Scents are deeply personal and some men would never think about leaving the house without one whereas others, never use one in the first place. But for us, we agree with G. Bruce Boyer who advocates that a man should have a wardrobe of fragrances so he can choose the right one for the right outfit and the right occasion.
This is the second installment of classic men’s fragrances where we see how they’ve stood the test of time, and if you haven’t yet, you can check out part one here.
Experimenting with fragrances can be quite expensive because once you open it, you can’t return it. Even though there are thousands of fragrances out there, we wanted to focus specifically on the classic ones that have been around for a while because there’s a lot of marketing hype and marketing dollars in the game but we wanted something that was truly classic and gentlemanly. Just like in part one of this series, we only considered scents there for 30 years or older.
10 (More) Classic Fragrances for Gentlemen
In this list, we talk about the cost of a bottle, the fragrance notes, the history of the cologne, as well as our personal review.
4711 by Mäurer & Wirtz
In German, it’s “siebenundvierzig elf.” It is now at Mäurer & Wirtz but it used to be from Mülhens. It was originally created in 1792 as a health elixir. These days though, it’s only used for external application. Like when a fragrance is this old, this was made from men and women. It is a classic citrus fragrance and it doesn’t have an atomizer, so you have to apply directly to your skin.
Overall, you can get this fragrance project more if you add a spray head or if you decant it. In my experience, it’s got a weak longevity but it’s relatively inexpensive so you can reapply it many times. Some people in Germany like to add it to their guest bathroom. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of that.
Top notes are orange oil, peach, basil, bergamot, and definitely lemon. In the heart note, people could smell lily and melon. Personally, I smell more of the rose and jasmine. In the base notes, get some patchouli, vetiver, and musk, as well as oakmoss and sandalwood. Some people also smell cedar.
Our verdict? We had four people on our team test this cologne just so we get a more well-rounded review rather than just my personal opinion. So, what did our team of four think about this cologne? Well personally, I think it smells like the classic unisex cologne or perfume for grandparents. Maybe I’m biased because I grew up in Germany but at the end of the day it’s old people’s stuff. It’s great beyond your 70s or older. Personally, I would not wear it. That being said, our team liked it more than denied it but they didn’t grow up with it.
It’s priced at $22 for 100ml which is quite inexpensive in the fragrance world but I would rate it at a 2 or 2.5 at most and it’s just not something I’d wear.
This was created in 1966 and is undoubtedly a very masculine scent. Aramis is a member of the Chypre fragrance family which is built around citrus, oakmoss, spices and woods. It’s considered by many to be one of the first fragrances to combine citrus notes with a more masculine sense. It’s also one of the few fragrances where leather is a very strong detectable note and on a top note, I can smell cinnamon, I can smell some bergamot, and something flowery; some people call it gardenia.
In a heart note, I can definitely smell some sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli. The base notes for me are leathery, there’s some oakmoss and some people could smell amber, but I couldn’t. In my mind, it’s definitely heavier in the 4711 but it still has that citrus note. It’s a great masculine cologne and personally, I’d rather wear it in the fall winter season than in the spring summer season. It’s definitely a scent with a strong presence and because of that, I think it’s better suited for evening occasions; not so much for the office because some people may just think it’s too strong.
At a price of $25 for 110ml, Aramis is definitely on the lower end of the fragrance scale. Our team rated it unanimously at about 3 out of 5 stars.
D.R Harris Classic
It was developed in London in the late 1800s in one of the oldest pharmacies there. It has been on St. James Street for over 200 years and they hold the Royal Warrant from Prince Charles.
It is characterized as an aromatic fougere scent with a citrus-forward note. While some people can smell some lemongrass, rosemary, and rose water into hardened base notes, I could just smell the lime in as a top note because it’s the dominant scent. In my mind, this was a citrus all the way and it smelled more like a tub cleaning product to me than a high-end cologne. It’s like for me a lighter, fresher summery scent which is great for day wear and it’s definitely a unisex.
Our team really likes the fruity and spicy and citrus for a profile. Personally, I don’t want to smell like a cleaning product, so I would not wear that one. My rating is 1.5 out of 5, our team rated at 3.5 out of 5. The price is $60 for a 100ml; it is not super expensive but somewhere in the middle.
Geo F. Trumper Extract of West Indian Limes
It was created in 1880 by George Francis Trumper who was a master barber and the name says it all; this one is all about lime. It’s one of the brand’s most favorite colognes and as a brand describes it, it is the essence of those West Indian limes.
When I smelled it, it’s very clear, direct, limey. There’s not much else there. When I smelled it for the first time, I instantly thought of Caipirinha and because of that, it’s a very beachy, summery scent. It’s not just unisex, but it’s also priced at $60 for just 50ml of cologne and frankly, I was wondering if I could just put some lime on my skin, I would probably smell exactly the same.
On our team, people liked that it was unisex but they complained that it was actually not long-lasting. Preston and Kyle thought it was the favorite cologne in the lineup. So my rating would be just 2 out of 5 stars, their rating would be 4 out of 5.
Dunhill for Men
This one was created in 1934 by Alfred Dunhill, the son of the founder of Alfred Dunhill Limited which was a well-known London luxury goods maker specializing in tobacco and leather goods. Very much in line with their brand cachet, they created a fragrance that is heavy and manly.
On the top note, I can smell some lavender and a nutmeg, some people could smell geranium. I thought there was also a bit of a lemon. The strongest heart notes for me were woods and a smell of a fresh cut carnation. Other people could also smell iris, rose and jasmine. The base note was definitely leather, vetiver and sandalwood and it was something else. Looking through our people’s notes, it seems to me the tonka bean because the oakmoss and the cedar was there but the characteristic part was a tonka bean that just made it smell different.
The rice is $46 for 100ml. It’s definitely somewhere in the middle. Frankly for my first sniff, I came too close and was just overpowering and overwhelming. At that point, I would have given it a -1 out of 5. After the initial shock, I could smell some lavender and it made me think of a 1950’s women’s powder room, not a London gentlemen’s club. When we test scents, we always smell them very up close in our skin and I think sometimes that’s not quite realistic because other people will smell you from much further away and the scents really smell differently.
Because of that, I gave it more chances, I wore it on regular days and tried to experience what it felt like, and I liked it more than I initially did. I would definitely still call it an old-school scent. Some people may call it dated, others may call it just serious. Overall, it’s a mixed bag. So the team rated it at 2 out of 5 stars. I probably would give it a 3 out of 5, now that I’ve worn it a little more often.
Chanel Pour Monsieur
It was created in 1955 by Chanel’s second chief perfumer, Henri Robert. It was Chanel’s first fragrance for men and is such a novelty.
On top note, you can smell some lemon, verbena and orange. The heart notes have some ginger, cardamom, and coriander. On the base note, there’s definitely some cedar and oakmoss. Overall, it felt like a very round elegant scent. Personally, I like anything related to verbena or lemongrass, but this Chanel cologne wasn’t overpowering. It was very elegant and not as much in your face as a Geo. F. Trumper or a D.R. Harris.
Smelling it, I could tell it was designed for the Parisian gentleman not for the American cowboy. Why? Well, it’s not this distinct heavy men’s cologne like the Alfred Dunhill, it’s just a bit more rounded, but it’s also not female. I think the Chanel Pour Monsieur could be worn in the evening but also at the office.
Personally, I gave it a 3.5 out of 5. Some people in our team hated it, others really liked it. Priced at $98 for 100ml, it’s definitely more in the upper echelon of men’s colognes that are quietly available.
Caron Pour Un Homme De Caron
Created in 1934, just like the Dunhill for Men, this scent was one of the first ones that was specifically marketed towards men. The two founders of Caron individually liked the vanilla and lavender so they just combined those two in this scent. It was a known favorite of James Dean and the current owner of Caron says that the formulation has never changed.
The top note for me was very lavender heavy, it was maybe a bit of rosemary, some people say bergamot but to me it was just lavender. In the heart note, there was maybe a bit of sandalwood, some people say sage but definitely a strong vanilla and as the lavender evaporated the vanilla was still lingering. Base notes had some musk and oakmoss and something special, which probably tonka bean.
While someone on our team called it understated, personally, it felt like an assault to my nose. At first, I smelled it too up close and it was just strong lavender and especially vanilla and I really disliked vanilla colognes or scents. It’s just not my type of thing. It reminds me of a woman’s hair salon in the 1950s and the closer you get to it the stronger the vanilla gets. Frankly in my mind, it’s a lavender vanilla balm and I can see it being used for a milkshake flavor, maybe a chocolate flavor or ice cream, but not for a men’s cologne.
People on our team said it’s not like candy with a licorice note. In my mind it was a straight 0 out of 5. I would never ever wear this. Our team on the other hand, gave it a 2 out of 5 with a caveat that they wouldn’t wear anything below a 3. Even though it’s just priced at $30 for 180ml, this is a solid NO for everyone on our team.
Even though this seems to be the classic grandpa cologne in the last 50 years, it was actually invented much earlier in 1937. At the time, it was created by Shulton Inc. However, in the 1970s Old Spice pivoted from just old school shaving, more on to fragrances and so eventually, it was bought by Procter & Gamble. The true original formula of Old Spice is no longer available because Procter & Gamble reformulated it in 2016 to comply with current regulations.
If you grew up in the US, Old Spice is probably a scent that you’re familiar with because your dad might have used it or your grandpa and it was just a very commonplace aftershave. Because of that, many will probably associate an old-school vibe with it and nostalgia.
On the top notes, I could definitely smell some nutmeg and citrusy, maybe lemon or orange and some star anise. On heart and base notes, people could smell all kinds of things from carnations to jasmine to vanilla. Personally, I thought it wasn’t such a strong sense. It was hard for me to pick a specific sense.
Not having grown up in the US, I wasn’t really exposed to Old Spice, and I just know it from advertisements, for cheap men’s grooming products, basically. So frankly when I smelled it, I thought it was surprisingly good. Of course, when you look at the flacon and anything else, it looks really cheap because in fact, it is. Eight dollars for 120ml is hard to beat.
It’s definitely a more subtle scent, it won’t last long and it’s not too extreme in any way so it’s kind of a crowd-pleaser. In that sense, it reminded me a bit of Acqua Di Gio because it is just something that most people will be okay with or somewhat like no one will love it, no one will hate it. In my mind, Old Spice is a lot better than 4711 and I would give it a 3.5 out of 5. Everyone on our team liked it and it made people feel very nostalgic.
Guerlain Habit Rouge
The brand was founded in 1828 and is now known as a more high-end skin care cosmetics and perfume producer. They have a rich history because they created sense for Napoleon and Queen Victoria. Habit Rouge was created in 1965 by one of the last family members in the company. It’s considered by many to be an oriental woody fragrance.
The top notes contain a lot of citrus such as tangerine, lemon, lime and orange, some bergamot; it’s pleasing. The heart note, I could smell some flowers and sandalwood. Some say they could smell some vanilla on the base note but frankly by no means, it is as strong as a Caron Pour Un Homme.
At first, I thought it was an interesting scent, it was not too much in your face and so more pleasant to wear. Nevertheless, it was distinctly masculine and I thought it was a great office cologne. I also didn’t think it was particularly seasonal so it’s a good year-round thing, maybe something would bring for business travel.
The team only gave it a 2 out of 5. Personally, I gave it a 3 out of 5. It’s priced at $40 for a 100ml, which puts it somewhere in the middle.
Paco Rabanne Pour Homme
Paco Rabanne is a pseudonym for Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo. He was a Spanish fashion designer for the Basque region who made a name for himself because of his avant-garde designs in the 1960s. Because of his success, he eventually opened a fashion house and in 1973, introduced fragrances.
The scent is characterized as an aromatic fougere fragrance. Top notes include rosemary, sage and rosewood. Heart notes have some lavender and tonka bean. The base notes, I could smell a bit of sweetness, musk, and oakmoss.
Overall, it’s not very manly, mossy and bold to me. Because of that, I’d associate it with maybe a velvet dinner jacket or something but even then, it was too much for my nose and I would just give it a 1 out of 5. The team, on the other hand, rated it a 3 out of 5. If you want to go for it paired with sumptuous fabrics such as silk or brocade or velvet and then you can wear it maybe during the colder months of the year. The price is $29 for 100ml, it’s definitely not expensive but again price alone should not be an indicator whether you should buy a cologne or not.
Out of all the fragrances, our favorites were probably the Chanel Pour Monsieur, surprisingly Old Spice, and then Geo. F. Trumpers West Indian Limes.
If at all possible, try getting a little sample or try it on your skin because on a tester, it will just smell very different than on your personal skin. With some scents, you just need to try them a little more often to just get an idea of whether you like it or not.
Which of these fragrances is your favorite? Do you know of other classic ones we’ve missed to cover in this list? Let us know in the comments.