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31 Days

Day 19

Customize Your Own Cologne

Words by Cory Ohlendorf

Man spraying custome cologne illustration

Style is an innately personal thing. But scent is even more intimate. And what constitutes a “good” or “bad” aroma differs wildly, depending on the person. Perhaps that's why there are so many options these days. Not only has the number of colognes available for men exploded in recent years, but a new generation of indie boutique brands has entered the fray—offering everything from marijuana-infused scents to fragrances inspired by tennis balls or the night markets of Mumbai.

Man spraying custome cologne illustration

But what if you want something truly unique? Something that will ensure that no one else smells like you? For me, there's no greater compliment than being told “you smell really good.” Why? Because it's intimate, it speaks to your personal taste and it's almost always an honest reaction from both strangers and loved ones alike. Fragrance has the power to be an invisible emblem of your personal style, and it influences how people see and remember you.

Want an authentic signature scent? You can't rely on the popular bottles being sold at the cologne counter. You'll have to blend your own custom fragrance. Think about it. A genuine bespoke scent that's full of all the scent notes that you love (and none of the ones you don't). Not only will it result in a one-of-a-kind scent, but the process of developing your new personal fragrance will be an experience of self-discovery. And it's not as difficult as you might think. There are options out there. It all depends on how involved you want to get and how deep down the olfactory rabbit hole you want to go.

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The Simplest Route

Saratoga Botanicals Custom cologne

Custom cologne,
$47.99 by Saratoga Botanicals

Botanicals Spa in Saratoga Springs, New York has a reputation for its natural, holistic products used in all the spa's treatments. They offer a custom cologne program using only organic fruit alcohol along with botanical hydrosols and essential oils to create a unique fragrance. And the whole process can be done online. They walk you through the steps of choosing a top, middle and base note while adding in a dash of dried florals, fruits and minerals to round out the scent. This is, of course, best for those who understand which scents they respond to because there's no way to sample or smell your blend before it gets bottled and shipped to you.

Saratoga Botanicals Custom cologne

Custom cologne,
$47.99 by Saratoga Botanicals

The Custom Kit

Olfactory NYC Personalized cologne

Personalized cologne,
$85 by Olfactory NYC

Olfactory is a fragrance workshop with locations around New York and Boston with a staff of “scentologists” on-site to help educate you about the anatomy of fragrance and how to build a rich, lasting cologne. But you can also go through the same process through kits shipped to your home, with virtual check-ins to assist you along the way. They send out an initial “Explorer Box” containing samples of their core fragrances. From those, you'll pick the one you respond to the most, which will serve as the base scent of your custom cologne. They'll then send out a “Tinkerer Box” with variations blended with “accords” to take the scent in various directions. If you like one, you can then order the full-size bottle (or continue to experiment with another set of variations until you find one that works for you.)

Olfactory NYC Personalized cologne

Personalized cologne,
$85 by Olfactory NYC

Blend It Yourself

Segbeauty Refillable cologne atomizer kit

Refillable cologne atomizer kit,
$14.99 by Segbeauty

Matthew Milèo, the chemist and founder of oud-infused skincare line, Milèo New York, says all you really need to blend your own cologne are essential oils, a little alcohol, some water, glycerin and a fancy spray bottle that you wouldn't mind seeing on top of your dresser. Start by selecting essential oils as the primary building blocks of your top, middle and base notes. Milèo says the best way to guarantee a scent you'll love is to follow the basic pyramid accord, which is 60% of base notes, 30% middle notes and 10% top notes.

Once you find the blend that you like, add two ounces of rubbing alcohol (crucial for stabilizing the fragrance and aiding in its dispersion). Shake it up to blend and let that marinate for at least 48 hours. Then you're ready to distill it into a sprayable fragrance. Add two tablespoons of distilled water and then four or five drops of glycerin (which you can get at supermarkets or drugstores), which adds longevity to your formula, and helps the cologne stick to your skin. Give it a good shake to blend and then decant it into your atomizer bottle. Allow your custom cologne to mature for a few weeks in a cool, dark place. This process allows the different components to meld together, resulting in a harmonious and well-blended fragrance. Remember that you can adjust the alcohol content based on your preference for a stronger or milder scent.

Segbeauty Refillable cologne atomizer kit

Refillable cologne atomizer kit,
$14.99 by Segbeauty

Do Colognes Expire?

Anchorman movie line animation: smells like pure gasoline

The composition of a scent might change over time. This is why it is recommended to use your fragrance within three to five years.

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