Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weil Zibeline Secret de Venus Oil

One of my customers living overseas and I have become online buddies over the years we've been posting on a perfume board, and she keeps suggesting wonderful things to try. Weil Zibeline Secret de Venus Bath and Body Perfume Oil was one of those suggestions, and I'm really glad to have some on hand (literally) to test. Weil Zibeline perfume was created in 1928. I have two versions here: the original Zibeline in Parfum de Toilette (EDP), and the much-sought after perfumed bath oil called Weil Zibeline Secret de Venus. I'd read that the trend in wearing bath oil began with the popularity of Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953) when most women could not afford perfume but could buy bath oil, but it seems the Zibeline oil launched in 1941, 12 years prior to Youth Dew. Zibeline seems related in scent to Youth Dew in that both are very rich, spicy perfumes, potent in these bath oil formulations, but Scentzilla! has written that Zibeline is a Floral Chypre "intended to recall the steppes and massive oak forests of Imperial Russia". While the vintage Zibeline EDP starts out mellower and nicer than the sharply spicy, almost sour start of the oil, surprise, surprise: the oil dries down to a much sweeter, rounder, high quality parfum strength finish (and a tiny drop is all that's needed to permeate a room). The dry downs of both versions are similar in scent--sweet, spicy, balsamic and animalic, but the oil seems to me the better formula if one were to actually buy. From what I understand, this oil is a somewhat (or, rather, very) rare and coveted item.

My impression of this parfum fourrure (fur perfume) named Zibeline ("sable"), is that it resembles one gorgeous perfume oil sample I once received from another perfume friend of mine, called Enigma by Alexandra de Markoff (1979). I can only describe this potent potion as a very rich and deep mixture of the spicy-sweet-balsamic classic Oriental with green-woodsy-herbaceous Chypre-animalic undertones. It was intense, heavy, perfumey stuff, and I loved every drop of it while the vial lasted. Actually, I think of Secret de Venus oil as less Chypre and more classic Oriental, with its delicious ambery base. It also reminds me of Must de Cartier (1981) which was inspired by the most classic Oriental perfume of all, Guerlain Shalimar (1925). Maybe the fur perfume was meant to cover the scent of cigarette smoke that the women had just started experimenting with like the men during the liberal, roaring twenties. Caron Tabac Blond (1919) was such a perfume for women. This oil seems potent and rich-smelling enough to mask such an odor reasonably well. Of course the fur perfume not only smells as rich as endangered fur itself, it's known to have been made specifically to scent furs back when furs were actually popular (The Scented Salamander explains the Weil fur perfumes here). Now, try this on for size: What if the fur perfume was made to cover the smell of tobacco smoke imbedded in the fur? Would that further explain the Leather-Tobacco fragrance family?

Honey is a listed note which leads me to believe it has an abstract leather accord supporting the composition, giving it the animalic "sable" feel. I like this Chypre-Oriental type of fur perfume better than some of the harsher Chypre or Leather-Tobacco ones personally, but then it's hard for me to imagine wanting to smell like the leather that the rich, with their practice of wearing leather gloves to protect their delicate hands, were trying their best to tolerate by masking their obnoxious odors with beautiful and extravagant materials: floral oils such as jasmine and rose essences, high quality ambers (ambergris is nobler than labdanum) and natural sandalwood. I'd much rather have the beautiful, sweet-smelling essences without so much of the leathery part replicated by modern science or lesser, significantly inexpensive materials. It's amusing to me how the scents that aren't the more expensive and rare materials are now associated with and marketed as the "smell of the rich" by the industry, but appreciation of modern perfumery goes hand-in-hand with technological breakthroughs such as the creation of new materials, and the scent associations people want in their perfume play a large role. As for the smell of fur itself, I can appreciate it as a thoroughly retro concept for a brief and enchanted walk back in time, but I'm not in a hurry to buy this vintage remake of the flapper era gem while I have access to Guerlain Cuir Beluga, Must de Cartier and in a pinch, Calvin Klein Obsession (1985) in parfum strength.

(Edited to add) I'm wearing it again tonight and finding it quite addictive...and actually, the dry down is a bit cooler and more smooth "sable" rather than the ambery warmth of either Must or Obsession, and more balsamic-foresty than the vanillic Cuir Beluga. Still, this Floral Chypre is a delicious one--intoxicating and fit for Venus, indeed. (Edited) I'm getting a Molinard Habanita (1921) vibe from it now; this is definitely a leather blend.