A Quick Guide to Buying Men’s Fragrances Online

Fragrance has always been a much-loved gift for both men and women. Giving a small bottle of an exquisite scent is a personal and thoughtful gesture, and the perfect way to show affection for someone special.But a fragrance is all about the details, which means it isn’t always the easiest gift to get right. It’s about thought and consideration to what your recipient might like as well as what suits their lifestyle and personality. You need to know the answers to questions like: What fragrance families do they prefer? For what occasions do they like to wear fragrance? To help you choose well, here’s a quick guide to men’s fragrance types and how you can more easily pick something out online.

What is a fragrance family?

The first thing you need to know is how a little knowledge of fragrance families can help you find something really special.

“Fragrance families” is a term used by the industry to help classify scents into groups through their most obvious characteristics. An example of a self-explanatory group is citrus scents. They will have different combinations of ingredients with various subtle undertones, but their most noticeable scent will be of a citrus fruit like lemon or grapefruit.

Other fragrance families are named after their most prominent ingredients. Floral, fruity, leathery, spicy and woody are all popular fragrance families, meaning that there are lots of possibilities from different perfumiers within these categories. Some other popular groups need more explanation, for example:


Fragrances described as aromatic are a mix of fresh or citrus notes with a noticeable herbal scent. This is a really popular fragrance family because these scents are light and easy to wear but have a note of sophistication that comes from the herbal ingredients.

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Notable examples include Ralph Lauren Polo Blue with basil and clary sage, and Mr Burberry with tarragon and cinnamon.


These scents are rich, warm and sensual. Their strong personality comes from more intoxicating ingredients like musk, spices and precious woods. Popular oriental fragrances include Dolce and Gabbana: The One for Men, which is a mix of the scents of cardamon, cedarwood, tobacco and ginger. Oriental scents are very charismatic.

More on fragrance family personalities

You’ll see from the notes on the fragrance families above that the name of the family tells you more than just the ingredients. Each fragrance family has a distinct personality that will help guide you to the right choice.

The floral family of fragrances contains floral ingredients such as rose and jasmine. They’ll have a sweetness and delicacy but will also have more exotic tones, particularly in men’s fragrances. An example is Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, with orchids and spice adding intensity and allure.

The woody family of scents is exceedingly popular in the world of men’s fragrance. Their principal ingredients come from precious woods like cedar or mosses like oakmoss. Woody fragrances are warm but also opulent and elegant. A classic is Homme by Dior perfume for men.

For something more calm and serene, you could look in the fresh fragrance family for something like Kilian’s Bamboo Harmony. This scent includes white tea and green mimosa in its ingredients. Its personality is light and fresh.

How to choose the right fragrance family for any man

Most believe that their favorite scents say something about their personality, or their current mood, or both. Fragrance is a form of self-expression, just like the outfits we choose for ourselves.

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We might choose a scent for ourselves because we feel it either reflects our personality or it displays a characteristic we want to exude. The recipient of your chosen scent will be hoping for a fragrance that allows him to do just this.

For instance, there may be times he wants to show that he is strong and confident. A scent will help him do that. At other times, a scent may reflect a more relaxed or playful side. Most fragrance wearers also like to have a few scents for a few different occasions.

Here are some crucial questions to consider before you make a purchase:

  • What fragrance families does he tend to choose for himself?
  • What fragrances does he currently own?
  • For what occasions does he tend to wear fragrance?
  • Does he have fragrances that are a good fit for different scenarios (i.e., for work, for relaxed weekends, for dinners or parties)?
  • Are there scents he particularly likes or dislikes?

By now, you should have a few ideas of fragrance families to suit the man you are buying for and the occasions he might want to wear it for. Now, it is time to explore the scents within these families.

Some more fragrance lingo explained

Once you start reading descriptions of scents online, you’ll notice that they often mention “top notes,” “heart notes” or “middle/mid-notes” and “base notes.” If you are not familiar with the meanings of these, then here’s a quick overview. If you understand what they mean, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how your recipient will experience the fragrance.

  • Top notes are the first scents you’ll notice immediately after application but will also be the first to fade.
  • Mid notes ( or middle or heart notes) are the core, dominant scents that will be noticeable for the longest period.
  • Base notes are the undertones that help give a fragrance depth.
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You’ll also see that fragrance for men can be bought as eau de parfum, eau de toilette or eau de cologne. Here’s what these terms mean:

  • Eau de parfum can be bought in both men’s and women’s fragrance ranges. It offers the highest concentration of perfume oils of the three types, which means the fragrance lasts longer.
  • Eau de toilette is also available as men’s and women’s scents. It has a lower concentration of oils which means it will need reapplying more frequently.
  • Eau de cologne is typically for men. It has the lowest concentration of perfume oils of the three.

Often, fragrances are available in more than one category so that you can choose your preferred type.

Being able to match your recipient with the right fragrance family and the right type of fragrance concentration means you should be able to find the perfect gift. Buying perfumes and colognes is straightforward online, as long as you read the descriptions carefully. Good online retailers offer really helpful information on the top, mid and base notes and the overall personality of the fragrance, meaning you can confidently choose the right scent.