best ulta cologne guide

Best Ulta Cologne Guide: The 16 Best Ulta Colognes to Add to Your To-Sniff List

My husband and I have very different approaches to fragrance, which is how I know all about the best Ulta colognes. He’ll go in, sniff a few, and spray some of his favorites on paper strips. Then he’ll decide based on what he and I like (he always includes me since my sensitive nose will notice his cologne even more than he will). He has three, at most, in his rotation at one time.

I, on the other hand, obsess about fragrances. I read up on the notes, and I sniff and compare them to ones I think are similar. I might order a sample vial online or spritz it on my wrist in the store a few times over several weeks.  Other times, I’ll make a snap decision and buy it (usually in a travel size in this case). I know what I like and have a general idea of what to expect from colognes sold at Ulta.

It’s easier to shop that way at Ulta than online or some other stores because you’re generally left to browse and sniff to your heart’s content. You can also try them on paper strips or your skin before you buy a bottle. Ulta employees are always ready to help, in my experience, but I feel relieved that they don’t hover as much as some others. I just want to get in the zone and find a fragrance gem.

I’ve been married for almost 20 years, so I have had a lot of time to help my husband choose colognes. Some fragrances have been in his collection for years, while others have been replaced.

The Quick List: What to Sniff on Your Next Ulta Trip

  • Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme Eau de Parfum: Best “blue” cologne that effortlessly combines freshness and warmth for a well-rounded, year-round fragrance
  • Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men: The “everything” scent that’s cozy and sexy, with the comfort of a tobacco note, the zing of ginger and grapefruit, and the warmth of amber.
  • Tom Ford Ombré Leather Eau de Parfum: Best for when you want to feel rich and sophisticated 
  • Ralph Lauren Polo Red Eau de Toilette: Best upbeat, masculine, and youthful scent (plus coffee is one of its notes!)
  • Paco Rabanne 1 Million Eau de Toilette: Best at being spicy and cool at the same time and has the projection and sillage to grab attention
  • Ralph Lauren Ralph’s Club Eau de Parfum: Best aromatic woody cologne (with a really nice bottle!)
  • Gucci Guilty Parfum Pour Homme: Best if you love a complex fragrance that you can enjoy without worrying about it taking over the room
  • Clinique Happy for Men Cologne Spray: Best joyful, uplifting scent and one that won’t make you smell like everyone else
  • Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette: The sexiest peppery fragrance that will turn heads
  • Armani Acqua di Gio: Best classic, aquatic-with-some-depth cologne
  • Versace Eros: The best sexy fragrance with unexpected, balanced vanilla
  • Chanel Platinum Égoïste: Best one that leans green but still has comforting herbs and warmth that makes it smell inviting
  • Dior Homme Eau de Toilette: The best everyday scent that’s sexy enough for date nights.
  • Chanel Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum Spray: Best fresh, straight-from-the-shower scent
  • Burberry Brit for Men Eau de Toilette: The best warm, sexy, safe fragrance that other people will definitely notice, thanks to its excellent projection
  • Tom Ford Black Orchid: The best “unusual” scent with unconventional notes (I love this unisex fragrance and have it in my own collection)

The 16 Best Ulta Colognes to Sample

Here are some of the must-try colognes I’ve found at Ulta, in no particular order. But for fun, let’s see if you can figure out which one is at the very top of my list. 

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme Eau de Parfum

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme Eau de Parfum

I’ve had the women’s version of Light Blue for quite a while, and it’s one of the few perfumes I’ve almost used up. It’s just light and fresh, with a bit of musk. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme is the same way. Because it’s the intense version, it’ll project and last better than my original Light Blue.

Notes include (different from the perfume but in a similar vein): grapefruit, mandarin, pink pepper, sea salt, juniper, rosemary, musks, guaiac wood, amber wood

Pros

  • Decent longevity and sillage (thanks to that “Intense” part of the name).
  • It’s relatively inexpensive. Not cheap by any means, but $78.00 for 1.6 oz or $98.00 for 3.3 oz seems like a bargain compared to many fragrances.
  • It’s fresh and joyful, so perfect for spring and summer.

Cons

  • It seems to be a polarizing scent–either you love it for its freshness, or you think it smells like boiled eggs. I used to pick up what people were talking about in the original Dolce & Gabbana but always thought of it as “wet noodles.” No one else smelled that on me, and eventually, I stopped smelling it, too. For those who don’t get any funkiness when it dries down on their skin, it’s a gorgeous, energetic, aquatic fragrance with hints of musk and amber wood.
  • Unless you’re okay with going back to return it, it’s not safe to buy without trying it first.

Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men

Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men

Here’s another one my husband used up, and I’m thinking about getting him another bottle when he needs one (after Chanel Bleu). I feel like the solid, angular bottle with woods and the visible, amber shade of cologne itself do a good job summarizing the scent. 

Notes include: Grapefruit, coriander, basil, cardamom, ginger, orange blossom, cedarwood, amber, and tobacco. It’s sexy and cozy at the same time.

Pros

  • Can we just stop a minute and admire that smoky-looking, understated bottle (especially the Eau de Parfum version)? If it doesn’t scream “sophisticated man,” I don’t know what does. I love it.
  • It’s aromatic and grounded.
  • It’s balanced–the warmth of the amber, tobacco, and cedar beautifully balances the citrus and herbs.
  • It’s got a touch of sweetness to balance the spice of ginger.
  • It’s reasonably priced.

Cons

  • It will be too sweet and/or spicy if you’re looking for a fresh fragrance.
  • Younger men may not like this one as much as others.

Tom Ford Ombré Leather Eau de Parfum

Tom Ford Ombré Leather Eau de Parfum

Tom Ford can do no wrong in the fragrance world. Well, maybe the pricing–his scents are expensive, and I never buy them without sampling several times if I can find a way to test them. This is sophistication in a bottle and smells like rich, creamy leather and money.

You’ll catch whiffs of leather, violets, jasmine sambac, patchouli, vetiver, amber, and moss here, for a perfectly balanced scent.

Pros

  • Excellent longevity (typical of Tom Ford fragrances)
  • Great projection and sillage.
  • Smells how you’d expect, based on the name–like leather, but with hints of cardamom and sweetness (most likely the jasmine sambac).

Cons

  • It’s pricy.
  • The sillage and projection may be a bit much in some instances. You’ll probably want to give it a test drive to see how it performs before you wear it to work.
  • If you don’t enjoy the scent of leather or think you can’t pull it off, this isn’t the one for you.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Eau de Toilette

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Eau de Toilette

The Ralph Lauren Polo line is a classic for a reason, and Red is the one for a dynamic personality. It’s fresher and brighter than many of the colognes on this list, but it’s grounded by woods, vetiver, and vanilla. It’s almost spicy with a bit of sweetness, but it comes nowhere close to cloying (in fact, quite the opposite!).

Notes include: Lemon, bergamot, red grapefruit, juniper, red saffron, clary sage, lavender, cedarwood, vetiver, and vanilla. 

Pros

  • It’s upbeat and masculine.
  • There’s a coffee note. What’s not to love? (Seriously, I adore fragrance coffee notes because they add a sense of home and comfort without veering too far into the sweet territory. They also play nicely off woodsy notes.)
  • It can be worn all year, anywhere, anytime (but best in the winter).

Cons

  • Not the best projection or sillage.
  • Not the longest-lasting option, by far
  • Some will consider it too synthetic and/or youthful

Paco Rabanne 1 Million Eau de Toilette

Paco Rabanne 1 Million Eau de Toilette

This one ended up on my radar when my mom and stepdad fell in love with it. I would’ve passed it over because of the shiny gold packaging (there’s nothing wrong with it, but I wouldn’t have been intrigued enough to try it on my own).

The notes are: blood mandarin, peppermint, rose absolute, cinnamon, leather, and amberketal.

It’s spicy and cool simultaneously, which is quite the feat. It’s perfect for the cooler months, thanks to the blend of citrus and cinnamon.

Pros

  • It’s a good cologne for a night out.
  • It’s powerful.
  • It’s not your average men’s fragrance–it’s spicier and sweeter, less clean and fresh.

Cons

  • It can be overpowering in some settings and warmer months.
  • This might be too much for you if you don’t like sweet scents.

Ralph Lauren Ralph’s Club Eau de Parfum

Ralph Lauren Ralph's Club Eau de Parfum

Now, this is a bottle that would draw me in. It’s all gunmetal and black, simply styled, and it has “Ralph” on it, which means there’s a good chance I’ll like it. Because I love aromatic woody colognes that have a little something extra going on, this one is a winner.

Notes include: Lavandin, clary sage, Virginia cedarwood, and vetiver.

Pros

  • You can get it in four sizes, from 1.7 oz ($65.00) to 5.1 oz ($149.00).
  • The sleek bottle will look good on the counter and offers more protection from sunlight than a clear bottle (but you still shouldn’t store it anywhere it’s exposed to sunlight or heat).
  • The herbs and woods are a comforting, sophisticated blend that’s still more masculine than unisex.
  • It’s sensual and not your typical “blue” scent for men.
  • Good projection
  • I like the hinge cap here. It reminds me of Ralph Lauren’s Woman perfume, and I love the bottle design of that one, too. It’s so satisfying to open and close it.

Cons

  • A little generic. 
  • Doesn’t last all day.

Gucci Guilty Parfum Pour Homme

Gucci Guilty Parfum Pour Homme

I am a sucker for anything Gucci Guilty. It’s technically another woody aromatic cologne, my favorite category for men’s fragrances. A lot is going on, but somehow it works. But who wouldn’t love this collection of notes: lavender, lemon, juniper, Spanish cistus, orange flower, nutmeg, patchouli, and musk?

It’s almost as complex as the original Gucci Guilty for women, which I also love.

Pros

  • Love the sleek, sexy bottle. It’s all black except for some of the text. 
  • It’s complex, so there’s never a dull moment as you wear it.
  • It’s a quiet, close-to-the-skin fragrance, so you can wear it to work without bothering anyone.

Cons

  • Argh, I hate how expensive it is–$133.00 for the smallest bottle (1.6 oz).
  • Sadly, it doesn’t last that long, so the journey through the notes doesn’t last that long, either.
  • It might be a little patchouli-heavy for some (not a problem to my nose, but I tend to gravitate toward fragrances with patchouli).

Clinique Happy for Men Cologne Spray

Clinique Happy for Men Cologne Spray

This one’s overlooked a lot, probably because Clinique fragrances get lumped in with makeup and isn’t even on most men’s radars. Or women’s radars when they’re shopping for men. However, this is a little gem if you’re looking for a zesty, uplifting citrusy scent.

I’ve worn the perfume version off and on since around 1998, and it always boosts my mood. The men’s version has the same kind of vibe and effect.

Notes include: lime, mandarin, lemon, freesia, jasmine, sea notes, cypress, musk, guaiac wood, and cedar. 

Pros

  • Smelling it is like getting a delicious hug from someone who always manages to lift your spirits.
  • It can make you happier, as the name suggests (it’s all that citrus).
  • It’s fresh and masculine, but the floral notes and woods give it sweetness and warmth. It makes an excellent everyday scent.

Cons

  • It’s not expensive if you compare it to other fragrances. Still, it’s surprisingly pricy compared to my expectations–the 3.4 oz bottle is $82.00.
  • The projection and sillage aren’t great, and it’ll barely be detectable in cold weather. 

Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette

Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette

This is a sexy, exciting, and masculine fragrance I knew I was destined to love as soon as I saw pepper and lavender in the notes. Plus patchouli. And cedar. The official list of notes includes: Bergamot, pepper, and amber wood, but there’s obviously more going on here than that list suggests. 

Pros

  • It’s the ultimate fresh, clean, masculine scent.
  • It’s peppery and warm at the same time.
  • Excellent longevity (all day), projection, and sillage. People will notice you when you wear it.
  • It’s complex; there are a lot of notes that play tug-of-war with each other, and it keeps it interesting.

Cons

  • It’s probably overdone, so you might find that you smell like everyone else.
  • It’s easy to overdo it (see the note on its projection and sillage).

Armani Acqua di Gio

Armani Acqua di Gio

This one’s been a hit for a long time. I remember hearing the shuttle bus driver complimenting a guy on his fragrance when he got on the bus (great projection!) back in the early 2000s. He said it was Acqua di Gio.

It’s a fresh, aquatic fragrance with an herby, earthy base. 

Notes include: Calabrian bergamot, neroli, green tangerine, aquatic notes, rosemary, persimmon, and patchouli.

Pros

  • It’s fresh, youthful, and fun.
  • Decent longevity and projection. 
  • Though it definitely leans masculine, it works as a unisex scent.
  • It comes across as a spring and summer scent at first, but the patchouli, woods, musk, and amber ground it just enough to make it work year-round.

Cons

  • The longevity is only decent. That means it’s probably not making it all day.
  • It’s been around for decades, and it’s been a go-to for so many guys (and some girls); you might want something newer and less ubiquitous.

Versace Eros

Versace Eros

Ah, a woody oriental fragrance with a smidge of freshness. No wonder it’s named Eros. It’s seductive and sensual, sexy and strong, a smooth and inviting head-turner. Versace Eros is one for date nights and exotic vacations, not the office or the drudgery of errands. It’s best on cooler days and at night.

Pros

  • Good longevity and sillage.
  • Vanilla doesn’t seem as common in men’s colognes as it is in women’s perfumes, so this is a welcome change from the norm.
  • The vanilla’s not overly sweet; it’s tempered with mint, lemon zest, and green apple.

Cons

  • It’s been flying off the shelves for a while, so you risk smelling like a lot of other guys.
  • I’d prefer a more straightforward bottle; this one looks a little tacky, even though I love the turquoise color. (This comes from someone with perfume in a bottle that looks like a shoe, so take that with the grain of salt it deserves.)
  • The vanilla might make it too sweet for some people’s tastes.

Chanel Platinum Égoïste

Chanel Platinum Égoïste

This is the most recent fragrance addition to my husband’s cologne collection. It’s greener than most of the others but still considered a woody fragrance. I like it because it’s fresh and invigorating without using orange, lemon, or lime notes.

There’s still warmth from the geranium (which also gives off a citrus scent) and amber. Paired with that, the lavender, rosemary, and sage give off the vibe that this is a dependable, down-to-earth, thoughtful person.

Notes include: lavender, rosemary, petitgrain, clary sage, geranium, and amber.

Pros

  • Complexity
  • Not too sweet or too sharp–it’s balanced
  • It smells sophisticated but not snobby.
  • It’s modern but timeless, destined to be a classic.
  • I can’t get over how much I love the lavender, sage, and rosemary here. They’re fresh and inviting.

Cons

  • You don’t save much by going for the smaller bottle, so there’s no inexpensive option. It’s $90.00 for 1.7 oz and $110.00 for 3.4 oz. 
  • There’s nothing special about the bottle, so if you like your fragrances on display, this one’s going to be a little on the “meh” side. 

Dior Homme Eau de Toilette

Dior Homme Eau de Toilette

My husband finished his bottle of this and said he wouldn’t mind another one for Christmas. We liked it so much that I bought him the five-ounce bottle. It’s warm, woody, and comforting, but it’s a little sexy, too. It’s well-rounded enough to be suitable for date nights or everyday wear.

Its notes are: Atlas cedar, patchouli, and vetiver. 

Pros

  • This one makes me feel safe and secure because it’s cozy and comforting. However, it’s still got a sensual side, and it’s definitely masculine. It’s the ultimate “well-rounded, secure, quietly sexy man” fragrance. 
  • It’s good all year, any time in any setting.
  • It’s noticeable but not overpowering.

Cons

  • Projection is average (kind of a good thing, depending on what you compare to).
  • Average staying power–almost all day.

Chanel Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum Spray

Chanel Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum Spray

This is already in our to-buy queue. We both like it a lot; my husband has sampled it a few times. Think sexy shower gel, but in the best possible way. It’s classy, as you’d expect from a Chanel fragrance.

Notes: Citrus, amber, cedar, Tonka bean, vanilla, sandalwood (I feel like you can smell this just by reading the list–so warm and sensual!). 

Pros

  • The blend of warm woods and citrus give it the perfect balance for an everyday fragrance.
  • You could just about buy this without smelling it first and feel pretty good about it. (I don’t recommend that for any fragrance unless you don’t really have a chance to try it in the store first, though.)
  • It’s crisp without being sharp.

Cons

  • It doesn’t last as long as I’d like it to (the Eau de Parfum performs better than the Eau de Toilette, and it’ll wear differently on everyone, though).
  • I hate the idea of paying $130.00 for a fragrance bottle, and that’s just the 1.7 oz bottle.

Burberry Brit for Men Eau de Toilette

Burberry Brit for Men Eau de Toilette

Warm, sensual, cozy, comforting, secure…this scent has it all. It’s one of the top three or four picks of all time in my husband’s collection, and he’ll probably replace his current bottle when it runs out. I have Burberry Brit for Her and love its warmth, too.

Its notes include: Mandarin, bergamot, cardamom, orris, ginger, nutmeg, rose, and woods.

Pros

  • Excellent projection. This is the one I will almost always compliment my husband on–because I can smell it. I love his other colognes, too, but they don’t always make themselves known as well as this one.
  • It smells warm, sexy, and safe.

Cons

  • Being in the car with someone wearing this can be overwhelming if you have a headache or are on the verge of one.
  • Give your guy a hug, and you’re likely to find that his cologne has rubbed off on you and overpowered your perfume. It doesn’t last when it does that, but it can be annoying.

Tom Ford Black Orchid

Tom Ford Black Orchid

I almost didn’t include this one because I think of it as more of a perfume (I believe it’s considered one, though it’s unisex). I wear it and adore it. It’s one of the few fragrances in my life that almost achieved signature scent status (I just can’t commit!) because I was pretty darn obsessed with it for a long time.

It’s so unusual, thanks to its notes: black orchid, black truffle, patchouli, jasmine, ylang-ylang, black currant, and citrus.

Pros

  • It’s so unusual, it’s going to stand out even though it’s not new to the fragrance scene.
  • It’s unisex.
  • It lasts and lasts.
  • It’s a complex and joyful adventure to smell it and see how it shifts throughout the day.
  • The bottle is sleek and gorgeous but also easy to grip and spray.
  • It’s everything–sweet, spicy, warm, woody, rich, and earthy.

Cons

  • The price
  • Some people will definitely think it’s too weird to wear.
  • Some guys may not want to wear it because it was initially made for women.

How I Chose the Best Colognes for the List

Colognes fit into several families, just like perfumes. Though I prefer the woody fragrances (there are definitely quite a few on the list!), I also went outside my list of personal favorites. I chose spicy, citrusy, and fresh fragrances that smell wonderful, even though they’re not what I’d buy my husband.

I wanted to choose colognes for any personality, lifestyle, or occasion. There are sexy, everyday, fresh, energetic, bold, and comforting fragrances here.

I also considered longevity, sillage, and projection. More isn’t always better, but sometimes it’s a plus. I factored in where and when the colognes were likely to be worn. An everyday cologne doesn’t need to have the same intensity as one worn on special evenings out, for example. 

FAQs

Question: What are the 10 most popular colognes?

Answer: CNN lists them all out, but the ones you can buy at Ulta include Chanel Bleu de Chanel, Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Pour Homme, Dior Sauvage, Versace Eros, Paco Rabanne 1 Million, Versace Dylan Blue, YSL La Nuit de L’Homme, Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb, Tom Ford Black Orchid, and Versace Pour Homme.

Question: What cologne gets the most compliments?

Answer: WWD seems to think it’s Gucci Guilty Pour Homme Perfume

Question: Where do you spray cologne?

Answer: The short answer: Your skin. Apply it to pulse points, like your neck, inner elbow, or wrist. Some people spray cologne on their chests. Just skip spraying it directly on your clothing. I’ve had perfume stain and discolor fabrics.

Question: Should I wear the same cologne every day?

Answer: There’s no reason you can’t! Everyone has a different approach to cologne. If you’d like one scent to wear all the time, that’s completely okay. Some people have a few in rotation for different moods and occasions, while others have a dozen or more. Some prefer to just have one and then replace it or choose a new one when that one runs out.

Best Ulta Cologne Guide: Final Thoughts

You probably guessed it as soon as I said I bought my husband’s jumbo bottle of Dior Homme, but that’s the one I would recommend if I could only choose one. That said, you’re not limited to my number one choice, so think about how you want to feel or how you want other people to perceive you as you choose your cologne.

If you’re energetic, athletic, and always on the go, you may want a brighter, citrusy scent or one that says “clean” more than “cozy.” Suppose you are looking for a dependable, long-lasting everyday scent with a reasonable projection that’s a little cozy and even a bit sexy. In that case, I’d recommend Dior Homme with Chanel Platinum Égoïste in second place.

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