The Trick to Understanding Fragrances (And Figuring Out What Works Best For You)

To make fragrance shopping painless, know what you want.

A trip to the perfume counter can be overwhelming—what with the pushy salesmen, the melee of scents, and the steep price tags, all demanding you make a clear, level-headed decision fast.

You can make the transaction quick and painless by having an idea of what you're looking for before you get there. Fragrances are usually classified into four olfactory families: fresh, floral, woody, and oriental.

As smell is a sensory thing and words on a computer screen only have a limited capability, it's best that you seek out the examples we've mentioned here and start your search there. 

The most palatable of the olfactory families, Fresh spans citrusy, green (grassy, herbal, and mossy) and aquatic notes—which can be confusing because, well, what is water supposed to smell like? Describing its taste is already hard enough (I dare you). 

Jimmy Choo Man Ice

Smells like A citrusy, youthful musk—very friendly, in stark contrast to the cold name and frosty bottle
Best worn In the daytime
Will help you Smell clean and friendly


Clinique Happy for Men

Smells like Oranges and then fades into a mild yet unmistakable fragrance (This is among those that have the mythical aquatic notes.)
Best worn On a hot day—which is virtually every day in our country
Will help you Stay positive and pleasant 


Diptyque Eau de Lierre

Smells like A wall of creeping leafy vines 
Best worn To a garden party or a picnic
Will help you Feel one with nature without actually roughing it 



The easiest to pick out in the list, florals are self-explanatory, except they don't always take on the smell of flowers you know. Take the smell of baby powder or the overbearing cloud of your lola's perfume that announces her arrival before you even see her. 

Acca Kappa Muschio Bianco 

Smells like Familiarity and clean sheets
Best worn In small enclosed spaces, like your car
Will help you Seem neater than you actually are 


Diptyque Eau Des Sens

Smells like Baby cologne but adapted for grown-ass men
Best worn To places of worship—church or club—depending on your god or idol
Will help you Feel like a saint


Jo Malone French Lime Blossom

Smells like Hotels and soap
Best worn Under a stronger scent to create complexity
Will help you Feel fresh all day



Think of your ninang's camphor chest, Muji pest-repelling cedar blocks, and the oak that you can taste in your favorite whiskey—those are the notes that you'll find in a woody fragrance. These scents are comforting and complex, and are great aids in painting yourself the outdoorsman when you're actually chained to your desk all day. 

Diptyque Tam Dao

Smells like A bark with green leaves and then fades into a faintly powdery scent that is reminiscent of fresh laundry
Best worn Every day
Will help you Smell different from everyone else


Jo Malone English Oak and Redcurrant

Smells like Wood! Mild with a sharp spiciness
Best worn With plaid flannel and a full beard
Will help you Become a lumbersexual


Acca Kappa Sandalwood and Black Pepper

Smells like A warm, spicy Christmas treat
Best worn To an intimate gathering
Will help you Leave an olfactory trail



4| Oriental
Oriental is the heady scents of spices, incense, and amber. Like a good whiskey, it is smoky and smooth. Or like a strong cup of chai, intense, powerful, and bold. 

Jo Malone Dark Amber and Lily

Smells like A relaxing massage in an upscale spa with dim-lit, cozy rooms
Best worn To a low-key hang
Will help you Ease into an intimate moment 


Diptyque Volutes

Smells like A sweet, burning pyre of flowers and wood
Best worn On a boys' night out
Will help you Keep warm 


Jo Malone Nutmeg and Ginger

Smells like The epitome of men's cologne
Best worn By traditionalists
Will help you Become someone's zaddy

What is the best fresh smelling perfume?

Here's a tip: Fresh scents, which usually refer to the citrus, green, and aquatic families in the fragrance wheel, are preferred by women on men because they impart the idea of lightness or cleanliness. It reminds them of, well, happy summers. As you enter the room, wearing a fresh perfume, is the image of a beach day, the waves lapping up on the shore, lemonade being made into a cool drink, and you and her on enjoying this trip together. Wear one.

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Vincent Ong
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