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10 best men’s winter fragrances to put on your Christmas list

From woody to spicy notes, discover your new favourite scent in our round-up

Paddy Maddison
Friday 13 November 2020 13:02
<p>We were looking for rich, heavy, spicy, woody and earthy scents that evoke feelings of warmth and festive nostalgia</p>

We were looking for rich, heavy, spicy, woody and earthy scents that evoke feelings of warmth and festive nostalgia

Being well dressed isn’t all about the clothes on your back or the shoes on your feet. Sometimes it’s the subtle, perhaps even unseen details that can make the biggest difference. 

Case in point, fragrance – a means of finishing off a well-crafted look with an olfactory flourish.

But as we head into the winter, those light, citrusy scents that work so well in warm weather can’t quite cut through the cold. That’s why it’s vital to find a heavier, winter-friendly fragrance if you want to continue to smell your best.

To assist with this, we rounded up some of the best men’s winter fragrances on the market and put them to the test. 

Every scent we picked was worn for a full day, indoors and out, in order to assess the full range of notes, longevity and sillage (which means how long a fragrance lingers in the air when worn).

What we were looking for were rich, heavy, spicy, woody and earthy scents that evoke feelings of warmth and festive nostalgia. Below you’ll find the best of the bunch, with excellent options to suit every budget.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Laboratory Perfumes atlas

Homegrown fragrance brand Laboratory Perfumes has been on the scene since 2012 and makes all of its scents in London. Atlas is one of five core fragrances and is by far the spiciest of the bunch. The first whiff is full of dried fruit, cloves and cinnamon that instantly conjure festive feelings, before mellowing out into a warm, woody scent that lasts well on the skin. It’s not your average fragrance and is sure to attract questions and compliments aplenty which is why we liked it so much. Overall, it’s perfect for anyone seeking a slightly off-kilter winter scent that will leave plenty of change from £100.

Acqua di Parma colonia futura

In its bright yellow packaging, Acqua di Parma’s new colonia futura cologne doesn’t scream winter fragrance on first inspection. In fact, we think it’d make an excellent summer scent. However, once the citrusy top notes of lemon, bergamot and grapefruit fade away, what you’re left with is a clean, fresh fragrance with herbal and woody notes that will pair perfectly with crisp winter mornings. 

Floris leather oud

Created for Harrods in 2014, this is a deep, complex oud fragrance from one of the oldest family-run perfumers in the world. It draws inspiration from a time when fragrance oils would be delivered to Floris in small leather cases, contributing their unique aroma to the smell of the contents when opened. It’s sweet and warm, yet unmistakably masculine, opening with heavy bergamot and leather top notes that give way to smoky oud and geranium. It’s a truly remarkable fragrance and is only produced in small batches, which is why we’d say it’s better suited to special occasions and evenings as opposed to everyday use. Think more tailoring and less T-shirt and jeans.

M&S Autograph infinite

To anyone who says it’s not possible to get a great winter fragrance for around £20, M&S extends a long and spicy middle finger in the form of Autograph infinite. This modestly priced,  woody winter fragrance performs above and beyond its price tag, delivering a punch of bergamot and mandarin orange, with a heart of spicy black pepper. It’s subtle enough to use as a day-to-day fragrance and cheap enough that you can afford to. We struggled to find anything better around the £20 mark and firmly believe Autograph Infinite could happily go toe to toe with fragrances double the price.

Aesop rozu

A rose scent may not seem like the obvious choice for a men’s winter fragrance but Aesop’s new Rozu eau de parfum is not what it first appears. Aesop says it is a tribute to French modernist designer Charlotte Perriand and every olfactory element represents a link to her life and work. But all you need to know is that this is much more than just a floral fragrance. Beneath the sweet top notes there’s a woody, almost smoky backdrop of vetiver and patchouli that gives the fragrance its masculine edge and transports you from summer to winter as it matures on the skin.

Reiss black oudh

It’s natural to be sceptical when a clothing retailer releases a fragrance but we were very pleasantly surprised by Reiss’ black oudh. For a shade over £50, you’ll get 100ml of one of the most immediately wintry fragrances we tested. The name is slightly misleading, though, as there’s definitely a heavier vetiver presence than any discernible oud. Still, that’s by the by when you get down to just how great this stuff smells. At its core, it’s a deep, woody scent that’s perfect for autumn and winter evenings and boasts impressive longevity and sillage for the price.

Le Labo santal 33

Launched in 2011, santal 33 by New York City-based perfume brand Le Labo quickly became a cult favourite with fashion insiders, A-list celebrities and, well, anyone who takes their style seriously. It’s not uncommon to catch a whiff of its woody, smoky aroma in the trendy bars and eateries of the world’s coolest cities and its incredible longevity and projection make this all the more likely. It blends notes of leather, cedar, amber and sandalwood.

Tom Ford ombre leather

Tom Ford is no stranger to a leather fragrance but ombre leather is our favourite to date. It’s a perfectly balanced blend of floral and leather notes that come together to form a complex yet versatile overall aroma. It’s incredibly long lasting too, so although it’s relatively expensive, you’ll need less of it to see you through the day. One spray of this stuff is really all you need.

Frederic Malle monsieur

Of all the fragrances we sampled, Frederic Malle’s monsieur was the one that really stood out. This is an olfactory masterpiece and although the first 10 to 15 minutes are extremely boozy and intense – almost medicinal – this soon fades away allowing a thick, comforting cloud of patchouli and incense to emerge. It’s about as masculine as a fragrance can be and in terms of longevity and sillage it packs a serious punch. But it is highly unusual. If you’re new to high-end fragrances and looking for a versatile daily driver, this probably isn’t it. To make an impression on special winter occasions, however, there’s no better fragrance for the job.

Tobali cypress mask

Hailing from Tokyo, Tobali is a contemporary fragrance brand that celebrates its cultural roots by blending modernity with Japanese tradition. It’s perfectly illustrated here in this mysterious fragrance that mixes Japanese ingredients like hinoki and bokuju with staples of western perfumery such as cedarwood and leather. The base is something that Tobali calls “Hidden Japonism 834”, and while we’re not entirely sure what that is, it smells a lot like oud to us.

The verdict: Men’s winter fragrances

In terms of aroma, longevity and value for money, Atlas by Laboratory Perfumes was our favourite winter fragrance. It’s something a little out of the ordinary (in a good way) and offers a nice refreshing change from the usual heavy, woody fragrances that dominate the winter fragrance market.

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