While no one wants to delude themselves into thinking that their cologne is alluring when it actually smells like a used diaper filled with Indian food — 60% of the time, it works every time! — there are certain types of male scents that arise time and time again in the best-selling men’s fragrances.
And there’s a good reason for that! Women and men have their brains wired to instinctively respond to certain fragrances that denote desirable traits like cleanliness, presentability and virility. It’s the reason we have hunted the poor musk deer almost to extinction and why fragrance brands spend millions on chemical research trying to get it right.
However, you don’t need a degree in chemistry, a $200 bottle of cologne or distilled panther parts to give off an aroma that makes women’s mouths water—all you need are a combination of the following scent types:
“Clean” — Soap, Lavender, Citrus
No one wants to smell like they just ate an entire Dove bar — the soap, not the chocolate. Still, there’s nothing quite like the scent of someone who stepped right out of the shower. As such, many fragrances use hedione or a similar compound to stimulate the top notes of the scent with a soapy, quasi-floral and citrus head.
“Sweet” — Apple, Vanilla, Jasmine
Contrary to women’s scents, men’s scents are supposed to be subtle, lingering and mysterious. To accomplish this, they include just the right amount of sweet-smelling notes derived from essential oils or compounds like heliotropin, a chemical found in vanilla pods.
“Woody” — Sandalwood, Cedar, Charred Oak
Who wouldn’t want to smell of rich mahogany? To accomplish this, many men’s scents derive essential oils from woods like sandalwood or even from burnt wood.
“Leather” — Leather, Earth, Damp
“Leather” scents are most often derived from chemicals intended to mimic castoreum, derived from a beaver’s scent glands located near — actually, you don’t want to know. Luckily, fewer people are harvesting beaver goop from the source these days and making synthetic forms right in the lab.
“Musk” — Sweat, Pheromones
Surprisingly, the smell we spend much of our grooming getting rid of is actually one of our most alluring. This type of scent can easily overpower in excess, but many fragrances strike just the right notes to subtly beckon “come hither” without adding “and smell my armpit.”
In the past, animal parts and secretions supplied this chemical equivalent to used gym shorts, but now we can synthesize compounds similar to androstenol that can supply the needed musk-ular intrigue in controllable doses.