my skin after a shower.

I use just one spray on my chest and one on the inside of my wrist, touching my wrists together and then rubbing them on the sides of my neck, just below my ears.

Applying in this way helps the cologne last all day and projects the scent better with the aide of my body heat.

Complementary products

If you're looking for a new fall and winter cologne to capture the season, you'll of course do your research.

Then you'll spend your hard-earned cash on the perfect fragrance.

So far so good.

But then you apply your cologne onto a canvas with a dozen other scents including soap, pomade, face and body lotion, deodorant, and dryer sheets.

Not the best way to get the intended experience.

I see this like going to the nicest restaurant in town, ordering a perfectly cooked steak, and pairing it with a tall glass of Mountain Dew and a side of Cheetos.

It just doesn't do the cologne justice.

To avoid conflicting fragrances, it's a good idea to have some good, unscented grooming products on hand for days when you really want your fragrance to take center stage.

I like these unscented products:

Once you've made your fragrance the star of the show, I think you'll find that people will take notice and compliment you on how great you smell.

Now, while I sampled dozens of fragrances to come up with my list of favorites, I'm sure there are some great ones out there that I've missed.

Do you have a beloved fall and winter cologne that isn't on this list?  Please share with the rest of us in the comments below!

All the best,

Nate

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44 Comments

  • Reply
    efe
    October 14, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Great article Nate. I needed this a lot. One question. Do you use that Antiperspirant&Deodorant for your underarms? After shower, If I use that deodorant for my underarms and apply perfume to my chest,neck etc., what happens? That “mix” may not be good. How do you apply?

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      Yep, I apply the antiperspirant/deodorant to my underarms after a shower. It’s completely unscented and will not interfere with your cologne in any way.

  • Reply
    Kirk
    October 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Hi, Nate, what is your view on cologne as endocrine disruptors? I’d love to sample some of these fragrances, but am afraid they contain chemicals that could potentially decrease testosterone. Sadly, TRT is not an option for me just yet. Currently, I wash with African Nubian soap and use an Natural Grooming all-natural deodorant.

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 14, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      It’s definitely a possibility. Prior to starting TRT, I was using fragrance free everything including grooming products and laundry and dish detergent. I wasn’t eating out of plastic or handling receipts. All of these little things can add up, but it obviously wasn’t helping me very much. I see it as a “pick your battles” kind of situation. I really enjoy wearing cologne so I don’t worry much about it. On the other hand, I still use fragrance free products most of the time and heat and store my food in glass containers. It’s all about balancing living a normal life while still being health conscious. I’d be much worse to stress about the small things. I would say that you’d be just fine if you wore cologne on special occasions only.

  • Reply
    Jacob
    October 14, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    I was initially going to dismiss the Polo Red, but after reading your description, it sounds like a great cologne to use around Christmas time.

    The John Varvatos Oud and Tobacco Vanilla both sound like great fall selections as well.

    Thanks for the fantastic list!

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 14, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      It would be perfect around Christmas time. FYI, there is a Polo Red and a Polo Red Intense. Both are good, but the intense is a little deeper/warmer. Let me know what you think after sampling it!

  • Reply
    Randy Hicks
    October 14, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Hi Nate,

    I’ve been keeping up with your blog for the past year (and bought your book). I really appreciate the amount of detail you put into each article. It makes them extremely practical and applicable! I have had one question though regarding clothes: How have your j. crew factory clothes held up?

    It seems to be a game of extremes when I read people’s opinion on the quality– I can’t differentiate honest from overly picky. Personally, I have gotten shorts from H&M, shirts from Target, and I love to search for sweaters and other things at Plato’s closet (expensive brands in unbelievable condition). Doing my own quality control, all of this stuff has lasted me just fine.

    The reason why I ask is there are a few things on the j. crew factory site I’d love to add to my wardrobe, but I’d like a little more information before I pull the trigger. Any advice would be much appreciated!!

    Thanks
    Randy

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 15, 2015 at 10:24 am

      J.Crew factory stuff has held up just fine for me. If I had to rank the quality, I’d say it’s above H&M and Old Navy and below Banana Republic. I wouldn’t hesitate to place your order. If you receive anything of questionable quality, just send it back. Plato’s Closet is a great place to find deals. Do you have a Crossroads Trading Co. near you? I’ve gotten a good percentage of my wardrobe there.

  • Reply
    Damian Pros
    October 15, 2015 at 8:00 am

    H&M, Bershka & Zara also have great colognes that are really economical (about 20$) for those who don’t want to spend 100+ on a parfume ;)

  • Reply
    Daniel
    October 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Interesting run down.

    Not relevant to those doing TRT, but men should also give some consideration to the effects of chemicals, including fragrances, on T levels. Things like mint in particular can lower them. I’m not saying anything about these recommendations; just reminding people to research sometimes overlooked consequences.

    Currently, my only two body care products are baking soda and Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap (sometimes Grandpa’s Baking Soda soap).

    As noted, I will check some of these fragrances out.

    Great post, Nate!

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 15, 2015 at 10:31 am

      I’m with you, Daniel. I eliminated fragrance from grooming products and cleaners as part of my diagnostic process before starting TRT. It’s pretty scary when you dig in and find out all the ways modern chemistry is disrupting our hormones. If you’re concerned about chemical exposure, but still want to wear cologne, I would just reserve it for special occasions. Have you ever tried mixing baking soda with arrowroot powder to use as deodorant? You can apply coconut oil to your pits and then stick the powder mixture to it. Works like a charm and doesn’t cause yellow stains on your undershirts.

      • Reply
        Daniel
        October 15, 2015 at 2:08 pm

        Thanks, Nate.

        I had not heard of using arrowroot and coconut oil with baking soda. I’ll look into it!

        Baking soda is also my go-to product for brushing my teeth.

        • Reply
          Nate
          October 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm

          The only downside to using baking soda as tooth powder is that it dries out your lips, haha. You’ll like the deodorant and it’s extremely effective as it fights the three causes of stink. The coconut oil is antibacterial and helps the powder stick, the arrowroot powder absorbs moisture (it’s just like corn starch), and the baking soda tackles odors. Make a 50/50 mixture of baking soda/arrowroot powder or cornstarch and you’re in business.

  • Reply
    Ralph Yap
    October 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I use the same routine. I apply perfume right after shower, when skin is still a little moist. I notice that the scent lasts longer. Unfortunately, In my country (Philippines), we only have two seasons, dry (summer) and rainy, and also because of a tight budget, I use Ralph Lauren Polo Blue EDT most of the time. I am planning to switch to an EDP for a longer lasting scent, recommend any?

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 20, 2015 at 12:14 am

      Polo Blue was my signature scent a few years back! I need to get a new bottle though. If you like fresh scents, try Acqua di Gio if it hasn’t been overused like it has here in America.

  • Reply
    Safy
    October 18, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    1 million is the best though

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 20, 2015 at 12:22 am

      Yes it is! I may even like it better than 1 Million Intense, which is rare because I tend to like the “hardcore” versions of most cologne. If it weren’t so similar to Spicebomb and Uomo I would’ve had it on the list, but wanted to make sure I gave you guys some variety.

  • Reply
    Loser 2 Winner
    October 19, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Have you tried Fierce by Abercrombie?

    It’s the best smelling one I’ve ever used and girls love it.

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 20, 2015 at 12:24 am

      I had bottle a few years back which is why I liked Legend right away. It instantly reminded me of Fierce, but it was different enough. And the girls do love it.

  • Reply
    Roman
    October 25, 2015 at 2:23 am

    Anything Tom Ford does is outstanding. I’ve sampled three or four of his colognes and loved every one of them. Unfortunately, they’re out of most folks’ price ranges. I only wear them a few times a year as I got so many other expenses.

    For every day use, there’s a leather cologne I really like but I’m in the studio right now and don’t remember the name. I do know that it’s a whopping $17 a bottle, which I don’t think any of your readers would have trouble affording.

    For those who would thumb their noses at a $17 bottle, a good happy medium is Burberry. Strongly agree with your assessment of their London. A great cologne, but one that could be worn year round too.

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 27, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      Agreed. Tom Ford fragrances are quite expensive, but worth it. At least the cost is justified because he uses essential oils, rather than synthetic fragrance oils. The longevity of these scents is excellent, I can usually still smell Tom Ford fragrances 24 hours after applying. It’s also a plus for the guys concerned with applying chemicals to their skin.

      • Reply
        Paul Weston
        March 6, 2017 at 2:22 pm

        Hey nate,
        I just came across this, a year later lol. I kinda disagree with the Tom Ford status, I find his scents overrated and overpriced. Ive used Tom Ford original and Tom Ford vetiver, both are ok scents but the sillage and longevity are severely wanting. My tf original lasted maybe an hour on my skin and the tf vetiver maybe an hour and half to 2, for $150-$175 per bottle, thats insane, maybe I just got a bad batch (if so, its a REALLY bad batch). Also tue burberry london is one of my all time faves, ill also say if someone likes burberry london but doesnt have the funds for it Bogart pour homme smells very similar, a year ago I wouldve suggested the eau de parfum, but they discontinued and is only on the toilette, either way a good substitute (if you dobt mind synthetic).

        • Reply
          Nate
          March 10, 2017 at 10:27 am

          That’s interesting, Paul. I haven’t used either of the Tom Ford scents that you mentioned but Black Orchid has excellent silliage and longevity. Thanks for the Bogart recommendation.

  • Reply
    Roman
    October 25, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Nate, I found it: http://www.westthirdbrand.com/collections/smell-good-daily-tonics/products/smell-good-daily-eau-de-toilette-vintage-leather

    Ok, $36. That’s still cheap. I must have bought it on sale or something. I love this cologne, but then again, I love leather.

  • Reply
    Mike
    November 19, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Wow! Amazing article! One of my favorites is Spicebomb! I agree it’s very powerful, so only a small application will do the work. I love wearing it in the fall and winter seasons! Smells great! It was pretty expensive at stores near me, so I purchased it online at https://www.perfumiya.com/products/Spicebomb-by-Viktor-&-Rolf/484/ Awesome price for an amazing scent!

    One of my favorite classics in Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani, fresh and long lasting!

  • Reply
    Vishwaa
    January 29, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Need help finding a good cologne. I am 14 year olds and have used Blue de Chanel, Gucci Cuilty and Versace Eau Fraiche. I want to try something new. I liked Bvlgari but am undecided. Should I try Dior, Bvlgari, 1 million or use Chanel again.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 31, 2016 at 6:00 pm

      First of all, at 14 your cologne experience is fantastic! I was wearing Curve at that age, haha. A newer fragrance that I really like, and based on your previous purchases should be right up your alley, is Versace Eros. 1 Million is also really great, I prefer the intense version. You could check out A*Men Pure Havana or Pure Malt. Both are a little different from you previous selections in that they are very warm/sweet, but might be worth a try.

  • Reply
    Lobo
    May 31, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Whatever happened to Armani Attitude???

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 2, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      I don’t recall ever trying that one personally, maybe I’d know it if I smelled it. But looking at its scent profile it sounds right up my alley! I’m bummed that it seems to have been discontinued but it looks like you can still get on ebay for around $100.

  • Reply
    Ray
    October 19, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Good article, Nate. I stumbled onto your site and will bookmark it for future articles! I am a young 50yo in search of a niche (or at least one not popular with the masses) fragrance. But maybe I’m weird. When I think of winter scent, I think of snow capped evergreen forests and pine needles, not necessarily sweet and spicy. Any recommendations of the former? I recently sampled TF Grey Vetiver and it was close to what I think of in a winter scent, but it’s hugely popular and me want to be unique. ;-) I’m curious about Guerlain Vetiver and L’Occitane Vetyver but can’t seem to find samples and I don’t want to buy blind w/o sampling.

    Suggestions?

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 19, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      You aren’t weird, Ray. Evergreen scents are definitely appropriate for winter. Sweet and spicy fragrances are usually reserved for winter as well because they become overpowering in heat and humidity. As far as evergreen scents go, I haven’t tried the two you mentioned. Have you tried Tom Ford Italian Cypress? I have a vague memory of sampling it in the store and it might be what you’re looking for.

  • Reply
    Kalki
    October 23, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    This is a great article, sir. I stumbled upon this blog while I was looking for cologne for wintertime, since November is around the corner. I read your biography and was amazed by it. I bookmarked your blog and hopefully I’ll have time to read more of your articles. Anyway, I’m a junior in high school and as I said earlier, I’m looking for cologne that I can use during the wintertime. I’m fairly new to branded fragrances and the only one I have used so far was Calvin Klein Euphoria that I bought over the summer. I’m looking for something sweet and nice, possibly aromatic with a base of wood. I was thinking Black Orchid by Tom Ford but is there anything you would personally recommend?

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 24, 2016 at 8:01 pm

      Glad to have you here, Kalki! If you’re looking for something other than what’s on the list, I would try Dolce and Gabanna The One and the Michael Kors for men fragrances. Both of those are solid entry level fragrances and are real crowd pleasers.

  • Reply
    Jahir
    February 28, 2017 at 4:08 am

    Thanks, Nate for your informative article. Your choices are really awesome. I like “Black Orchid by Tom Ford” perfume most. I like this for casual wear and my partner like this most. This article will help me to choose better in future.

  • Reply
    C1263
    July 25, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Loved your recs Nate. Any plans for a spring/summer sequel? Assume something light and citrusy, open to suggestions. Thanks!

  • Reply
    C1263
    August 24, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    We’d love to see it! Your recommendations have never let me down.

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