Smell Like A Man: My Favourite Classic, Designer & Niche Manly Fragrances

I love many types of scents, but I do tend to go on about soft and clean scents. The truth is I love many, including scents with volume and reach. I suppose there are many loud and ugly fragrances out there, and soft clean ones are often hard to find. I may love perfume, and I may own and smell many that I love, but if I’m shopping for scent, I may like one out of ten that I try. These days it;s more likely I will like none out of ten. I also find it very hard to distinguish men’s fragrance from women’s these days. Not that it really matters as we all know fragrance is genderless and I say wear what you love. But my personal preference is a man’s scent that smells like a man*

What notes smell “manly”? Again, personal preference will figure into this, as it does with all things scented, but here are my thoughts and some of my favourite sexy fragrance notes.

Leather: Leather is a note used in both men’s and women’s scents, but often sweetened with flowers and such for the ladies. A good solid leather note is unmistakeable and smells like a worn leather jacket, possibly with some gasoline on it, or the leather interior of a car, and there is often a “tar” note. There can be smoke and wood fire aspects to it as well.  It’s a note used in high measures today as much as it used to be and that is a shame.

I'm pretty sure Ron Swanson smells like leather. And maybe bacon.
I’m pretty sure Ron Swanson smells like leather. And maybe bacon.

Musk: I hear a lot of women tell me they don’t like musk and I always say that’s because you haven’t smelled the right one. There are so many musks it’s ridiculous and the smells range from skanky and dirty to freshly cleaned laundry. Musks were originally based on the substance secreted by the male musk deer. From Fragrantica:

It has been rumored since ancient times that wonderful musk odor works as an excellent aphrodisiac, and modern science has offered an explanation for this. Even though the debate on the existence of sex pheromones continues, there are scientists who believe that the smell of musk closely resembles the smell of testosterone, which may act as a pheromone in humans.

Civet: Originally derived from the anal glands of civet cats – stay with me here- and thankfully is now synthetically reproduced. Used artfully, carefully and in the right doses, the almost fecal scent of civet takes on a soft and sexy fragrance that can best be compared to, um, underwear. It’s usually hidden beneath many other notes and adds a sexiness that is noted almost subconsciously and appeals to the animal part of our brains.

Castoreum: Another delightful ingredient from animal bum, castoreum was originally obtained from beaver testicles and is now blessedly recreated in the lab. Poor little beavers! Castoreum was also used medicinally, for headaches and fever. It’s another note that when used judiciously, becomes warm, sweet and sexy in a dirty way.

So now, my favourite manly perfumes! First, the designer offerings:

YSL Kouros review dalybeauty

YSL Kouros has pretty much set the bar for “skanky” men’s scents. I have a real fondness for this one, so excuse me if I go on….. It’s so dirty that many online reviews use words like gagging, disgusting, etc etc. but I simply adore it and have from the moment I smelled it. I agree with the reviewer I read somewhere who said “Kouros makes me smell like a god”. Yum. Launched in 1981, Kouros definitely belongs to the power scent family, although it is possible to just wear a little, as that is all you need. The dominant notes are civet, honey and leather, and the overall impression is of warm, even hot, manly skin with just the right amount of sweat. If any scent has pheromones, for me it is Kouros. It has been reformulated since it’s launch, so a vintage version will smell likely much more powerful than the current. I haven’t smelled the vintage in years but I still love the current version. Kouros – not for the tame.

Chanel Antaeus review dalybeauty

Chanel Antaeus is a sexy leather beauty with woodsy moss – in other words, all man. Leather and castoreum make this classic animal perfect for the gentleman with the heart of an animal. It’s no coincidence that YSL and Chanel named their sexiest scents after gods.

Bvlgari Black review dalybeauty

Bvlgari Black is probably one of the best modern designer leather fragrances out there, and is also wonderfully unisex. It deliciously pairs stringent leather with vanilla and smoky black lapsang souchong and manages to also incorporate a tarry, rubbery note that brings to mind tires and garages. On me it was all rubber and leather which I didn’t fancy much, but I’ve sniffed it on others and it’s divine.

Some niche:

Zoologist Rhinoceros review dalybeauty

Zoologist Rhinocerous is an incredible unapologetic leather fragrance with the most divine swirling heart and base of woodsy, boozy richness enveloped in smoky oud that is almost shocking at first, then dries down to sexy velvety goodness. Zoologist is an incredible Canadian niche brand with brilliantly blended colognes that compete and even beat niche perfumes priced at three times the price. If you want a cologne that is all man, and don’t want to smell like everyone else, get this. I guarantee you will like it. All of Zoologists fragrances are for men and women, of course. It’s my own personal impressions that make this say “Manly Man” to me!

Zoologist Beaver review dalybeauty

Zoologist Beaver – yes, that’s right. Beaver. Lovers of animalic fragrances rejoice! The brilliance of Zoologist Beaver is how it melds the most animalic of notes, castoreum, with a delicate airy scent like linden blossom, and a soft earthy iris note. It even has notes of ash, as in ashes. Beaver is a burnt offering that shocks at first, then settles down to become one with the wearer. I’d say it is one of the most wearable “dirty” scents, Beaver is proof that castoreum cleans up beautifully.

Tom Ford Tuscan Leather review

Tom Ford Tusan Leather has to be included in this list. It’s one of Tom Ford’s Private Blends (read: expensive) but boy oh boy, is it great. It’s full on leather at first sniff, then becomes lovely with a suede-y woody note. Tuscan Leather is tempered with a touch of raspberry, and it’s interesting how that balances the rough manly notes. It actually adds a bit of a mouth watering aspect, which I simply love in a perfume.

Atelier Gold Leather review

Atelier Gold Leather is another divine leather. I love this whole line and their approach to fragrance. Elegant and stylish and never overdone. Let’s call this one a “boozy leather”. The opening is a bitter citrus and rum concoction. It warms down to a delicious leather, with a little oud thrown in for good measure. The oud in this is gentle but makes sure the rum is never too sweet. This is an understated Manly Man fragrance, but still quite masculine in my opinion.

I know there a TON of manly scents out there. Which ones are your favourites? And, if you’re a woman, would you wear any of these?

 *”Manly Scents” is my own subjective perfume opinion, and of course I understand that women may love these just as much as men and happily wear them. That’s cool too!

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