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Best colognes for people who don't like typical cologne scents

I recently ordered a bunch of fragrance samples and have been working my way through them. I tried to pick a wide variety, with the goal of having one or two mainstays that are discreet and gentlemanly. Three samples in, I'm beginning to get disheartened, thinking that maybe colognes are just not for me. Here is what I have and what I've tried so far:

Nautica Blue - Good initially, but dry down smelled "off"
Nautica Voyage - Smelled "off" initially, but improved with dry down. May just settle on this for a cheap summer spritz from time to time
Floris No. 89 - Powder bomb that both I and my wife found downright offensive. Wife said it smelled like "Old Woman."
Guerlain Vetiver - A little better, but vetiver just isn't an appealing fragrance to us.
Armaf Club de Nuit Intense Man - I will never pay several hundreds of dollars for a fragrance, so Creed Aventus is out. I realize this will not be as good, and the initial scent was pretty good, but the dry down smells too powdery and metallic.

Samples still to go through:

Hermes Terre D'Hermes
Mont Blanc Explorer
Mont Blanc Legend
Versace Eau Fraiche

I've gone through a similar journey with shaving soaps. I am usually unimpressed with the cologne dupes and gravitate more towards the leather or tobacco or tropical (think lime, coconut, rum) scents. But I doubt they would translate well to colognes.

Am I getting discouraged too quickly? Should I just be happy with shaving soaps and aftershaves? Am I wrong and should I just buy Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, Ombre Leather, and Creed Virgin Island Water (despite my aversion to paying hundreds of dollars on colognes)? Looking for advice, or at least some encouragement that the experience will improve, and someday I will find "the one".
When you find a cologne you do like, you can research the notes and find similar scents. And as well, the ones you don't like so you don't pick up a clone by mistake, only to be disappointed.
Crown Shaving Co. Signature Blend EdP

Tobacco, bay rum, leather, talc, anise.

I have many fragrances and this one is unique, bold and refined. I get compliments from both sexes. A couple sprays is all you need.
Their aftershave tonic (same scent) and shaving cream (spearmint and eucalyptus) are excellent as well.
Creed Virgin Island Water (despite my aversion to paying hundreds of dollars on colognes)?
Stirling Island Man is a dupe of this. It is a seasonal release, but available now. My tastes seem to be similar to yours and I love this one for summer. Never smelled Creed Virgin Island Water, so I can’t speak to its accuracy to the original. I have around half a bottle left from last year, but plan to buy another one while it’s available.
I’m not a cologne guy at all.

But a few years ago a got a free sample of Trumper Curzon cologne amongst a few other samples with my Fendrihan order…back when Fendrihan still gave samples and was more shaving oriented.

It would seem to fit your taste too.

It smells so darn good but I’m horrible at scent description, this place does a much better job:

(scroll down to read opinions from users)
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Thank you now :)

I've read that the EDT and Parfum have distinctive qualities beyond strength/longevity. Can you comment on that?
Edt is a simple but marvelous citrus summer scent that seems to work in all weather , not much projection or longevity but marvelous all the same

Not for no reason was it the signature scent of Alain Delon and John Lennon .. its iconic , much like the people who wear it

The Parfum maintains the same quality , but goes much deeper , and richer .. much more resinous, there are 2 versions the 2012 Myrhh bomb, impossible to find now and the 2017 which is more elemi based and still available, stock up on that one is my advice as Dior tend to be silly and discontinue iconic scents with no warning
Wet shaving has re-awakened my cologne collecting hobby I used to share with my father back in the 80s. I used them nowadays in place of aftershaves.

I recommend you try Terre D'Hermes EdT sample you already have. It's a great orange scent in the style of the classic scent that is not too sweet or artificial like some modern mens colognes can be.

Like you, I think Guerlain's Vetiver is all right, but I now prefer Habit Rouge, EdT which I find a little more interesting. I have both.

If you like tobacco and of my favorite cheapies I recommend you try is Quorum by Antonio Puig.

Another great leather scent is Dior's Fahrenheit. I used to hate the "gasoline" smell top notes when it first came out in 1988 but am no longer bothered by it and love the scent, which reminds me of a suede jacket. Lastly, the modern Gucci Guilty Absolute has a great classic leather scent in the style of the 80s and not sweet at all.


ATF. I use all three.
Staff member
Tobacco- Aqua Di Colonia Tobacco Toscano. RazoRock does a good version of this with Samara Maria Del Fiore.

Helan Vetiver and Rum- it’s a good soapy Vetiver with Rum I saw one review that said “what old spice wishes it smells like.”

Mankind Legacy by Kenneth Cole is one I like for warmer weather.

I haven’t smelled Dior’s Fahrenheit in a long time, but I used to wear it all the time.
Terre D'Hermes is a winner!

That being said, the great thing about https://www.fragrantica.com/ is you can type whatever $300 fragrance you want into their search engine & the "This perfume reminds me of" section will be near the bottom. Any good clone will be listed there.

I'm wearing a clone of Roja Elysium right now. Less than $30 for an almost exact replica of a $300 fragrance.
Samples still to go through:

Hermes Terre D'Hermes
Mont Blanc Explorer
Mont Blanc Legend
Versace Eau Fraiche

Out of the 4 you have left the only one I have never smelled is the Versace.

The Monteblanc Explorer is in my top 5 favorites at the moment and it is relatively cheap at most online Discounters, if you like Patchouli you will like it. I have tested the Hermes and Legend and from what I remember I liked them both but do not own them yet.

If you want an old school masculine scent that will remind you of the old time Barbershops and the 80’s you can go with Drakkar and or the new version Drakkar Intense.

Dior Fahrenheit is another one of my top favorites of all time. The newer releases don’t have the gasoline smell to them but honestly kinda miss it a little bit.
I, too, am not a person who likes traditional "cologne" scents. I outright despise all the samples you ordered except Floris 89. What you may be reacting to is the artificial nature of most colognes. No89 is actually made with some decent raw ingredients, but they recently reformulated No89 due to changing IFRA standards, and I do think it is a bit weird now.

That said...don't give up hope. Stick with perfumers that are known for high-quality ingredients and possibly botanicals. In Floris' line, there are many other fragrances that could work for you (they do for me). Beyond Floris, check out these perfumers:

- Les Indemodables (France)
- Carthusia (Italy)
- Nicolai (France)
- Comme des Garcons but ONLY Monocle series (Japan)

Honorable mention:

- old-school Penhaligon's scents are still pretty good. I own Douro and Castile and both are really nice and classy. Just stay away from all their new releases which I find mostly hideous.
- Byredo has some really nice natural-smelling fragrances like "Sellier" and several more.

Of the ones I listed, Les Indemodables is the one that is probably going to work the best for you. I own their "Escale en Indonesie" which is an Ambergris fragrance made with REAL ambergris from Indonesia...no chemically smelling Ambroxan involved. Their "Chypre Azural" is the most beautiful natural orange/citrus fragrance have ever smelled. And they have so many more options that are all made with the very best ingredients in the world (read up on their story). Yes...the parfums are very expensive (the EdCs are much less expensive), but you don't need many sprays.

I want to caution you...based on what you told us, I don't think cheap fragrance is going to cut it. Sample a lot of the better perfumers and then INVEST in a fragrance or two that you really LOVE. Then just spray them sparingly and I think they'll last you a fairly long time.
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