Let’s face the facts—as much as you love your weekly or even nightly fix of that smooth scotch, you probably don’t want to walk around smelling like the inside of a bar. And good luck explaining to aunty Karen that the distinct scent that you’re sporting is just your latest perfume, and not a walking plea for a call to AA.
However, while whiskey might not smell so great when it’s raining fire down your throat, or the morning after a night of binge drinking, it sits perfectly at home in colognes! Adding whiskey to cologne is an age-old practice, but not one that many people know the reason behind.
Here’s everything you need to know about the whiskey-cologne connection, as well as the top whiskey-scented colognes to flaunt whenever and wherever.
What Does Whiskey Smell Like?
Turns out that whiskey intoxication capabilities aren’t just limited to the times when you ingest it. If you’ve ever opened up a bottle, you’re no stranger to how the drink’s intoxicating aroma takes over all your senses.
The funny thing is, though most of us can immediately place it if we ever get a whiff of it, describing what exactly whiskey smells like can be quite a challenge! Additionally, the profile of the smell can change quite a bit when it’s mixed with other scents.
At the end of the day, depending on how and where it’s made, used, and what’s infused in it, the smell of whiskey can greatly vary.
Factors such as which grain is used (corn, barley, rye, or wheat), which region the grain is grown in, how many times the whiskey is distilled, whether it’s aged, and how long it’s aged and where (for example, rye and American whiskey are always aged in charred wooden barrels, while other types may be aged in regular barrels) can also cause the aroma and color of the whiskey to vary.
The notes can be anything from spices to oak to dried fruits to fruits to grass to sweet caramel to grain to butter to cream alcohol to chocolate to honey to patchouli, based on these factors!
However, regardless of the specific notes, most people agree that whiskey has a highly sensual, rich, and deep aroma created by several notes coming together, creating a scent that’s quite far away from the smell of a distillery.
Why Add Whiskey to Cologne
Whiskey, as we’ve already established, has an extremely earthy, woody, and unmistakable aroma. This classic drink may have undergone several changes through the centuries in terms of its production and recipe, but its aroma remains as distinct as ever.
Cologne is typically used to enhance your natural scent or cover any unsavory body order. There’s a wide variety of cologne available in the market, from the timeless eau de toilette to coffee-and-cocoa-infused variants.
Cologne is meant to have a strong, distinct scent, which is why it’s made using distilled alcohol and is meant to be diluted before use (generally with water). Adding the strength of whiskey’s heady aroma to the mix makes the cologne that much more powerful, letting it easily enhance or mask other scents.
Additionally, despite its strong scent, whiskey has the wonderful quality of adding character to cologne without modifying the latter’s scent beyond recognition.
It can also make the cologne’s aroma more intense and unique and help it last longer without reapplication (better sillage), while also acting as a diluent to the scented/essential oils (thanks to the ethanol content) added to the cologne.
The fragrance of whiskey also displays certain electrophysiological effects, such as inducing relaxation. Therefore, the versatility and fixative nature of whiskey has long made it a favorable addition to cologne and perfumes.
Typically, about 70% or 80% of whiskey is added to colognes, along with essential oils. However, different brands contain different concentrations—when making your own whiskey-scented cologne (more on this later!), you can test out different concentrations that work for you.
What Do Whiskey-Based Colognes Smell Like?
The smell of whiskey in cologne depends on three factors:
Dominant Flavor of the Whiskey
The scent of your whiskey-based cologne depends on the dominating flavor of the whiskey itself.
For example, a whiskey aged in a charred wood barrel will bring notes of woodiness and smokiness to the cologne. Some brews have dominating flavors of pepper, vanilla, berries, musk, caramel, honey, or mint, and infuse these into the cologne.
Age of the Whiskey
The scent also depends on how 0ld the whiskey is, as the aroma profile evolves with the whiskey’s fermentation and aging. Older whiskeys tend to have more woody and deep scents, while newer ones have light, fresh, and sweet notes.
Quantity of Whiskey Added
How much whiskey you add also matters, with higher quantities leading to a stronger scent of alcohol.
Ultimately, though, there’s no surefire way to pinpoint how exactly whiskey will smell in cologne, but the whiskey’s dominant flavor/type, quantity added, and age should help you wager a pretty good guess when you’re out shopping.
Is Cologne with Whiskey Flammable?
Whiskey is a flammable liquid, and even without whiskey, cologne may be flammable, depending on its ethyl alcohol content.
Since whiskey is quite loaded with ethyl alcohol, adding it to cologne makes it flammable. Because of this, cologne, on the whole, is treated as a flammable hazard or “hazard class 3” in the shipping world.
The Best Whiskey-Infused Cologne for Men
If you’re convinced about the whiskey cologne connection and want to try one out, here are our top three whiskey-based colognes for men.
Paco Rabanne Invictus Intense Cologne
The Invictus Intense cologne beautifully blends top notes of black pepper and orange blossom with mid notes of laurels and whiskey and bottom notes of ambergris, salt, and amber, leading to an earthy, woody, spicy, and fresh-smelling sillage that lingers for hours with just a single spray.
An excellent option for outdoor wear, the cologne looks as powerful as it is, housed within a trophy-inspired glass bottle. Choose this if you’re looking for an earthy, fresh, intense scent.
The CH Prive eau de toilette from the stables of Carolina Herrera, one of the world’s most renowned fashion houses, layers notes of black leather with whiskey’s explosiveness. This results in a seamless blend with a luxurious, warm, exciting aroma containing a subtle waft of whiskey.
The spray’s base notes enhance the smell of whiskey and include benzoin, tonka bean, and leather, while its top notes of pomelo, whiskey, and grapefruit give way to sage, frozen lavender, cardamom, and red thyme.
Wear this if you’re looking for a sophisticated, understated, and smooth scent signature. However, the fragrance lasts only up to five hours (or lesser, depending on your activities).
Gentleman by Givenchy
This luxurious, warm fragrance was launched as long ago as 1975 by Givenchy—the fact that it’s still manufactured and sold is a testament to its timeless popularity.
“Gentleman” blends earthy notes of iris, wood, and vanilla with whiskey, leading to an elegant product. The top notes include spice, while the lower notes include leather and rose. However, this sophisticated scent can be quite a pricey investment.
Wear this if you’re looking for an all-rounder fragrance that’s as grounded as it is heady.
Homemade Whiskey Cologne Alternatives
If you (understandably) don’t want to invest in a new, expensive spray, you can simply add whiskey to your favorite cologne at home or even better, make a whiskey-based cologne yourself!
Whichever one you opt for, start by testing how much whiskey you want to add to the cologne.
To do this, you can spray different ratios of whiskey and cologne on several tissues, or mix different ratios of the two liquids in various glasses, and do a smell test to see which combination works best. Make sure you label the tissues/glasses to know which formula is “the one”.
Once this is done, you can move on to adding whiskey to your cologne or making your own.
Additionally, make sure you put much thought and research into the whiskey and fragrance combinations, as some scents complement each other better than others. You’ll have to pick out top, base, and mid notes, so you may want to experiment a bit before settling on your final ingredients.
Adding Whiskey to Your Cologne
To do this, unscrew the cap of your cologne bottle, and if necessary, remove some of the cologne with a syringe to make room for the whiskey. Don’t throw this away! You can put it in another spray bottle and use it, with or without whiskey infused.
Pour out a bit of whiskey into a glass, and then, using a dropper or a clean syringe, add the amount of whiskey you’d decided on to your cologne. Just to be double sure, you can add the whiskey in bits, smelling after each infusion to figure out what scent works best for you.
Replace the cologne bottle’s cap, blend the whiskey by gently turning the bottle side to side, and et voila! Your cologne is ready.
Pro tip—use a pure, highly-concentrated cologne as your base for the best results.
Making Your Own Whiskey-Based Cologne
For this, you’ll need:
- 2 tablespoons of distilled water
- Half an ounce of jojoba or sweet almond oil
- About 6 drops of essential oils (top notes)
- About 4 drops of essential oils (base notes)
- About 10 drops of essential oils (mid notes)
- 2.5 ounces of whiskey
Essential oils for bridge notes are optional.
To make your cologne, mix all your essential oils in a dark spray bottle (the evaporation is slower when the bottle is dark), making sure that you add your jojoba/almond oil first, followed by your base, mid, and top notes.
Then, add the whiskey, give the bottle a gentle shake to blend everything, and let the liquid mature for two to six weeks. The longer the maturity period, the more potent the fragrance.
Once the fragrance has matured sufficiently, dilute it with distilled water and it’s good to go!
For most folks, it’s usually “love at first whiff” with whiskey-infused scents! The simple addition of whiskey to your cologne paves the way for a unique scent that can become your signature, especially if you’re using a homemade alternative.
It may seem unusual, but once you try it, we promise that there’s no looking back—the classic scent of whiskey pairs well with many notes and enhances them, leading to a nuanced, long-lasting fragrance.
If you’re looking to revamp your scent, a whiskey-based cologne is the way to go!