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Best classic colognes for men

14 Best Classic Old-School Colognes for Men

When you’re looking for a classic old-school cologne, brand recognition and solid marketing help, but ultimately it’s about a distinct aroma that stays its course decade after decade. Indeed, the fragrances we’ve tested and listed below are so time-tested that they’ve survived trends, inflation, and sometimes, the creators themselves! Here’s your chance to carry on the tradition and see why these have cult-like followings.

Best Classic Colognes for Men at a Glance

Highlights from our list include the following:

Now we’ve had a look at our favourites, let’s check out the complete list.

RELATEDLooking for a great fragrance? These are our favourites, as chosen by our editors.

Product image of Black Phantom by Kilian
Black Phantom by Kilian | Image: Kilian

1. Black Phantom by Kilian

Price: from $360 AUD

Quintessentially masculine, the notes of coffee, almond, and sandalwood make way for whisky as the scent dries down. One of the longest-lasting classic colognes in our testing with more than 8-hours of smell.It’s a very strong scent that stands out with unique notes. Not the best option if you’re trying to find a scent that flies under the radar. Price point is also quite high compared to other brands on our list.

Black Phantom by Killian is a unisex fragrance by design but we’d argue it’s more masculine than feminine. You’ll find strong notes of rum and coffee on the first spray but it mellows out as the fragrance sits on your skin with a good balance of sweetness and spice. What makes this the perfect classic cologne are the sandalwood and nutty almond notes that sit behind the rum and coffee as the scent dries down before chocolate and warm whisky take over. As we’ve experienced with Kilian bottles in the past, the longevity is outstanding as it lasts a whole working day in our testing.

Launch Year: 2017
Top notes: rum, caramel
Heart notes: coffee, vetiver
Base notes: cyanide, wood, whisky

Product image of Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian | Image: Maison Francis Kurkdjian

2. Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Price: from $329.99 AUD

Outstanding longevity on clothes and skin, a scent that oozes elevated luxury with a sweetness that’s unmatched by cheaper duplicates. Perfectly balanced by safron, lavender, and amberwood.Even with the very expensive price-tag, it’s become one of the most popular fragrances on the planet. Everyone you meet smells like this so don’t expect to give off a ‘unique’ scent.

Often referred to as ‘BC540’ this intense unisex fragrance from Maison Francis Kurkdjian is best known for its warm blend of woody and spicy aromatics that create an expensive-smelling classic scent. In our testing, we found that it gradually takes on a sweet smell as it dries down on the skin, similar to a floral bouquet, but balanced by spicy amberwood. No matter how popular this bottle has become, we still think it’s utterly delicious. That being said, it’s not to everyone’s tastes and we highly recommend you test this one in-store as the scent can vary depending on your skin type.

Launch Year: 2015
Top notes: saffron, jasmine
Heart notes: amber wood, ambergris
Base notes: fir resin, cedar

Product image of Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani
Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani | Image: Giorgio Armani

3. Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani

Price: from $124 AUD

Affordable and classic. The scent is citrus-led but with an underscoring sweet peach and pineapple zest making it perfectly balanced. Best of all, it’s affordable.It’s been a favourite of men for years so don’t expect a unique scent profile. Longevity is good, but not great. Expect 4-6 hours on the skin and a little more on clothes.

One of the most influential male fragrances ever created, Armani’s Acqua di Gio has been seducing minds and noses for nearly three decades with its citrus-led scent. The cologne’s profile of fresh flowers and ripe fruit remains in a class of its own, but they’ve become a little outdated in recent years so wear sparingly. One whiff and you’re transported to a tropical coastline where the sweet air is infused with a perennial sea breeze. You’ll want at least one bottle of this in your collection at any given time, musky vodka mixed with pineapple, lemon, and peach. Need we say more?

Launch Year: 1995
Top notes: peony, musk vodka, pineapple, lemon, peach, banana leaf, violet
Heart notes: lily-of-the-valley, lily, hyacinth, jasmine, freesia, calone, ylang-ylang, rose
Base notes: musk, cedar, sandalwood, amber, styrax

Product image of Green Irish Tweed by Creed
Green Irish Tweed by Creed | Image: Creed

4. Green Irish Tweed by Creed

Price: from $349 AUD

It’s a niche cologne and it’s very expensive, but we think it’s perfect for a CEO type. Expect citrus, wood on the dry down, and a nautical fresh finish.In typical citrus fashion, the performance isn’t great from a longevity standpoint. The projection is strong, but it will need to be re-applied after 4-6 hours.

This classic cologne hails from the house of Creed and delivers a profile that’s as invigorating as the Irish countryside. Users are greeted with a fresh blast of citrus before notes of wood, flowers, sea breeze, and powder kick in to round out the green accord. Comparisons to Cool Water by Davidoff abound, so if you like that one then you’ll probably like this one too. One reviewer on Fragrantica described it as “the shower gel I’d imagine a billionaire uses” and we can’t think of a better way to sum it up.

Launch Year: 1985
Top notes: lemon verbena, iris
Heart notes: violet leaf
Base notes: ambergris, sandalwood

Product image of Eau Sauvage by DIOR
Eau Sauvage by DIOR | Image: DIOR

5. Eau Sauvage by DIOR

Price: from $123 AUD

Outstanding longevity for an EDT with our tests showing 8-10 hours on skin and clothes. The smell is masculine, classic, and powerful with a soapy musk dry down. It’s one of the best value for money options on our list too.Performance for longevity and dry down can vary from batch to batch. Some reports online suggest 2023 editions don’t last nearly as long as the 2024 editions. This is what we experienced in our tests.

Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage (which translates to “Wild Water”) has been killing it since 1966 thanks to an immaculate blend of savoury and citrus fragrances. Notes of lemon, basil, and rosemary lend the cologne a generally subtle and refreshing essence. However, in spite of its light profile, the ladies certainly seem to notice when this classic men’s cologne is in the air. The EDT as pictured doesn’t have the performance of the parfum but we prefer the smell, it’s fresher and more unique.

Launch Year: 1966
Top notes: lemon, bergamot, basil, rosemary, caraway, fruit
Heart notes: jasmine, coriander, carnation, patchouli, orris root, sandalwood, rose, lavender, hedione
Base notes: oakmoss, vetiver, musk, amber

Product image of Gentleman by Givenchy
Gentleman by Givenchy | Image: Givenchy

6. Gentleman by Givenchy

Price: from $89.99 AUD

One of our favourite classic scents that brings iris and vanilla to life. Also a great choice for winter, we love wearing this one to the office in the colder months as it brings a little pepper and spice to the table.We became scent blind to this after multiple wears. Others could still smell it on our clothes, however, so don’t apply too much!

On this aromatic tour de force from Givenchy, warm, sweet top notes of honey and cinnamon are layered with citrus and tarragon. In the middle are scents like jasmine and cedar. Rounding out the cologne’s musky charms are base notes of leather, patchouli, and vanilla. Think warm, woodsy, masculine, and classic. It’s a vintage fragrance for men if there ever was one and remains a unique selection on our list, standing out amongst the crowd of citrus and wood.

Launch Year: 1974
Top notes: honey, rose, cinnamon, tarragon, bergamot, lemon
Heart notes: patchouli, cedar, orris root, jasmine
Base notes: patchouli, leather, civet, oakmoss, vetiver, musk, amber, vanilla

Product image of No 89 by Floris London
No 89 by Floris London | Image: Floris London

7. No 89 by Floris London

Price: from $190 AUD

With lavender and musk on top it’s a strong contender for one of the best barbershop-style scents we’ve ever tested. One of the best alternatives to Santal 33 that we’ve tested.The lavender and musk are excellent, but the choice to overpower both of those scents with citrus instead of orange or amber and spice means it’s not for everyone.

Unveiled in 1951, Floris London No 89 offers notes of orange and lavender so clean they’ll remind you of luxury soap. At the heart are woody, spicy and floral elements that blend well together and give the cologne some necessary warmth and depth. This is the classic English scent in a bottle and thereby one of the best classic fragrances for men, but our heart still lies with Le Labo Santal 33. Performance is also very strong on skin and clothes with 6-10 hours in our testing. The brand hasn’t cut any corners in creating a long-lasting classic scent for men here with No 89.

Launch Year: 1951
Top notes: lavender, orange, bergamot, neroli, petitgrain, nutmeg
Heart notes: rose, geranium, ylang-ylang
Base notes: musk, oakmoss, sandalwood, Virginia cedar, vetiver

Product image of Vetiver by Guerlain
Vetiver by Guerlain | Image: Guerlain

8. Vetiver by Guerlain

Price: from $180 AUD

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favourite cologne. This is a niche fragrance that you’ll love if you’re a fan of vetiver and strong wood. Longevity is very good with our tests offering 6+ hours on the skin. Not a great classic cologne for warm months as it leans heavily on old-fashioned notes. Not particularly fresh.

Launched in 1961 and then reintroduced in 2000, Guerlain Vetiver makes good on its name by pairing a grassy heart with citrus fragrance and musky notes like cedar wood and tobacco. A touch of vanilla and pepper brings a little sweetness and spiciness to the mix and the overall result is a woodsy cologne that completely stands on its own. One reviewer online said it “smells like a church with clean pew oil and wood” and we think they pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Launch Year: 1961 (relaunched in 2000)
Top notes: bergamot, tobacco, lemon, nutmeg, neroli, coriander, mandarin orange
Heart notes: vetiver, pepper, carnation, sage, orris root, sandalwood
Base notes: vetiver, oakmoss, leather, myrrh, civet, tonka bean, amber.

Product image of Icon by Alfred Dunhill
Icon by Alfred Dunhill | Image: Dunhill

9. Icon by Alfred Dunhill

Price: from $69.99 AUD

It’s a niche, luxurious scent with strong Neroli notes for a classic old-school feel. Constantly draws comparisons to the infamous Terre d’Hermes, but we found a unique grape note that adds a bit of fun to the mix. You won’t leave a trail of scent behind you as the sillage is kept close to the body. Longevity is good for the price, but not in comparison to the more expensive options on our list.

From the British fashion house of Dunhill comes this timeless cologne for men and its rather formidable bottle. Equal parts old school and new school (in terms of influence), Icon generates an impeccable balance between notes of citrus, wood, spice, black pepper, and flower. Our testing showed longevity of around 4-5 hours and moderate projection.

Launch Year: 2015
Top notes: neroli, bergamot, black pepper, petitgrain
Heart notes: black pepper, lavender, cardamom, juniper berries, sage
Base notes: vetiver, oakmoss, iris, leather, agarwood

Product image of CK One by Calvin Klein
CK One by Calvin Klein | Image: Calvin Klein

10. CK One by Calvin Klein

Price: from $34.99 AUD

Fresh, zesty, and fragrant, CK One has been a favourite of men everywhere for years. We appreciate the sandalwood on the dry down as much as the citrus freshness. Cheap!The overall performance is lacking with a short lifespan on skin and clothes and sub-par projection. You’ll need to reapply every 2-3 hours if you want maximum effect.

Here we have another signature fragrance that never really went out of fashion since being first introduced back in the mid-1990s. It opens with citrusy top notes before revealing fresh layers of flower, musk, and wood. This is what one might call a perfect everyday cologne and it’s versatile enough to mix with other fragrances, but also completely refreshing on its own.

Launch Year: 1994
Top notes: lemon, green notes, bergamot, mandarin orange, pineapple, cardamom, papaya
Heart notes: lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, violet, nutmeg, rose, orris root, freesia
Base notes: green accord, musk, cedar, sandalwood, oakmoss, green tea, amber

Product image of Explorer by Montblanc
Explorer by Montblanc | Image: Montblanc

11. Explorer by Montblanc

Price: from $89.99 AUD

Comparisons to Creed Aventus are fair but let’s not forget this is a significantly cheaper alternative so don’t expect as many compliments. The said, the performance is great, the musk is great on the dry down, and the citrus isn’t overpowering.Quite a serious, masculine scent that’s not suited to younger men. Look at alternatives like Bleu De Chanel EDT if you’re a younger lad.

Expert perfumers Jordi Fernandez, Antoine Maisondieu, and Olivier Pescheux each brought their own respective experiences to the table when crafting this casual fragrance for men. It draws influence from various corners of the world and inspires a sense of adventure and exploration in turn. A reasonable price point and main accord of citrus, wood, and amber make it an affordable alternative to expensive colognes like Aventus (to which it’s often compared).

Launch Year: 2019
Top notes: bergamot, pink pepper, clary sage
Heart notes: Haitian vetiver, leather
Base notes: ambroxan, akigalawood, Indonesian patchouli leaf, cacao pod

Product image of Aramis Eau de Toilette by Aramis
Aramis Eau de Toilette by Aramis | Image: Aramis

12. Aramis Eau de Toilette by Aramis

Price: from $39.99 AUD

Classic. It’s all the way masculine with dominant notes of green herbs, wormwood, and clover it’s powerful. The fragrance you wear when you mean business and want to dominate a room.One that younger men should avoid. It’s not fun, it’s not something that you’d want to wear around women, and it’s best suited for a cigar room with a few bottles of scotch whisky.

Here we have another world-class entry dating back to 1966. Aramis for Men is a spicy cologne that goes big on bold notes of bergamot, cinnamon, and patchouli. That’s layered with floral elements of grass, vetiver, and tree moss. This premier men’s fragrance closes out on a tide of leather that’s as unmistakable as it is appetising. More than most, Aramis for Men remains classic in the traditional sense – just one whiff conjures the essence of formal manhood.

Launch Year: 1966
Top notes: aldehydes, myrrh, artemisia, clover, thyme, bergamot, gardenia
Heart notes: patchouli, sage, jasmine, cardamom, orris root
Base notes: leather, oakmoss, musk, vetiver, sandalwood, amber, coconut

Product image of Colonia by Acqua Di Parma
Colonia by Acqua Di Parma | Image: Acqua Di Parma

13. Colonia by Acqua Di Parma

Price: from $249 AUD

We love nothing more than a fragrance that develops on the skin and this is exhibit A. The fresh citrus scent makes way for a soft projection of soap similar to Palmolive Gold. Longevity is also good at 6+ hours on skin and more on clothes in our testing.The soft projection of this cologne means that you’ll have to apply 5-10 sprays depending on your desired effect. That’s a lot of liquid for a fragrance that doesn’t come cheap.

Brilliantly understated and rife with a citrus fragrance, Acqua Di Parma Colonia is one of the best classic colognes for men because of its old-school soapy base notes. A sweet and citrusy opening quickly gives way to a flowery heart and woody base. Splash it on and never have to worry about overkill. Meanwhile, its origins harken all the way back to 1916. How’s that for old school?!

Launch Year: 1916
Top notes: lemon, orange
Heart notes: rosemary, lavender
Base notes: vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli

Product image of The One for Men by Dolce&Gabbana
The One for Men by Dolce&Gabbana | Image: Dolce&Gabbana

14. The One for Men by Dolce&Gabbana

Price: from $69.99 AUD

The epitome of a masculine scent if there ever was one. You’ll smell like orange, ginger, and cardamon on the dry down. Excellent.While the smell is great the performance was severely lacking with a maximum of 2 hours on the skin and a little more on clothes. A shame really because it’s a great classic masculine scent.

Dolce & Gabbana’s bold Eau de Parfum is the one for men indeed (hence the name), thanks in part to its seductive qualities. It opens on citrusy top notes of grapefruit before settling into a warm groove of cardamon, wood, and tobacco with a sweet and spicy ginger kick. The night awaits and this masculine fragrance abides. One of our favourite choices for date nights. As for the performance, it’s lacking on the projection and longevity front with a maximum of 2 hours on skin and 4 hours on clothes in our testing.

Launch Year: 2015
Top notes: grapefruit, coriander, basil
Heart notes: cardamom, ginger, orange blossom
Base notes: amber, tobacco, cedar

Alternatives to These Classic Fragrances

We tested these fragrances but they weren’t strong enough contenders for the top of our list:

  • Blenheim Bouquet by Penhaligon’s (from AU$250): Did we say 1966 meant “classic?” Well, this ambrosial stunner goes back to 1902! Named after a British palace and discernibly dressed to impress, Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet is a masterpiece of modest temptation. Like a true gentleman, this citrus fragrance retains a discreet essence of masculinity thanks to notes of citrus, wood, and spice. Now that’s classic!
  • 1 Million by Paco Rabanne (from AU$120): Paco Rabanne’s intense cologne doesn’t cost a million dollars (in fact, it’s quite affordable), but dresses the part. Within its gold-bar-like bottle is an inviting blend of minty citrus and warm spice, all of it riding over leathery base notes of wood, amber, and patchouli. This is the kind of fragrance you rock when you’re young and ready to conquer, eventually graduating to something a bit more restrained as you likewise mellow out with age.
  • Boss Bottled by Hugo Boss (from AU$79.99): It defines masculinity with a brilliant balance between wood, fruit, citrus, vanilla, powder, and spice. That being said, the projection and longevity are lacking and it’s far from a unique scent. We recommend you spend a little bit more on something like Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani if you’re hunting for a classic scent.
  • Artisan Pure by John Varvatos (from AU$120): Soapy and citrus-forward with earthy undertones and a bitter edge, Artisan Pure by John Varvatos cultivates a palpable summer vibe. It doesn’t stay the course as long as certain counterparts but renders quite an impression for hours at a time. Expect a strong and sweet lemon scent that slowly gives way to a ginger heart and woody base as you go about your day or night.
  • Gucci Guilty Absolute by Gucci (from AU$200): Gucci’s chest-thumping cologne for men offers zero compromises in its raw accord of leather, further enhanced by earthy accents of patchouli and smoke. This is a love-it-or-leave-it kind of fragrance that will either attract or repel the nearest person of interest. Absolute masculinity is the name of the game and only the bold need apply.
  • Pour Monsieur by Chanel (from AU$180): Chanel’s Pour Monsieur has been turning heads and seducing nostrils since 1955 by way of its signature accord. Its warm and ideal blend of citrus fragrances comes backed by spice along with underlying notes of wood, grass, and vanilla. It’s a shame but the performance and longevity of this scent let it down severely in our testing – smells great, but lasts 10 minutes on the skin.
  • Polo Green by Ralph Lauren (from AU$119): There’s no mistaking Ralph Lauren’s patented green bottle just like there’s no mistaking the classic men’s fragrance inside. Polo Green Eau De Toilette Spray expertly combines notes of wood and leather with other enticing aromatics to relay an olfactory message of pure character and distinction. Accept no substitutes.

If you need help choosing, check out our guide on finding your own signature scent. And once you’ve found the right scent that suits you, you’ll want to know how to apply the cologne correctly.

Why You Should Trust Our List

This list has been written by Jacob Osborn and curated, researched, and edited by Ben McKimm who is our in-house fragrance expert. He has spent more than 10 years collecting and researching men’s colognes. In compiling this list he took into account three major perspectives to determine the overall rating. First, he looked at reviews via the perfume forum Fragrantica and retailers Myer and Chemist Warehouse. From there he collated that information together and measured the fragrances via overall scent profile, reader rating, commercial availability, and price.

Your FAQs Answered

What are classic fragrance notes?

When you’re shopping for classic fragrances we recommend looking for a balance between citrus, wood, pepper, and spice. The freshness will hit your nostrils first, but the wood and amber in the base notes will create longevity that others around you can appreciate too. In saying this, test the projection and sillage of the fragrance before spraying too much to avoid headaches and an offensive smell.

Which is the longest-lasting old-school fragrance?

Black Phantom by Kilian is our pick for the longest-lasting old-school fragrance. You’ll be spending quite a lot of money to get your hands on this bottle, but it offers a unique scent and lasts anywhere from 6-10 hours on skin or clothes in our testing.