The most iconic men’s fragrances ever created

From Davidoff's inimitable Cool Water to Creed's modern classic, Aventus, these are the most iconic aftershaves of all time...

What makes something iconic? Its age? Its reputation? Perhaps its popularity? Or maybe — and this is certainly the case when it comes to the eight bottles below — its smell. We’ve spritzed and sprayed far and wide to find the most iconic men’s aftershaves of all time; and here we’ve assembled the ultimate olfactory octet.

There’s Davidoff’s ‘Cool Water’, so fresh you can feel David Gandy shaking his salty hair in your direction. There’s Penhaligon’s ‘Blenheim Bouquet’, formulated for nobility over 100 years ago. And there’s Creed ‘Aventus’; a modern addition to the hall of fragrance fame — but not a drop less potent than its sweet-smelling stablemates. So take a look, and see if your signature scent makes the cut…

Dior Eau Sauvage

When was it first spritzed? In 1966, when it became the first fragrance for men from the esteemed French fashion house. Allegedly, it was named for Christian Dior’s friend, Australian bon viveur Percy Savage, whose arrival was announced by Dior’s butler as the designer was pondering names for the new scent.

What does it smell like? Over half a century later, and this iconic fragrance still hinges on the subtle balance between San Carlo bergamot, hedione and the lavender of Vaucluse. Also present are oakmoss and patchouli, blending to create the aromatic ‘Chypre Accord’.

Who wears it? Initially, the most famous proponent of Dior Eau Savauge was the French actor Alain Delon. The star of Purple Noon and La Piscine even starred in the early advertisements for the fragrance. More recently, Leonardo DiCaprio, Antonio Banderas and Eric Clapton.

Davidoff Cool Water

When was it first spritzed? In 1988, when perfumer Pierre Bourdon (who believed that fragrances should be created as “works of art”) created the distinctive refreshing, saline scent for the ultra-lux Coty Prestige brand portfolio.

What does it smell like? Like diving into a crisp sea. On earthy base notes of sandalwood and musk, flowers including geranium, lavender and jasmine buoy the nose, before you dive into heady, splashy top notes of mint and sea water.

Who wears it? A couple of cool actors. Clint Eastwood was known to splash this on, as is Pierce Brosnan (who has something of an affinity for the sea). Also, Prince Harry reportedly used this as his aftershave of choice.

Bleu De Chanel

When was it first spritzed? More recently than you think. Despite swiftly joining the pantheon of iconic men’s aftershaves, Bleu de Chanel was only introduced in 2010, when perfumer Jacques Polge formulated the fragrance for the luxury French fashion house.

What does it smell like? Opulent and aromatic. There’s a lot going on here; but that’s what gives ‘Bleu’ such a recognisable character. Think lemon, mint, pink pepper, ginger, jasmine and incense – all swirled together in smooth, hedonistic harmony.

Who wears it? Perhaps the most famous proponent of this wildly-popular scent was the face of the fragrance; Gaspard Ulliel. Sadly, Ulliel passed away in January 2022, but worked with filmmakers including Martin Scorsese and Steve McQueen creating films to promote the aftershave.

Creed Aventus 

When was it first spritzed? Like Bleu de Chanel above, 2010 – when this British-blended scent was released in celebration of Creed’s 250th anniversary. Like all of the perfume house’s recent fragrances, it was formulated by Olivier Creed, the master perfumier for Creed.

What does it smell like? Inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte, many of the ingredients used to create Aventus are influenced by the life of the military leader. From blackcurrants from Corsica (where Napoleon was born) to birch from Louisiana (where Napoleon ruled for several years), it’s a citrus-forward, chypre-focused fragrance.

Who wears it? While the British brand’s ‘Green Irish Tweed’ scent has a more esteemed following (think Prince Charles, Robert Redford and George Clooney), Aventus can count David Beckham and Jason Statham as fans.

Issey Miyake L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme

When was it first spritzed? 1994; two years after the revered perfumer Jacques Cavallier introduced Issey Miyake’s female-focused fragrance, L’Eau D’Issey. It became an instant classic; and many a modern man’s favoured scent for summer.

What does it smell like? The top notes are sufficiently summery; yuzu, mandarin and fresh verbena. The heart adds depth, with nutmeg, cinnamon and saffron. And the base is surprisingly light, floating on foundations of sandalwood and vetiver.

Who wears it? Reportedly, this light, easy, breezy scent is a favourite of British actor Hugh Grant. But its appeal also crosses the pond; Oscar-winner Jared Leto is also said to favour a spritz or two of  L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme.

The most iconic men’s fragrances ever created

L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme

£71.00

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Floris No. 89

When was it first spritzed? Many decades ago, in 1951. Named for the number of the Floris shop and perfumery in Jermyn Street – which was once the Floris family home – it was first formulated by seventh generation master perfumer, Michael Bodenham.

What does it smell like? This one has a heavy, distinctive base; combining notes of oakmoss, sandalwood and Virginia cedar. But it comes alive when ylang-ylang, neroli orange and lavender and introduced into the mix; and finished with a sprinkling of sparkling petitgrain.

Who wears it? Famously, Ian Fleming would splash on this scent; leading to many Bond devotees believing that it was also 007’s fragrance of choice. Outside of fictional superspies, Cary Grant and Alec Guinness also relied on this Floris offering.

Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet

When was it first spritzed? In 1902, by Walter Penhaligon, who inherited the storied British perfume house from his father, William Henry. Walter created Blenheim Bouquet for the 9th Duke of Marlborough, Charles Spencer-Churchill.

What does it smell like? It opens with a fresh burst of fragrance; lemons, limes and lavender. Behind this punch-packing posy comes the warming spice of black pepper, before a lingering finish of pine and musk keeps the scent singing from morning to night.

Who wears it? The Duke of Marlborough set a stellar example – and Blenheim Bouquet has been adopted as a fragrance of choice by many high-ranking royals and politicians over the years; from Winston Churchill to Prince William.

The most iconic men’s fragrances ever created

Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet

£115.00

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Terre d'Hermès

When was it first spritzed? Over a century after the Penhaligon’s scent above; but that doesn’t make it any less of a classic. Formulated by in-house perfumier Jean-Claude Ellena, the French fashion house launched Terre d’Hermès in 2006.

What does it smell like? Spices and woods. From pepper and patchouli to cedar and vetiver, there’s a musky quality to this one that lives up to its earthy name. And, topping off the piquant profile, are zesty scents of orange and grapefruit.

Who wears it? While masculine icons, such as Robert Redford, have been known to spritz on Hermès fragrances, there remains to be a celebrity or superstar to choose this specific, iconic offering as their aftershave of choice. So maybe it’s time you made it your signature scent?

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