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Monday, September 18, 2006

Perfume Review: Weil Zibeline

Parfums Weil was established in 1927 by Marcel Weil who about a decade earlier founded Les Fourrures Weil (Weil Furs). Weil’s first perfumes were inspired by furs and were meant to be worn with furs. The names speak for themselves, Zibeline (Sable), Chinchilla, Hermine (Ermine), Une Fleur pour Fourrure (A Flower for Fur)... Parfums Weil has survived the War, having introduced in 1945 the beautiful Antilope. The house has been active in the 1960s, but by 1980s its days of glory seemed to be long past. It has changed ownership several times, having ended up being bought by Interparfums.

The glamorous epoch of furs and outrageous luxury might be over, but lets no allow the beautiful perfumes created then go down into the night so very easily. Zibeline, very much a product of its time, and very much a retro scent, is not any more out of place in today’s life then Lipstick Rose, Mona di Orio Carnation, Teint de Neige or Melodrama, the scents meant to have an old-fashioned, stylized feel and to be evocative of the times past. I find it very easy to wear Zibeline on any, even the most unglamorous of occasions; the scent certainly has a presence and a character but in a quiet, understated, old-money-that-are-never-flaunted sort of way.

The fragrance starts with a fresh and yet candied, powdery citrus accord, which makes me think of lipsticks…if lipsticks were scented with orange blossom instead of roses and violets, that’s how they would smell. As the sweet, slightly spicy powderiness wears off, the iris note becomes more prominent and in a short while it takes over the scent. It is one of the most beautiful iris notes I have encountered, an unusually warm, sweet, expansive note that reminds be of the bright, piquant iris of Orchidee Blanche. This middle stage of Zibeline might be a portrait of Orchidee Blanche’s great grandmother, dressed in furs and pearls and a cloche hat, looking down approvingly at her beautiful descendant from a sepia-tone portrait on the wall. The drydown of Zibeline is balsamic and honeyed, with soft sandalwood and sweet amber and tonka bean, and with a healthy helping of dirtiness supplied by civet. Dark golden-brown, smooth and silky like the most expensive sable manteau, Zibeline is elegant and warm, dressed up and amazingly versatile. It is most certainly worth an effort to find and to get to know before it disappears for good.

Finding it is not impossible. Bottles of Zibeline regularly pop up on eBay. It is also available at Enchante Perfumes in Canada, which is where I got my bottle. It retails there for CAN 45.00-120.00.

An ad for Weil Furs and Manteau de Zibeline by George Barbier are from The photo of the bottle is from


Blogger katiedid said...

Heya you! Love the Weil house. Many of the Weil scents vary heavily depending on the era they were produced in. For example... Zibeline. The Zibeline was produced variously as Secret de Venus Zibeline (early), which was then later turned into just Zibeline. They are employing the same name, kind of, but they are not going to be quite the same in smell. Obviously, there is still a relationship present however. Zibeline also varies slightly as "Zibeline" depending on the era it was released. Later formulations were not so growly animal as earlier ones, nor quite so thick smelling. Generally, it also depends on the formulation. For example the parfum de toilette and eau versions of Zibeline that came out in the later half of the century were not so unabashedly spicy, and in fact relied mcuh more heavily upon florals than upon spice and heavier animalic elements. There's also a slight but distinct butteriness to older versions of Zibeline. The vintage parfume of Zibeline produced around the middle of last century was incredibly spiced, very musky/skanky at the base. Fruity yes, but the sexy skank and spiciness marked it more especially so than any fruity or floral quality. While I could perceive of a slight powder perhaps in older versions, it is really not the first, second, third, etc. word that would come to mind really when describing those previous incarnations of Zibeline. The versions of various Weil scents I have found dated from the 70s and onward are not as aggressive and characteristic as their older versions, though nice.(For the record I do like Interparfums' take on Antilope in edp form, but it is not really quite the same fragrace. But it's acceptably close in a way, even if much more heavily sueded and chamomille-feeling rather than as it was way back when.) I think what I've found through the modern incarnations of old Weil scents is that they can swing wildly between a nice reminder of the ghost that was, to smelling like takes that are alien and just plain wrong... It pains me this house is not more widely loved, so thank you for writing about them. The family tried to maintain the creation of perfumes, with an uncle taking over the house for a brief period, but it was not meant to be I guess... Sigh. Perhaps one day someone with a love for vintage parfums and a company with enough money can reproduce them for us all, all without sacrificing quality while conforming to modern health standards.

11:50 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

Ooops, forgot to mention: it appears to have first been Zibeline, then Secret de Venus Zibeline, then back to plain ol' Zibeline again. (Though super-duper old versions as Zibeline, are like, rarer than... well, crazy rare. I wonder if they only gave those out to preferred customers way back at the turn of the century, as furriers did then... Confusing, no?

11:53 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

And sorry to go off forever about it... I'm sleepy, tired, and Weil has been a house of particular interest to me for a while now... Sorry!

12:03 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Wow- Katie: Great background to a great post. I remember my Mom having an almost empty bottle of Antilope on her dresser and being fascinated by the scent- I'd love the smell this one.

1:30 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Fantastic review! Wonderful image of Orchidee Blanche's great grandmother. :-) Love this scent, although I don't have any idea when my bottle was released (it does have that bow, but, although never opened, the bow is just a tad sad and tired looking). I would *love* to get the Secret de Venus Zibeline after I find a fabulously wealthy sugar daddy in the yellow pages. I had never even heard of Chinchilla or Hermine. Off to scour ebay (or Enchante????) for them.

7:28 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Great job, Marinochka- and poor, weary K...

I've always loved this one, and adored Antilope as well [although these two are night and day].

Another treat is Weil de Weil- I have a bottle of the parfum, and it has a galbanic chypre loveliness to it-need I say more ?

To fools such as we are, that is catnip ...

7:50 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Whoa, what a wealth of information! Thank you! My guess is that the parfum I tried is not the old old version, but perhaps older than parfum de toilette that I have. They smell more or less the same to me and do not possess that spice, heavy animalicness and bitterness you describe. I was very pleased with my bottle, now you made me want to keep buying more. Ugh! :-)The danger with vnitage stuff is, they will all smells somewhat diferent, always, so one has to basically forcefully stop oneself from buying more...but how? :-)

8:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Yep, Zibeline is back on the map :-) How wonderful would it be if it really was carefully anf lovingly brought back...yes, I know, I know, it won't be the same...but it still might be beautiful.

8:17 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I saw vintage and not so vintage Antilope bottles on eBay and the modern version is sold very, very cheaply on various online stores. Just sayin'. :-)

8:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I recently saw a set of 4 oils, that I belive Helene described...not cheap, oh no, not cheap at all. If you find that Sugar Daddy, could you ask him if he has a brother or a friend willing to sponsor a mad perfumista? :-)

8:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Catnip is right! :-) Since Weil de Weil tries with your high recommendation, I am going to find and try it.

8:22 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

I have not the best luck with vintage... but this sounds like one I need to try! I'd heard the names but didn't realize they were all furs. The only Weil I have is Fraicheur, which is wonderful but just a light, silly citrus.

8:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Not sure how this one would work for you, keeping in mind the difficult relationship between you and iris...but it is certainly worth a try. You might not even get nearly as much iris as I did.

8:45 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Great review. And thanks, Katie, for the information! I was under the impression, that Secret de Venus Zib was a completely different scent. I know RockinRuby is another SdV Z maven (it's her HG, I believe), so it would be interesting to hear from her too. .

At any rate, I finally got my hands on a small, unopened bottle of the Secret de Venus Zib oil, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I do like it, but it seems quite sweet, and (to me) not worth all the hoo-hah and the exorbitant price. I don't know whether that simply reflects my taste or has to do with my particular bottle (it does not smell at all spoiled, but perhaps it was a later version), and I have nothing to compare it to. I have never smelled Zibeline perfume; I do have some Antilope, though, and I like it:)

10:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I haven't tried Secret de Venus Zibeline, just Zibeline (wich is what I reviewed), so I can't compare, but Zibeline that I have seems to me like something you'd like. It isn't sweet. I should send you some in the next package!

10:28 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the feel of this scent is related to Orchidee Blanche in any way, I must try it. Wonder ful review. And much thanks to Katie for the history. I was not familiar with my education continues. ;-)


10:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

The iris was very Orchidee-Blacnhe-esque on me. It is a beautiful scent and certainly wortha try.

1:34 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

lilyofbp: "I was under the impression, that Secret de Venus Zib was a completely different scent." Sort of, really, but not entirely? There is a distinct relationship between the two, depending on era and formulation of Zibeline. The SdV Zibeline is different, but not completely different. Specifically in bath/body oil form (the eau versions of SdV Zibeline smells much less spicy to me and lighter in composition and is a much different creature): the Zibeline parfum from the middle-ish of the century doesn't stray too terribly far from the oil. It's not as thick or as oily animal smelling, but generally very close in many ways, and I personally feel like they can not be considered entirely seperate from each other. I think you'd totally notice the slight differences there, however, to be sure. But I think you'd notice the strong connection. Again, all TOTALLY depending on the concentration...

5:49 PM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Thanks again, Katie, for the extremely informative explanation. I have been confused about this for the longest time, so I am very glad to have it sorted out!

9:50 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone hear about cassandra bath oil LOVED IT!

7:35 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anybody establish a sure chronology of WEIL perfumes? Basenotes, Scentzilla, The Encyclopedia of Perfume, Cleopatra's Boudoir and a French blog give five completely different chronologies and cannor even agree when the perfumes were started, 1920, 1922, 1927.... THANKS !

6:52 AM EST  
Anonymous lindaft42 said...

As a freshman in college my room-mate wore Zibeline. She said an airline stewardess was wearing it when she flew back from Europe. I was hooked on it and it's the only perfume I wore until I could no longer find it. Linda

9:37 PM EST  

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