Friday, March 11, 2016

Weil Zibeline And Secret de Venus (Vintage Perfume)

It seems that no two bottles of Zibeline by Weil, or its sister, Secret de Venus body & bath oil, smell exactly alike. I have two of each, mostly from the 1960s, and that's definitely case. They are all good, rich, fascinating, and dirty in the best possible way. Some are slightly more floral, while in others the sweet beast of civet is dominant. I love them with equal parts passion and shame, since I can't ignore the basic fact that Weil is not just Parfums Weil but first and foremost Fourrures Weil, and Zibeline has started its long career as a product to scent sable coats. I don't do furs, so why do I love Zibeline so much? 

The answer is in the skank and all that surrounds it. 

Assorted Weil ads from 1928 to 1948

I've long believed that the main justification for muguet is when it accompanies civet. Zibeline, and even more so Secret de Venus oil, offer a glorious and lush floral bouquet surrounded by leaves and stems, which acts as a canopy above an equally thick base of civet and musk. The depth of the composition in all its forms captures my imagination as much as it dazzles the senses. Fifty years after these bottles were produced (I can only try to imagine what Zibeline in its truly original form from the late 1920s and 1930s was like) they are crawling with life like a jungle at nighttime. Flora and fauna surround you from all directions,  pawing gently, not clawing at you, but dangerous nevertheless. 

Zibeline more than Secret de Venus also has a honey-steeped wood in its core. Honey notes at their best are as animalic as civet can be. The sweetness of both presents a temptation, an illicit warmth that you're not sure you want to know where exactly it's been before it engulfed your skin with so much care and softness. Secret de Venus, at least the bottles I have, feels cleaner at first, thanks to more greenery, a spicy and crisp peppery carnation that jolts you awake. It is a fantastic after-bath treat, and it layers beautifully with Zibeline, probably adding to the more vintage perfume a touch of the top notes it had lost over the decades.

Both Zibeline and Secret de Venus have a long and convoluted history. I first read about them on The Scented Salamander back in 2006, which started my quest for vintage Parfums Weil. Elena from Perfume Shrine added more information about Weil's history, and Angela's review on NST of both Zibeline and Secret de Venus has perfectly nailed both. I'm with her: I wish I could travel back in time and hoard gallons of this stuff.

Photo by Virginia Thoren, 1960. Coat by Fourrures Weil, crocodile handbag by Hermès,


  1. Oh, how I love these perfumes. Have somewhat obsessively stockpiled them and, you're right, they do tend to differ from bottle to bottle (but I think Lanvin's My Sin and Rumeur take the cake for me on variability). And the fur aspect - I have worked very, very hard at blocking this from my mind. I initially invented a story for myself that some renegade member of the family who wanted to get out of the fur business created these as a means of offering something even more luxuriously textured than furs for a woman to wear all through the year....OK...yes, it was a major stretch, but I really can't resist Zibeline or Cassandra in particular (and Noir, but Petula, one of our feline children, broke both of my bottles of it - which I refuse to take as some sort of unfortunate sign). If the words "sumptuous" and "glorious" had not previously existed, I'm sure they would have been brought into the lexicon just to describe Zibeline. Oh, and "decadent" as well.

  2. The only thing better than vintage perfume is the way you write about it! The only Weil I've ever tried was Weil de Weil. I'm off to follow your links to learn more.

  3. Oh, it delights me to see that you love the scent, too! It was my mother's favorite, Zibeline and Antelope, both by Weil. She'd get the bath oil and wear that as perfume. I treated myself to it in the '70s and am sorry I didn't get extra! All gone now! Enjoy your cache!

  4. Gaia,
    I'll be happy to join you in time travel. There are so many perfumes I wish I'd had the good sense to hoard when I was a perfume sales associate back in the day. Vintage Chanel No 22 extrait, Lancome Kypre, Jacques Fathe Iris Gris, you get my drift.... I love how older perfumes had a perfect balance of florals with civet or oakmoss, just enough to provide a little intrigue.


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