Cheap vetiver. Everyone in the nose knows that vetiver oil isn't an overwhelmingly expensive material. There are vast regions of the tropics and Asia where its essence can be found for the price of a ham sandwich. It's widely considered a healthy botanical, and used in therapeutic formulas. In perfumery it's a secret weapon for brands offering quality products in the toothpaste aisle of your local supermarket.
Born in Italy in the 1990s, Malizia Uomo Vetyver was for many years the country's Brut. In the 2000s it found its niche in North America and attracted male attention on budding wet shaver sites like Badger & Blade. It appeals to aftershave fanatics as a postmodern hairy-chested masculine, and it's shockingly cheap. Mirato wisely extrapolated Vetyver's potential into every possible grooming tier, from aftershaves to deodorants, shampoos and soaps, building customer loyalty on a global scale. But its legacy doesn't stop there.
The dirty secret of pricy niche brands is that they often poach successful downmarket ideas and lift them into the luxury realm using relatively unlimited production budgets. It's reasonable to suspect that this is how we got Frederic Malle's Vetiver Extraordinaire. When you smell Malizia's Vetyver and compare its shimmery spiced-citrus brightness to the pink peppery fizz of VE's opening accord, then trace how both fragrances weave through thickets of soapy woods, you realize that Mirato's $10 drugstore cologne was likely the inspiration (and blueprint) for Malle's $225 perfume. Naturally this raises the question of why anyone would bother to spend so much just for higher note fidelity, when the same general effect can be achieved so cheaply.
It's merely a question of what sparks your imagination. Cheap frags depend entirely on how they smell. Mirato isn't trying to "wow" on an aesthetic level. Its box is neon green, its bottle frosted and plastic-capped. I've seen prettier flasks of corn huskers lotion. The scent within is misrepresented in reviews as being dark and dry, but I consider it crisp and clean. Its soapy citrus top leads to a puff of earthier, elemi-spiced coniferous smoke that drifts like cold musket fire through the reeds. Its smolder goes from dark green to brown as its heart billows into a sublime fermented tobacco leaf (perhaps why many compare Vetyver to Dunhill frags), and I'll go on record saying that Mirato's tobacco note is one of the best budget tobaccos I've smelled - lucid, smooth, rich, yet transparent. Herbal notes flesh out the duskier elements with hints of cilantro, clary sage, caraway, mace, and thyme. The whole package is tied in a pink pepper bow.
The beauty of pink pepper is that it yields fresh floral facets, and in Vetyver it reads as a rosy haze rising from a jade crypt. This cologne smells expensive. I get the Fred Malle connection, with shades of Original Vetiver (in the first thirty seconds), and even some Pino Silvestre when its resinous dry-down arrives. This is the soapy treatment; at this price-point the soapy approach is the easiest, the most practical. Everything is fused into a clean smudge, and picturing it in the shower is not a stretch. Oh, by the way, there's not much in the way of noticeable vetiver here, but that's not a knock. The barest trace of vetiver root surfaces in the base, but calling this a vetiver scent is like calling Kouros a lavender soliflore. Look elsewhere for a reverent framing of this material.
I remember the 1990s as a decade of decadent optimism. Clinton and his sax, dot-com bubbles floating in the air, Shania Twain shaking her stuff on VH1, and powerhouses permeating everyone's houses. Things were probably the same in Italy at the time, and if the neighbor's Fiat reeked of Malizia Uomo Vetyver, I'd be smiling all the way to the Fellini Theater beachside matinee of Il Postino. If you're in the market for a fresh green cologne on the cheap, look no further. (Italian barbershop approved.)