You may wonder why I have a list of 25, and not 20, 50 or some other number. I've always figured that some day I'm probably going to be forced to pare down my collection (which is currently at about 400 bottles) significantly. If that ever happens, I think knocking it down to 25 fragrances is a reasonable number. This was my mindset when I compiled this list a few years ago: I adore these 25 scents so much that I feel could be satisfied if I were only allowed to wear these 25 fragrances, and no other, for the rest of my life.
Like my Top Ten list, this list has remained pretty static during the past several years. There have been a few scents that I've removed over the years - Equipage, Agua Lavanda, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Guerlain Vetiver and Monsieur Givenchy - but I did so simply because I don't wear them much anymore, not because I love them less. Other than that, it's been a consistent list. All of the fragrances on the list are ones I've been wearing for years, and all of them are fragrances that I'm so comfortable wearing, I feel like they're part of me when I do.
Enough talking now, so here they are, in no particular order:
Grey Flannel (Geoffrey Beene)
Though this list is not in any order of preference, Grey Flannel is the exception. I came so close to putting this in my Top Ten, it deserves to be #11. Plus I wear it more often than most of the other scents on this list.
I have good memories associated with this one. When my wife and I were first dating back in the early Nineties, she tried to get me into wearing cologne on a regular basis. Her first gift to me ever was a bottle of Eau Sauvage, but before that, she had me sample a bunch of fragrances, and Grey Flannel was one. I liked it because it actually smelled masculine, compared to the others she had me try, which were wimpy aquatic and sporty fragrances (she didn't like them either, but thought I should try out what was hip at the time). I remember saying to her that Grey Flannel smelled like money, and that it was the smell of a real man. As for the others, I remember asking her, "Are you sure these are for men?"
I still love Grey Flannel, and in fact I wear it more now than ever before. Like most on my favorites list, it's a fragrance I've been able to grow with. It's timeless.
Tabac Original Eau de Cologne (Maurer & Wirtz)
Even my six year-old daughter likes wearing this on occasion, so how can I not love it? Tabac Original may not smell like a tobacco leaf or a cigar, but it has a brown, hazy warmth that brings to mind smoking jackets, pipe tobacco, dinner clubs, leather chairs, and all things associated with smoking and being a mature man of the world.
Like Pino Silvestre, Tabac is another classic gem that sells for chump change, so there's no reason not to at least have a 50 ml. bottle in the wardrobe.
Moods Uomo was God's gift to the world in 1989. It came into this world at the twilight of the 80's Powerhouse Fragrance, a genre that would soon die a painful death at the hands of wimpy aquatic scents.
Moods represents Old School Power at its finest. Its velvety gold blend of rose, tobacco, patchouli and oakmoss has never been matched, and its beauty is from another world. However, don't let its silkiness mislead you into thinking this isn't a powerful scent. Moods has a lot of testicular swagger, which it gets from plenty of macho patchouli and oakmoss. It's just as suitable to wear with gold chains and an unbuttoned shirt as it is with a suit and tie.
I don't wear Moods all that often, but not because I don't love it. I'm selective about when I wear it because I never want to tire of it.
Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin (Lolita Lempicka)
Like A*Men, Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin represents an anomaly in my tastes. It's a gourmand oriental fragrance and it's sweet, which are two qualities I typically don't enjoy. It's also not particularly masculine smelling.
Lolita lights my fire because it creates a magically dreamy, purple haze of spicy scent all around me when I wear it. Its showcase note is anise, a love/hate smell that I happen to love, and it maintains that scent for hours and hours. Lolita is totally enchanting in every way, and no other fragrance gives me that same feeling.
I expect oriental fragrances to smell exotic, but few of them really do. Lolita Lempicka Au Masculine nails it perfectly.
Giorgio For Men (Giorgio Beverly Hills)
Now here is one of those fragrances that NO ONE will dispute is a real powerhouse. It was built to satisfy the true powerhead: loads of oakmoss and patchouli, uber-manly aroma, 24-hour longevity, and the sillage of a nuclear holocaust. Any more than four or five sprays, and Giorgio For Men truly will announce your presence about fifty feet before you walk into a room.
Giorgio For Men is a burly green oakmoss bomb smoothed out with honey and patchouli. It's silky and beautiful, with one of the best aromas in muscle frag history. The main reason I don't wear this every day is because I think I'd have perpetual olfactory fatigue after wearing this for a week.
I've been wearing Aramis since the time I started getting interested in fragrances, so there's no way I can notinclude it in my Top 25. It's one of the first fragrances I ever bought for myself (Bijan Men was the first), and I've loved it ever since. I was 24 when I bought my first bottle, still studying to become a lawyer, and I remember thinking that buying and wearing Aramis was a sign that I was really becoming an adult. The fact that it didn't smell anything like the cutie pie sport fragrances that were trendy at the time certainly helped.
Aramis came out in the Sixties, yet it still smells unique today. Sure, there have been a ton of leathery chypres released over the years, but none of them smell quite like Aramis. It's complex too - at times it smells bitter, other times leathery, other times mossy, and other times aromatic - yet I can recognize it instantly.
I don't wear Aramis as much as I used to, but I know it will be back in my regular rotation again soon. It's so familiar and reassuring to me, sort of like comfort food, I don't think I can ever give this one up. Why else would I own three bottles of it now?
Givenchy Gentleman (Givenchy)
This has to be, without a doubt, the most patchouli-intensive mainstream fragrance for men ever made. A lot of guys have a hang-up about patchouli, mainly due to its association with hippies and potheads, so it took real balls for Givenchy to release a so-called "gentleman's fragrance" to the general public containing this much patchouli. They could have easily named this "Givenchy Patchouli Pour Homme".
I am aware of two formulations of Givenchy Gentleman: the original 1974 formula and the reformulated version being sold currently. I own and wear both, and although I love them equally, there are differences. The original is a superstrong, crude powerhouse, with a particularly loud, skanky civet note in the base. The current reformulated Gentleman is more refined and smooth, with a little less civet, and just as much leather as patchouli. I think the new version is a slightly better fragrance because it's better blended, but the original version has a brashness that I love.
Either way, you're getting one of the best patchouli or leather fragrances for men ever made.
Jaipur Homme (Boucheron)
Jaipur Homme is my favorite oriental fragrance for men. In fact, I think it's the best men's oriental scent of all time, period. It's very powdery, which gives it an old classic feel, but it's also got a strong, exotic spiciness that puts it firmly into the oriental category. Think Habit Rouge blended with Jacomo de Jacomo, and you've got an idea of what this is like.
Much debate is made about which version is better, the eau de toilette or the eau de parfum. I own bottles of both, and I think the difference is negligible. I give a slight edge to the EDP because it's a tad more complex and rich, but the EDT is no slouch at all. They both last a long time, project strongly, and deliver the same unforgettable Jaipur experience.
Polo (Ralph Lauren)
I've described Azzaro Pour Homme, Moods and Pino Silvestre as being, for me, perfect fragrances. Polo is another perfect fragrance.
Provided you don't bathe in it, Polo is suitable for any occasion, any time of year. Wear it with jeans and a T-shirt, and it comes off as a great casual scent. Wear it with a suit and tie, and it will give you an air of authority. Wear it with a tux, and you'll look and smell like a million bucks. Like Aramis, it's a complex scent, smelling green, dry, sweet, aromatic, grassy, coniferous and mossy at different times of the day. No matter what facet I detect and when, Polo always smells great. I consider it to be one of the greatest men's fragrances of all time.
Though it's a powerhouse, Polo is one of the few I don't like to wear loudly. It only smells right when you put it on in small to moderate doses. Too much, and it smells cheap and obnoxious. With just the right amount, it smells regal.
Agua Lavanda (Antonio Puig)
Agua Lavanda is my favorite lavender fragrance. It's so honest and pure - nothing hides the rawness of the lavender here. The lavender smells crisp and dry, just the way I love it. The careful addition of oakmoss gives a green tint to the lavender and adds to its earthiness. A touch of tonka bean in the base notes technically make Agua Lavanda a fougere, but the lavender is always the showcase.
Staying power and sillage are of course weak, which is typical of lavenders, but this is Nature in a bottle. I wear this almost every day in the summer.
Bel Ami (Hermes)
Writing this article made me realize that I rarely talk about this fragrance, which is strange, since it's been one of my favorites for years. Bel Ami used to be a big fat leathery powerhouse when it came out in 1986, and was reformulated a few years ago. It's not quite a powerhouse anymore, and it's a bit less leathery than it used to be, but it's still great. It still comes off as a classic French take on the 80's powerhouse genre, though, and that's what I love about it.
Bel Ami is still an extremely masculine scent, very European in style. I love how it piles on heavy aromatic notes like cinnamon, patchouli, anise, basil and sage on top of leather. It balances out perfectly, and it smells warmer and richer the longer you wear it.
This is one of those fragrances where you get awesome warm whiffs rising up from under your shirt throughout the day. It's like aromatherapy for me.
This is my latest addition to the list. I've had a bottle for about 13 years, but I haven't gotten to truly love this until the past year or so. It's very powdery and old school, so I needed a few gray hairs on my head before I could really appreciate and feel comfortable wearing it.
Though I love every stage of Lagerfeld, the drydown is what makes it one of my favorite fragrances. It's dark, spicy and musky, and it has a tart skankiness in the base that I often associate with classic French chypres, not orientals like Lagerfeld.
I find myself wearing this more than I ever expected when I first tried it thirteen years ago, and I see myself wearing it for many years to come.
Lapidus Pour Homme (Ted Lapidus)
Do I really need to say anything more about this that I haven't already said? You all know by now that Lapidus Pour Homme is one of the strongest, most brutal powerhouse fragrances ever made. Quiche eaters and wimps run for cover when you walk in wearing this macho scent.
Lapidus isn't great simply because it's strong. It also smells great (see my review for details). I love this juice.
Pino Silvestre (Mavive)
I love pine scents and I love dry green herbal scents, and Pino fits into both categories perfectly. It's a classic herbal fougere with a breezy green scent that smells like a summer wind blowing through a forest. I can't not love Pino *Silvestre.
If you love evergreen and herbal fragrances but haven't yet tried Pino, what the hell are you waiting for?
Knize Ten (Knize)
I'm sorry to be loading this article up with superlatives, but these perfumes are in my Top 25 for a reason. I love leather fragrances, and Knize Ten is easily the best leather fragrance I've ever smelled, and I've smelled a lot of them.
It smells like the tan-colored leather interior of a luxury car, like a Bentley or a Rolls. It's the perfect culmination of spicy and leathery, ever evolving as you wear it, always getting better the longer you have it on, yet never losing its leathery scent. Its longevity and sillage are shocking in their strength, yet this isn't really a powerhouse fragrance. This is a gentleman's scent (as the label on the bottle states), not a testosterone supplement.
Knize Ten's price tag may seem steep at first ($110 U.S. for 120 ml.), but when you consider how strong and how good it is, it's actually quite a bargain.
******So there you have it, my Top 25. This is always a difficult list to compile, since there are so many fragrances that could feasibly make the list. If you're interested, here's a list of runners up of some that almost made it, all of which used to be on the list:
Monsieur de Givenchy
Acqua di Selva
Worth Pour Homme