It’s understandable why someone would be shopping for the best cheap cologne. At the same time, “cheap cologne” sounds more like an insult after a bad Tinder date than something you’d actually want to spray on your body. But whatever you call it (inexpensive? affordable?), for those of us paying rent, feeding a family, or still in school, that price tag on fragrance matters a lot.
Fortunately, you don’t need to take out a loan in order to get a great scent. Yes, $100 is still an investment, but you can spend that money intelligently—and judiciously apply the scent, for that matter. (We always err on the conservative side: a single spritz on one wrist, patted on the opposite wrist and on your neck’s pulse points.)
In any case, we say the best cheap cologne usually actually isn’t cheap cologne—It’s smaller bottles of the good stuff. Many of the most reputable brands in the industry have a 1.7-oz. option within this budget. You know, like Dior, Hermès—the heavy hitters! So here are the best fragrances under $100, picked with value in mind. We didn’t want to include any sample-sized vials, though, even if they’re a terrific way to discover new fragrances. Instead, these are all scents that will last you months and months with continued use. If you truly fall in love, then the best way to save money on fragrance is to buy a larger bottle. But if you’re anything like us, it’s hard to fish off even a smaller bottle before moving on to the next thing.
Malin+Goetz “Cannabis” (1.7 oz.)
No, you won’t smell like the parking lot at a Phish concert when you wear this one. (If that’s what you’re after, maybe just smoke a joint?) What you will get with this scent, however, is the mind-clearing, spirit-warming sensation that you may or may not associate with cannabis. Don’t call it a secondhand high, though; it’s more like a background to a relaxing, lazy Sunday.
Dior “Sauvage” (2 oz.)
Moms, partners, and besties take note: Sauvage might take the cake for “easiest fragrance to gift” or “best fragrance for first-time wearers.” It’s universally appealing, and smells tough but soothing with its citrus-woody-ambrous mix.
The Nue Co. “Mind Energy Fragrance” (1.7 oz.)
The Nue Co. sells what it calls “functional fragrance,” using aromatic associations to achieve some end feeling: In Mind Energy’s case, the means to the end are juniper, clary sage, and pink peppercorn with clove. Together, they clear the head while boosting focus as well as alertness in the wearer. Oh, and the spicy-clean scent smells damn good too!
Vacation “Vacation” (1 oz.)
The instant cult-classic, developed by the genius noses behind beloved niche brand Arquiste, blissfully emulates a day at the beach: notes of coconut, banana, and pineapple spring forward, supported by the essence of pool water, sea salt, and swimsuit spandex. It smells out of place at the office, but nothing is more perfect or breezy for a sunny weekend.
Snif collection (1 oz.)
I can recommend many Snif scents, and yet none at all—that’s because the brand purposefully rotates fragrances as part of its promise to keep you smelling fresh. You can subscribe to a try-before-you-buy program, shop their latest offerings, or browse their bestsellers (I’d also get on the waitlist for “Way with Woods” if I were you.) So, in place of a singular Snif product, consider this an endorsement of any and all.
Cartier “Déclaration Haute Fraîcheur” (1.7 oz.)
Cartier’s latest was also a top pick for spring scents, and is the smellable equivalent to seeing the sun for the first time after the doldrums of winter. Try not to crack a smile when you encounter the spicy-citrus cocktail, even if you’re well into summer, or if it’s your 100th encounter with the notes. It’s beautiful.
Hermès “Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vétiver” (1.7 oz.)
Alright, so it’s exactly $100 and not under $100, but considering it’s an eau de parfum, which means it has a higher concentration of perfume oils, it’s already a bargain. And rarely can you use the words “bargain” and “Hermès” in the same sentence.