5 Best Woody Colognes: Manhood in a Bottle

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William Barton Avatar by  William Barton | Last Updated:  Oct 21, 2020
5 Best Woody Colognes: Manhood in a Bottle

With thousands of colognes on the market, how can you tell which is the best for you?

In this article, we showcase our five best woody colognes for men, including the different types of woodsy fragrances and a detailed breakdown of each so you can find your new signature scent.

Our Favorite Overall
  • Major woody notes include galbanum, frankincense, pepperwood, and patchouli
  • Freshness and spice added by black currant buds and black pepper
  • Versatile—fresh enough to wear casually, but the spice is intimate enough for date night
Best Sandalwood Fragrance
  • Sandalwood backed by herbal juniper scent
  • Bergamot, pear, and basil layer on top for aquatic top notes
  • Customize your cologne, or buy the Work and Play together (Play is a cedar-based fragrance)
Best Vetiver Fragrance
  • Leathery, smokey vetiver dominant, with myrrh and olive leaves
  • Sultry smoke base balanced with sweet vanilla and chestnut cream top notes
  • Unusual fragrance, especially in US, but a big winner for date nights and winter
Best Pine Fragrance
  • Pine in the top note, followed by cedar and cashmere wood, and ending with agarwood
  • Balanced with citrus and lots of spice
  • Many perfumers stay away from pine, but Swiss Arabian has done well with the balance
Best Budget Pick
  • Base notes include sandalwood, pine, and tobacco
  • Floral scents on the top like lavender, jasmine, and rose
  • Classic from 1959

Imagine yourself standing in the woods.

Maybe you’ve got a beard in your mental picture. Maybe you’re holding an axe. Maybe you’re sitting by a fire percolating a pot of coffee.

Whatever you’re doing, we’re willing to bet it’s manly. 

This isn’t the time or place to get into why we think of raw manliness when we think of the woods—we’re more interested in how to bring those beautiful, rich fragrances into our lives daily. 

We put together a list of our top five favorite woody colognes that will have you smelling manly and musky in all the right ways.

Types of Wood Fragrances

Knowing you want a woody cologne only gets you so far. The next question quickly becomes: which wood fragrance should I be looking for? 

Etat Libre dOrange 2 1

If you’re looking for a woody cologne, chances are you want something strong and masculine. But the range of wood-based fragrances run between fresh and aquatic to musky and rich. 

You likely have an ideal scent in your mind. Check out these popular woody fragrance types to identify which one fits you best. 

Sandalwood

Most wood-based fragrances rely on either sandalwood or cedarwood as their main note. Sandalwood is known for its warmth. As a base note, sandalwood can be paired with fresh aquatics like basil and mint or swing the other way with sweeter fragrances like vanilla or tonka bean. 

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Sandalwood is popular because it’s a crowd-pleaser. Few people find it disagreeable, and the long-lasting dry down is subtle and consistent. 

If you’re new to fragrances and you’re not sure where to start with woody colognes, we recommend starting with a sandalwood-based formulation. 

Cedarwood

Cedar is just as popular as sandalwood (if not more, but we’re not counting). Like sandalwood, cedar is warm and pleasing, but has a more medicinal, resinous bite to it. 

Whereas sandalwood pairs equally well with both fresh and sweet fragrances, cedar lends itself better to fresh and aquatic colognes. 

If you’re looking for an everyday cologne with a little woody edge to wear at work, a fragrance with cedar at its core is a good place to start. 

Vetiver

Vetiver isn’t nearly as common as the woods mentioned above, but its fragrance is unique and masculine. 

Etat Libre d Orange 11

At first, it’s hard to recognize many vetiver fragrances as “woody” because there’s much more depth to the oil. 

Vetiver has a smoke and leather current in it. These types of hyper-masculine fragrances smell a bit out of date (read: something your grandpa would wear) if they’re not done right. 

For instance, Fat Electrician by Etat Libre d’Orange balances the smokiness with sweet vanilla and bitter olive leaves. The resinous bitter note keeps this cologne from smelling too “one-note.”

We like vetiver-based fragrances for their richness. You’ll still smell like masculine woodiness but it’s not as easily recognizable as sandalwood or cedar. 

Pine

Pine fragrances are a tough nut to crack. They can be seriously resinous and come across sharp or chemical-smelling. 

For that reason, many fragrance houses stay away from pine. True, if you’ve ever split a pine log in half, you know there’s nothing like that smell. But unfortunately it’s difficult to recreate in cologne. 

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If a fragrance has a pine note, chances are it’s sparingly used as a top note, and blended in with something more crowd-pleasing like sandalwood or cedar. Still, there are a few excellent pine fragrances around if you know where to look (hint: there’s a stellar pine cologne on our list).

Patchouli

Patchouli smell reminiscent of wet soil: sweet, aromatic, and musky. It doesn’t necessarily smell like wood, but those earth tones can transport you into the wild.

If you’d rather smell like the forest rather than just the tree, patchouli is a dominant base note to look for. It doesn’t offer much up front, but the sweetness and depth stick around for hours and lend a solid sensual base for other notes. 

Resin

Resinous fragrances like frankincense, myrrh, and amber are often added alongside more common oils like cedar or sandalwood. 

You can think of these as accents that guide the overall smell of your cologne. While they all have a woody quality to them, each have a unique twist that can dramatically change the middle and top notes of your fragrance. 

Frankincense has a warm, spicy note to it. Myrrh is more medicinal and has a touch of smoke. Amber has a honey-sweetness to it. These can all be described as woody and warm, but as you can see, they each offer their own spin.

The 5 Best Woody Colognes for Men

Our Favorite Overall: Hermann, Etat Libre d’Orange

Etat Libre d Orange 2 6

Etat Libre d’Orange is a Paris-based perfumer and their unique take on fragrances has made them a well-known brand in just 14 years. 

Hermann, or if you prefer the longer name, Hermann a mes Côtés me Paraissait Une Ombre is a cool, complex woody cologne unlike any other we’ve tried. The major wood notes are provided by galbanum, frankincense, pepperwood, and patchouli. 

None of those notes are as straightforward as sandalwood or cedar, which is what you might expect from a woodsy cologne. 

The base notes are balanced with freshness and spice from black pepper and black currant buds. 

Complexity is the strength here. It’s spicy and warm enough for a date night, but the freshness makes it just as appropriate as a signature scent in the office.

What We Like

  • The wood notes are derived from resins, so while they have that classic woody scent, they also bring more spice and character.

  • Etat Libre d’Orange has simple, handsome bottles that look great in my collection.

  • Samples are available for $4, which is one of the best sample prices we’ve seen. 

  • The balance of freshness and spice make this a very versatile fragrance. 

What We Don’t Like

  • It’s hard to find fault with this fragrance. Obviously, you’ll either like it or not. But with $4 samples, you don’t have to invest much to find out if this fragrance is right for you.

What Other Reviewers Say

Over 200 reviewers took to Fragrantica and rated this fragrance a solid 3.97 out of 5 stars. 

Etat Libre dOrange Fat Electrician reviews 2

Considering that most folks on this site are hardcore enthusiasts, this is a comparatively excellent rating. 

As an eau-de-parfum, most voters said this was “long lasting,” and that was our experience, too. Many reviewers felt Hermann had a “moderate” level of sillage, or projection. We found that it projects enough to be noticeable in a small room, but not obnoxious.

The Verdict

Hermann is an excellent option if you’re looking for a complex woody fragrance that’s hard to put in a category. 

Yes, there are plenty of wood notes, and they balance beautifully with spice and freshness. 

The dry-down is long lasting—one spray is all it took for us and at the end of the day it was still going strong. 

Given Etat Libre d’Orange’s generous sample packages, the investment needed to give this a try is low enough to make it a no-brainer.

Etat Libre d'Orange Hermann

Hermann isn't your standard sandalwood or cedar wood fragrance. Made with resinous galbanum and frankincense, there's a depth that's hard to place.

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Best Sandalwood Cologne: Work, Hawthorne

hawthorne cologne work fragrance on wooden background

Hawthorne built their name on their cologne subscription boxes. Enter some information including your job, your hobbies, and what you do for fun, and they’ll create two fragrances based on how you work and how you play. 

The names: Work and Play.

But Hawthorne’s default Work cologne is a fresh, aquatic sandalwood masterpiece. 

Hawthorne’s quiz is fun and we’re confident you’ll like the fragrances you get (and even if you don’t, their return policy is fantastic). But if you want to skip the quiz and just get this sandalwood fragrance, head over to their gift page and pick it up.

You’ll also get Hawthorne’s default Play cologne, a warm, sweet cedarwood fragrance that’s perfect for date night. Fun fact: this cologne is formulated by Quentin Bisch, the same perfumer behind our top choice, Hermann.

What We Like

  • Work is an excellent woody fragrance for summer and the office. It’s fresh and aquatic, which are crowd-pleasers.

  • The sandalwood note stretches out for hours.

  • Hawthorne’s customization quiz is fun and will pair you with two fragrances you love, or they’ll keep trying until they succeed—excellent customer service.

What We Don’t Like

  • Work is a bit simple. It’s an excellent every-day fragrance, but lacks the complexity you’ll experience in other similarly priced colognes.

What Other Reviewers Say

Hawthorne Rating

Work by Hawthorne has far fewer reviews on Fragrantica compared to Hermann, but those who’ve chimed in really enjoy it. 

Reviewers find it has a “moderate” longevity and a decent projection. We’ve had a bottle around since we tried Hawthorne Work and Play a few months ago and noticed it lasted up to eight hours.

The Verdict

Hawthorne’s unique approach to cologne makes them a fun brand to try. If you’re not familiar with all the fancy fragrance terms, you don’t need to be. They’ve done an excellent job at matching colognes to your habits and lifestyle choices.

Work is our safe, crowd-pleaser choice. And that’s why we like sandalwood-based fragrances so much. 

Pair the sandalwood base note with fresh and aquatic top notes, and you’ve got a crisp, subtle cologne that’s excellent for everyday wear.

Hawthorne

By asking the right questions, Hawthorne was able to deliver me custom colognes and bathroom essentials at a solid price point, and while I was hesitant to leave my choice of fragrance up to someone else, Hawthorne won my seal of approval on the first spray.

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Best Vetiver Cologne: Fat Electrician, Etat Libre d’Orange

Etat Libre dOrange Fat Electrician on wooden background

Vetiver colognes fell out of fashion for a little while. We can’t say why for sure, but the rich woody, leather, and smoke aroma has been categorized as “old-smelling” for some.

We couldn’t disagree more. 

Vetiver colognes do trend toward masculine scents. Like we said, there’s leather, wood, tobacco, smoke—you know, things that make you smell like a refined gambler with good taste and plenty of books.

Fat Electrician from Etat Libre d’Orange takes all the warm, musky notes we look for in vetiver-based fragrances, and blends sweet vanilla and chestnut for a more soothing scent. Bitter olive leaves bring the whole fragrance together as a balanced and complex dose of manliness.

For more insight into Etat Libre d’Orange, check out our video review of Fat Electrician and Hermann and find out which is a better fit for you:

What We Like

  • Like Hermann, Fat Electrician is complex. It changes during the dry down and becomes warmer and more inviting over time.

  • This cologne is masculine without being cliche, or a copy of some other cologne.

  • The name. How can you not like that name?

What We Don’t Like

  • Fat Electrician is much better suited to cooler months as there’s a decent amount of sweetness in the smell.

What Other Reviewers Say

Fat Electrician is one of Etat Libre d’Orange’s most popular fragrances and it’s built up over 700 reviews on Fragrantica

Fat Electrician Rating

Several reviewers mentioned that it can smell waxy when warm, but is their favorite thing to wear for nights out and cold days.

The Verdict

If you’re thinking about building a cologne collection, you should have a vetiver based fragrance in it. It’s just too manly to pass up. Wood, leather, smoke? What’s more masculine than that?

Fat Electrician has all the hallmarks of an old-school vetiver cologne, but is much more balanced, refined, and complex. (If you want to hit folks over the head with these old-school scents, check out Tabac down below). 

Like with Hermann, a sample will only set you back $4, so if you want a vetiver cologne, or you’re not even sure what a vetiver cologne is supposed to smell like, you can find out on the cheap. 

Etat Libre d'Orange Fat Electrician

This modern vetiver-based cologne has all the classic wood, smoke, and tobacco notes you'd expect, but with a twinge of bitter imparted from myrrh and olive leaves.

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Best Pine Cologne: Mutamayez, Swiss Arabian

Swiss Arabian is a UAE-based brand that’s been around for nearly 40 years. 

Mutamayez is a bold attempt at mastering the scent of pine in fragrance. Many brands won’t touch it, as it can smell medicinal, resinous, and a little like burnt rubber if done wrong. 

But if you get it right, it’s a fresh, invigorating, and unique scent.

Mutamayez has its lovers and its haters, but it’s the best representation we’ve found of a classy pine-based cologne.

What We Like

  • Mutamayez opens on citrus and pine, two fresh scents that pair well together. 

  • This fragrance is inexpensive. 

  • One of the few pine scented colognes that hit the mark. 

What We Don’t Like

  • Some people hate pine colognes. It’s a polarizing fragrance, so while you might like it, others around might not.

What Other Reviewers Say

Most reviewers on Fragrantica enjoy the niche Mutamayez has filled. 

Mutamayez Sweet Arabian Rating

But there are some pretty hilarious reviews that are less sparing, including one that claims this fragrance is “guaranteed to make you vomit” (we told you Fragrantica reviewers can be rough). 

We thought that was harsh, but it speaks to the “love it or hate it” nature of pine colognes.

The Verdict

Crowd pleasing colognes are great. But we also know that you can’t please everyone all the time, so you might as well do what you want. 

So if you want to smell like pine, there’s no better choice than Mutamayez by Swiss Arabian. 

If you’re not sure whether you like pine or not, it’s inexpensive enough to try out. If you hate it, you hate it. 

But there’s a solid chance you’ll fall in love with it and it’ll become your signature scent. Yes, you’ll make a few enemies, but you’re no stranger to controversy anyway, right?

Swiss Arabian Mutamayez

Pine fragrance in cologne is a dangerous game. If it's not done right, it can smell a bit like burnt tires. Swiss Arabian does it right with Mutamayez.

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Best Budget Pick: Tabac Original, Maurer & Wirtz

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Known as the “Old Spice” of Germany, Tabac Original is old-school. 

Combining macho woody smells with surprising floral, soapy notes, Tabac Original is a classic.

It’s been around since 1959, and there’s a good chance your grandpa wore it. But just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad. No, Tabac Original is still popular today as a go-to, cheap woody everyday cologne.

What We Like

  • It’s a classic fragrance that will likely take you on a trip down memory lane. 

  • Tabac Original is very affordable.

  • Strong sandalwood tones with hints of pine. Lots of floral notes, too, which is surprising but pleasant.

What We Don’t Like

  • Ugly bottle. 

  • Some will think this just smells old. And not in a good way. 

What Other Reviewers Say

Tabac Original has a bit of a cult-status. Among Fragrantica reviewers, it has a good reputation. 

Tabac Original Rating

Reviewers give it more leeway for nostalgia’s sake. Many people use it as an everyday fragrance for work, but choose a more complex and modern cologne when doing anything else.

The Verdict

For a basic woody cologne that’s going to leave plenty cash left over, have a look at Tabac Original

With a similar masculine woody and floral fragrance like Old Spice Original, Tabac will take you back to a time where you could buy gallons of cologne for pennies on the dollar. 

In all seriousness, Tabac Original is a worthy choice for those looking on the cheap end of the spectrum, and more serious cologne collectors might find it fun to explore. But if you’re looking for a refined and distinguished fragrance, you might be better served with a different option on our list.

Maurer & Wirtz Tabac Original

The Old Spice of Germany. This old school fragrance is one of the best budget colognes period.

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Wood You Give One a Try?

We sincerely apologize for the pun above. 

But the sentiment is there. These five woody colognes are some of our favorite fragrances across the whole spectrum. 

Every guy should have a woody type cologne in their collection. Whether it’s a warm, smokey tone like Fat Electrician, or something cool and crisp like Hermann or Work

If you want a little pine, check out Mutamayez, and for a classic fragrance that’s easily affordable have a look at Tabac Original

Which one of these woodsy fragrances are you going to try?

FAQs

What is a good woodsy cologne?

Hermann by Etat Libre d’Orange is one of our favorite woodsy colognes. It’s complex, balanced, fresh, and has plenty of woodsy notes that are masculine and unique.

What cologne smells like cedar?

Many colognes use cedar as a base. One of our favorite cedar-based colognes is Play by Hawthorne.

What is woody fragrance?

Woody fragrances come from several different ingredients. The most common are sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, pine, frankincense, myrrh, and amber.

What is the most masculine cologne?

It depends on how you define masculine. Woody colognes are masculine, but so are animalic, leather, smoky, and aquatic fragrances. Even floral fragrances can be masculine. Some excellent manly choices are Hermann by Etat Libre d’Orange, Creed Aventus, and Work by Hawthorne.