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Men’s Fragrance Guide: The difference between Fragrance, Aftershave and Cologne, How to Choose and How to Apply - Plus: Best Rules & Top Tips

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Men’s Fragrance Guide: The difference between Fragrance, Aftershave and Cologne, How to Choose and How to Apply - Plus: Best Rules & Top Tips


Recently, I bumped into an old friend in town. We greeted each other with a warm hug. Immediately my female acquaintance smiled and said, with great enthusiasm, “you smell incredible…what is it?” I blushed and replied, “one of my recent inventions…”

There exists a hidden knowledge, known to only a small percentage of men across the globe - the attractiveness not only of wearing a good fragrance, but of finding a fragrance which represents and compliments you as an individual.

Smell is our most powerful sense. Yet, when stripped back to its purest form, smell simply lets our brains know - in a fraction of a second - whether something is desirable or undesirable to us as human beings.

A good smell can leave a lasting impression on colleagues, friends and partners, whilst a compliment on your fragrance can leave a lasting smile upon your face… it’s also an incredible confidence booster!

So, let’s begin with the basics:


What is the difference between a cologne, an aftershave and a fragrance? 



It’s easy to get these three words confused as they are all, essentially, very similar products consisting of a blend of alcohol and fragrance oil. (NB: Alcohol is used rather than water as the base of most fragrances as it allows the scent to live longer and doesn’t immediately evaporate into the atmosphere).

Perfume - 20-30% concentration (although perfume, like fragrance, can be used as a blanket term for all scents) 

Eau de Parfum (EDP) – 15-20% concentration

Eau de Toilette (EDT) – 5-15% concentration (Percy Nobleman Signature Fragrance is nearing an EDP concentration of 12%) 

Eau de Cologne – 2-4% (often used as a “splash” rather than spray, post-shave – watch out for the sting!)

What dictates how long the scent will last? Answer: The concentration (%) level of the fragrance oil (undiluted perfume), in the alcohol blend.

These are the most common blends you will see. For a special occasion or a gift, a Perfume, EDP or EDT will (more often than not) contain finer fragrances, with more exotic ingredients… more on that later!


The composition of a fragrance – fragrance notes



Fragrances have a three-part composition often referred to as a pyramid. These are the top, middle and base notes (illustrated above). They work together, at different intervals, to create an experience for you to enjoy. For me, this is the beauty of fragrance. 

Depending on your mood, body temperature, or sense of smell, one fragrance can offer a totally different experience to the next – they can even noticeably change notes from person to person! Typically, the top contains citrus and aromatic notes, the mid: floral, spicy and green notes and the base: woody and musky notes.

On application, you will experience a burst of the top notes first and then, over time, the top (followed by the mid notes) will fade, leaving the base to endure over many hours. 

This statement, taken from my Signature Fragrance, explains further:

“On first application, Percy's signature fragrance has a compelling burst of citrus notes which both invigorate and excite the senses. Once settled, the base and mid-notes come into play while the sweeter top notes take a step back. The prominent musk and vanilla provide the perfect blend of old and new, helping to create a fragrance which is both timeless yet original!”


How to apply fragrance



A simple rule to follow: Don’t overdo it. 

Start small and develop as you get to know your chosen fragrance. As explained, an EDP has a much higher concentration (of fragrance oil) than a Cologne, so they shouldn’t be applied the same way. In short: familiarise yourself with your fragrance first before dousing yourself with it! 

This is the stage where you can get creative. Blending or “layering” of fine fragrances is a trend we should all be listening to. Having fragrances for different seasons and occasions is a brilliant way to express yourself and to enhance your mood.


Fragrance formulas – what makes the best fragrances?


As someone who has developed many scents and fragrances, I can put this down to a simple discussion point: Synthetic vs Natural. I am a romanticist; fragrances should tell a story, and the origin of this is the composition of the scent. 

Mass-produced fragrances will often be dictated by two things: cost price and marketing budgets. The cost price is determined by the concentration level (see diagram above), and the ingredients that go into making it. The marketing budget is determined by distribution and celebrity endorsements hired to promote the fragrance.

Independent and niche perfumers (such as myself) will tell you that quality of ingredients goes a long way to make a more unique and luxurious scent. Using expensive raw materials such as vanilla extracts, watermelon, grapefruit and apple essential oils, and even tobacco leaves will give you a better, more sophisticated scent than their synthetic counterparts. Discerning the two? That’s a story for another day…

On price, this is all subjective, as no one should choose a fragrance on your behalf (except for your other half!) However, when formulating a fragrance, I set out to develop a product that had the quality of a £100-£200 fine fragrance, for a fraction of the cost.

There are plenty of brands out there who follow this rule. A lot of enjoyment can be had in searching out a fragrance unique to you, rather than going for the status quo. So happy hunting! 

I hope you will feel more confident in understanding the basics of fragrances. Now it’s time to go and indulge in a never-ending world of scents. The key is to find a scent that you feel confident wearing, that represents and compliments you, and most importantly that your other half enjoys too!


Until next time gents,

Your friend,