Help me smell like a man
February 5, 2019 10:30 AM   Subscribe

I am a woman, and I want to use men's cologne or scent. I like scents designed/marketed for men better than those for women, but I don't want to have to buy all the colognes to find the right one, and I hate shopping in person. I like a woodsy scent -- right now I am in love with the Tom's of Maine Deep Forest Men's Deodorant, but the scent fades by mid-day and is not very nuanced. I'd like to find something woodsy, spicy, cedar-y, and masculine, without smelling like Irish Spring or generically perfume-y.

Something bespoke or indie would be awesome.
posted by OrangeDisk to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (50 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
I like Terre d’Hermès.
posted by bdc34 at 10:40 AM on February 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

I subscribe to a men's scent of the month club. One that came the other day contained 'Hinoki', or Japanese Cedar and I fell in love. If you can find a sample of something containing that, it might be what you're after.
posted by msbutah at 10:41 AM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not indie, exactly, but I LURVE Replica Jazz Club. I'm a woman who also likes scents that lean toward mannish, and I wear this one a lot. Tom Ford Tuscan Leather is also fabulous, but pricey and perhaps not quite as woody as you're looking for.
posted by holborne at 10:43 AM on February 5, 2019

Right now I'm using lush smugglars soul solid perfume with sandalwood and lemongrass and I love it.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:43 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm also a woman who leans towards woody, spicy fragrances rather than fruity or floral ones and recently discovered Phlur's Hepcat, which I love. You can get a 2 ml sample to try on, and they have other fragrances too, although they may not be quite what you're looking for.
posted by Everydayville at 10:47 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like Olo. Not telling you my favorite, but it basically smells like a campfire (uncharitably, like barbecue) and I nominally got it for my husband. He never really took to it, so all subsequent purchases have been mine, for me.

Last time I bought some, I also got like 6 samples of other things and have been enjoying them too. So it's not a fluke, they make good stuff. Note: I am not a perfume person, I just like smelling like stuff sometimes.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 10:49 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

For mainstream scents, yes for Terre d’Hermès.

For indie, some Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scents have great staying power and you can find hundreds of reviews online thanks to the Lab's cult status. Of the ones I've tried, Burial fits the bill (which reminds me, I need a full bottle) in a woodsy dark, evergreen way, while Dracul is my absolute favourite, spicy in a rum way with added tobacco. Dracul clings to the skin for hours and hours on me, though BPAL staying power varies depending on personal chemistry. Both of them can be ordered in "imp" size, with enough oil for a good few weeks of application, and you can search the Lab's site for other perfumes with similar notes.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:53 AM on February 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thirding Terre d’Hermès, which I was heading in to recommend. It is woodsy and cedar-y and marketed toward men, but very far afield of the generic "men's cologne" smell. I also love Oud and Bergamot by Jo Malone, a "unisex" scent that is a bit lighter and ostensibly has strong citrus notes but is very cedar-y to my nose.
posted by purplemonkie at 10:59 AM on February 5, 2019

I love Hermes Un Jardin De Mediterranee which I believe is considered unisex.
posted by kimdog at 11:01 AM on February 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Nothing says *drops voice an octave* "I smell like a man" more than Bay Rum. I used to go to my grandparents' bathroom just to smell Grandpa's Old Spice. I'm 99% certain they've changed the formula since then, and NOT for the better. For my money, the best bay rums tend to be on the more all-natural side. You can even make your own!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:01 AM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's not cologne, but maybe Mountain Hideout soap from Outlaw? They have some other soaps and lotions with cedar and leather notes as well, as well as solid and spray colognes in limited scents. A soap, shampoo or a lotion might also help with the scent lasting longer than a straight cologne product.
posted by queensissy at 11:04 AM on February 5, 2019

You can use essential oils of cedar, cypress, balsam fir, etc. nothing smells more woodsy than actual trees, and you can customize your own mix.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:05 AM on February 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am a man and I like the scent of one of Crabtree & Evelyn's shaving creams, Sienna (though the Moroccan Myrrh is nice, too). They make several products in each of the scents, including a lotion that might work for you. Maybe not subtle, but it's very nicely moisturizing (because it's an aftershave cream).

If you don't like the Crabtree & Evelyn scents, there are old-line companies -- mostly British -- selling scents for men that might have something you like. For example, Truefitt & Hill should still send a sampler of their colognes, I think (though it isn't free like it used to be).
posted by wenestvedt at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really like the selection at Luckyscent, and they offer samples of nearly everything (some pricier than others). I can’t think of any specific recommendations right now, but on the whole the scents they offer are more nuanced and less generically cologney.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:12 AM on February 5, 2019

I recently tried two scents from the HYLNDS line by D.S. & Durga: Bitter Rose, Broken Spear and Spirit of the Glen. I ended up really liking them both and would definitely recommend them, but in addition to the specific recs I wanted to point you to Surrender to Chance which is a decanting company. You can search by fragrance note and purchase small amounts (decants) of anything you're interested in trying. They have big sales every once in awhile and offer percentage off coupons most holidays so if you take advantage of those you can try literally dozens of scents for the same price as one department store bottle.
posted by CheeseLouise at 11:20 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

You might like Breath of God by Gorilla Perfumes / Lush. Warning... it's a love-it-or-hate-it kind of scent.
posted by neushoorn at 11:30 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love the scents that the Bearded Bastard uses in his colognes.
posted by Lexica at 11:32 AM on February 5, 2019

Lots of great recommendations above. Luckyscent has an "essential 13 unisex" and "essential 13 masculine" sample pack. The latter has Andy Tauer's l'Air du Desert Marocain which is one of my top 10 fragrances of all time, and Naomi Goodsir's Bois d'Ascese which is one of the best "campfire" fragrances out there. The unisex pack has CDG Monocole Hinoki which is one of my favorite "forest" scents, and Tam Dao which is a great sandalwood and was my first niche perfume full bottle (I have hundreds now). Fumerie has their "mystery" pack #6 that just came out and will be on sale until it sells out, and I know since I got one that one of the samples is Ormonde Jayne "Man" which is a great green woody forest scent. Bruno Fazzolari's Vetiverissimo is another great scent that you could a sample of from either Fumerie or Luckyscent - any of Bruno's samples would also be excellent to try, and he has a discovery pack now. Twisted Lily is also a great place to get sample packs - here's their best of 2018, which has lots of excellent stuff in it. If you're going to brick and mortar shops or Sephora, I'd definitely second the motion to try Terre d'Hermes and any of the Maison Martin Margiela Replica scents.
posted by matildaben at 11:38 AM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

This really helped me (M, 50+) and I chose Unforgiveable by Sean John. YMMV
posted by theseventhstranger at 12:20 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like 'I hate perfume' and they have small sizes to order for trying out:
Good description of scents also. Not sure what matches yr need tho
posted by PistachioRoux at 12:21 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Hermès scent mentioned above and suggesting Bulgari's wonderful warm sandalwoody Man in Black.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:21 PM on February 5, 2019

I am a woman and I wear Chanel Egoiste. It is heavy in cedar and dry but with a sweet twist. To me it seems more unisex than masculine. Be careful not to confuse it with Chanel Egoiste Platinum which is in the Irish Spring category.

It is strong and long lasting, so a little goes a long way. I also like to layer it with more feminine perfumes.
posted by defreckled at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

My female partner and male self both wear DS & Durga, I tend toward the Bowmakers and she usually goes for El Cosmico. For more widely available I’d try Terre d’Hermes which remains a personal favourite.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:03 PM on February 5, 2019

In all word of seriousness, scotch works great as a cologne, and totally has all these notes.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:13 PM on February 5, 2019

(And you can make your own scotch cologne!)
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:16 PM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not bespoke or indie, unfortunately, but I quite like Illuminum fragrances. My favourite is the Piper Leather, but Wild Tobacco and Tribal Black Tea are quite good as well. They're on the pricey side, and honestly I likely wouldn't have bought one had I not been wandering House of Fraser with a store credit burning a hole in my pocket, but I also walked away with about a dozen sample phials of my preferred scents which the enthusiastic sales staff pressed on me.

At the more reasonable end of the spectrum I've also used L'Occitane Eau des Baux (and their signature mens' fragrance, but preferred this one), but recent reviews seem to indicate that they've altered their formula and the scent fades quite quickly now, so it might be prudent to test how long-wearing the current mix is.

I've not yet tried Demeter scents (this one particularly catches my eye), but they have some interesting options and encourage blending/layering their fragrances which would be a cheaper way of creating something bespoke.
posted by myotahapea at 1:16 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ormonde Man. D.S. and Durga are good in this space, but sometimes work in weird ways on the skin. Hi Wildflower Ancients. Andrea Maack Birch. Blackbird Ophir.

LuckyScent and/or Twisted Lily are good for samples of in-production indies.
posted by holgate at 1:24 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing Terre, and I also love Spicebomb by Viktor&Rolf.
posted by kitty teeth at 1:41 PM on February 5, 2019

Dunhill for Men has a lot of cedar and sandalwood in it and is reasonably affordable as an eau de toilette. Here's another link. It's worth checking the suggested listings for a well reviewed seller.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:06 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Priya Means Love makes gorgeous (and relatively affordable) indie perfumes from natural ingredients--my favorites (as a woman who generally prefers men's/unisex scents) are "sunsmoke" and "Hand in Glove," but she just introduced a new forest-y scent called "adk," which sounds like it might suit.
posted by dizziest at 2:29 PM on February 5, 2019

Also not a cologne, but the Body Shop's hemp hand cream is nice and patchouli-y and pretty husky, and definitely the best hand cream I have ever used in my life!
posted by stillmoving at 3:10 PM on February 5, 2019

I received a bottle of Jo Malone’s Wood Sage and Sea Salt for Christmas, and it is a woody scent lover’s dream. Like woods near the ocean! If there’s a Jo Malone counter near you, their staff usually offer samples to try.
posted by little mouth at 3:16 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm a lady with similar tastes in perfume, and CB Perfume's Fire From Heaven is really, really good, but the water form doesn't have huge staying power. (The absolute form does, but sillage is a little more restrained.)

And this is my favorite thing I've smelled recently, and it's spicy and smoky and just a little bit floral, in the way of classy European's men's perfumes.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:20 PM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Acqua di Parma Colonia could fit the bill - it’s woody, leathery and spicy, but has a nice fresh topnote too so it’s not overwhelming
posted by Middlemarch at 4:00 PM on February 5, 2019

I am a woman, and I REALLY like Tom Ford's Fucking Fabulous fragrance. I'm pretty sure it's unisex, but I've never smelled anything quite like it. Spicy, woodsy, and warm, but I don't find it sweet or cloying.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2019

I am a woman who Ioves masculine-coded scents (despite leaning femme in dress and grooming). I adore Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant. Frankincense, balsam fir, black pepper, cardamom.

But get a sample pack for sure. That will let you try out lots of scents and see which ones work for you. Cologne is so dependent on individual body chemistry.
posted by snowmentality at 5:12 PM on February 5, 2019

Surprised nobody mentioned Lalique Encre Noire yet. Very heavy on cypress and vetiver. It is a somewhat polarizing scent, though. Some people hate it, giving it descriptors like "bug spray." But I think it's great and it can be found quite cheap too.

If the original isn't quite right, it's worth trying the flankers too: Encre Noire a l'extreme (more incense-heavy) and Encre Noire sport (more citrus and a bit more mainstream friendly).

P.S. check your memail.
posted by Quiscale at 6:22 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

In addition to these scents, you might want to try "masculine" scented body washes and shampoos. Cremo is fantastic, really sticks to you throughout the day, and matches my masculine-leaning cologne and perfumes well. After I used some at a friend's house, she walked by the bathroom and asked if I'd been drinking gin in the shower.

I also like got2b's phenomenal line--the shampoos and other products smell far more butch to me than even most Old Spice products.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:34 PM on February 5, 2019

Also if you really want to get indie, after buying from either etsy (where I found a fantastic "time lord" scented perfume which unfortunately is no longer being sold) or cbihateperfumes, I started buying and mixing my own scents from Save on Scents. They have some wonderful butch ones--drag strip, gunpowder--and it's really fun to mix up my own, Christpher Brosius style experiential perfumes.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:38 PM on February 5, 2019

I don't wear cologne but I put this in my beard and I'm kinda in love with the way I smell.
posted by secretseasons at 7:47 PM on February 5, 2019

Dunhill for Men has a lot of cedar and sandalwood in it and is reasonably affordable as an eau de toilette.

I always think of it as a masculine that's probably too femme to be sold as a mainstream masculine these days. (Though gender designations in perfume are just a way to sell bottles.)

Vetivers are love/hate, but Fat Electrician by Etat Libre d'Orange is an interesting one. And Hermann is weird forest.
posted by holgate at 8:32 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like West Third Brand - the "fragrance notes" on their website are very mysterious but fun to read. The one I have is Marché de Tabac: "Experience an exotic tobacco market with tobacco absolute muddled with anise, orange, cedar & sandalwood hints of leather, clove and musk."
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:38 PM on February 5, 2019

Wearing Terre d’Hermès now. It won't last a full day, but will get most of the way there.

That said, different scents smell different on different people, so this is probably one that you really do want to do in person, or you're going to spend a potentially heroic amount of cash to get it just-so.

(The travel-size/sampler-size of Terre doesn't seem to have the same scent, FWIW, which is annoying.)
posted by talldean at 9:52 PM on February 5, 2019

It's winter, time for amber scents.
Old Spice Amber body wash. I put it in a recycled Soft Soap dispenser for washing hands. I stock up when I can find it.
Bodycology Toasted Amber fragrance mist. A bit lighter than I like and fades rapidly, but so good with the first spritz. Wal-Mart seems to be out, but it is still available online. Not wildly into the body cream and body wash, but they do what's on the label.
Kuumba Amber Paste fragrance oil. Whole Foods and Sprouts have it. A tiny dab on the wrist and a quick spritz of Toasted Amber, rub the wrists together, enjoy for hours. Not too bossy, just right.
posted by TrishaU at 12:25 AM on February 6, 2019

Demeter can be good for this-- i went through about 20 samples until I found a combo I liked best, then I bought a larger size. Nice because maybe your scent is "two sprays of cedar, one spray of leather, a half-spray each of clove and ginger" which you would never find perfectly in a premix.
posted by The otter lady at 9:51 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Molecule 01 by Escentric is a unisex scent, smells like sandalwood/cedar and is a wonderful barely-there scent. People tell me I smell 'clean', and they don't generally smell it unless we are in close proximity with each other.

Molecule 03 is made by same company, also unisex, a slightly darker gray scent with a gray tobacco undertone, and again, people have to be in close proximity to even catch a whiff. I like it as much as 01.

I bought each of them on Groupon.
posted by mcbeth at 11:18 AM on February 6, 2019

I like CdG Avignon a lot, though it might be too incense-y for you. Diptyque do one which has a strong tobacco note - I think it's called Volutes? - which is lovely but too masculine for my tastes.
posted by mippy at 5:56 AM on February 8, 2019

I rarely wear scents, partly because my partner is very sensitive, and partly because I'm rarely in social contexts that call for it. But on those rare occasions it's Guerlain Vetiver. It isn't pure vetiver extract, it's one of a genre of vetiver-based colognes which have a mix of wood and citrus scents. It's also the only cologne I have, so that's a factor too, but mostly because I haven't felt the need to look further.

As a left-field suggestion, you might also look into scented deodorants. Boutique deodorants are a thing, particularly in the men's grooming sections at stores like Whole Foods, and they tend to have milder, less chemically smells than mainstream deodorants. They're also a lot cheaper than colognes, so you can get a variety of different scents for the money. Schmidt's is one company that turns out a lot of interesting and decent-smelling deodorants (I have a Christmas Tree one that smells like freshly-cut fir, because why not?), and I have a sandalwood deodorant from Every Man Jack, so I guess I prefer woody scents. The main downside is you kind of have to endure the "This is the extremely masculine male-type products for men" packaging of products in the men's grooming section.
posted by ardgedee at 10:59 AM on March 5, 2019

Not bespoke or indie. I rarely aroma up, but when I do it's because I knew a girl who wore it for the same reasons presented and she said is smelled good on me too. So same occasional thing for 25 years. It might be plebian. :)

Preferred Stock. I thought it was put out be Stetson and discontinued for a while (or at least not on the store shelves with everything else, but it seems the bottle I have is made by Coty.
Preferred stock by Coty cologne is a sexy and fresh aromatic fougere fragrance, for men who live life to the fullest and don't stop until their scents do. Preferred stock begins with a refreshing, clean citrus complex laced with lavender and cypress, and then warms up to a masculine heart of notes centered around nutmeg, fir balsam and clary sage. Sensual leather, vetiver, and oak moss make up its base. Launched in 1990.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:23 AM on March 5, 2019

Juniper Ridge might be up your alley.
posted by box at 11:32 AM on March 5, 2019

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