Thursday, August 11, 2011

Parfums Weil Zibeline: fragrance review & Weil house history

Parfums Weil is the most characteristic example of "parfums fourrure" (fur perfumes), being the perfumery offshoot of Parisien furrier, Les Fourrures Weil (Weil Furs), established in 1927. And Zibeline alongside Weil's Antilope are among their proudest creations.

The history of the House of Weil

Furriers since 1912, well before they became purveyors of fine fragrance, the venture of the founder Alfred -and his brothers Marcel and Jacques- into perfume resulted from the direct request of a client for a fragrance suitable to fur wearing. Weil obligingly capitulated to the request and produced scents that would guarantee not to harm the fur itself, yet mask the unwelcome musty tonality that fur coats can accumulate after a while. The names are quite literal: Zibeline (sable), Ermine (hermine), Chinchila, Une Fleur pour Fourrure (A Flower for Furs)...

The very first of those, Zibeline, was an expansive floral aldehydic veering into chypre tonalities, conveived as an evocation of the oak forests and steppes of imperial Russia and appropriately named after the animal there captured: Zibeline, the highest quality in furs for its legendary silky touch, its scarcity value and light weight. 

Zibeline belonged to the original fragrant trio line-up that launched the business of Perfumes Weil. Introduced in 1928, Zibeline was comissioned by Marcel Weil and composed by Claude Fraysse assisted by his perfumer daughter, Jacqueline. (The Fraysse clan is famous for working in perfumery: His two sons, André and Hybert were to work with Lanvin and Synarome respectively and the son of André, Richard, is today head perfumer at parfums Caron).

Scent, Versions & Vintages of Weil Zibeline perfume

Zibeline was released in Eau de Toilette in 1930 but the formulations came and went with subtle differences and their history is quite interesting. First there was Zibeline, then the company issued Secret de Venus bath and body oils product line which incorporated Zibeline among their other fragrances (a line most popular in the US) while later they reverted to plain Zibeline again. The Eau versions of Secret de Venus Zibeline are lighter, with less density while the bath/body oil form approximates the spicy-musky tonalities of the Zibeline extrait de parfum, with the latter being more animalistic.

The older versions of parfum were indeed buttery and very skanky, deliciously civet-laden with the fruit and floral elements more of an afterthought and around the 1950s the batches gained an incredible spicy touch to exalt that quality. It's interesting to note that as per Joan Juliet Buck, former editor of French VOGUE, men often wore Zibeline in the 1950s!

Later versions of Zibeline from the 70s and 80s attained a more powdery orange blossom honeyness, backed up by fruit coupled with the kiss of tonka bean and sandalwood, only hinting at the muskiness that was so prevalent in previous incarnations, thus resulting in a nostalgic memento of a bygone epoch that seems tamer than it had actually been. Zibeline is old school in the best possible sense and a parfum fourrure you will be proud to wear even if your vegan proclivities wouldn't allow you so much as think of touching a real sable coat.

The aftermath for Weil

Marcel Weil's death in 1933 did not stop expanding their perfumery endeavours; they added several other perfumes: Bambou, Cassandra and Noir. The Weil family was forced out of France by Hitler, so they re-established themselves in New York from where one of the first perfumes released was Zibeline with the quite different in character chypré Antilope being issued in 1945, upon return to Paris in 1946 when they also introduced Padisha. Sadly the multiple changing of hands resulted in the languishing of the firm by the 1980s and although the brand Weil has been in ownership of Interparfums (Aroli Aromes Ligeriens) since 2002 Parfums Weil is largely unsung and long due for a resurgence.

Notes for Weil Zibeline:
Top: aldehydes, coriander, tarragon, bergamot and lemon;
middle: orris, gardenia, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose;
base: honey, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet and vetiver.


  1. I love Weil de Weil! It's a dry green woody perfume and one of my favourites. You're right, Weil should get more love.

  2. IIRC the name is Fraysse, not Fraysee.

  3. I love Zibeline! I haven't tried the newer incarnations, but the older ones are so nice that I've amassed a small collection of the various bottles, strengths, etc. I would love to see something that could help identify the dates of the various versions. I have two like the one pictured, as well as one with a brown box that looks a little older and then one with the same style box but white with black. They are all slightly different, but I would love to know which is the oldest and where the Secret de Venus oils (which I also adore) fit in on the timeline.

  4. K,

    it's a highly unsung brand. I like when people comment and proclaim their love for something from an unsung brand.

  5. Bela,

    thanks for the typo correction. Indeed.

  6. KK,

    you give me ideas. Perhaps, when my summer vacation ends, I might devote some time to that guide into various vintages. Thanks!

  7. Anonymous10:08

    I have been searching for cassandra bath oil, since my mother had some and it brings back memories. I would settle for a tiny bit in a bottle if anyone had any.

  8. Zibeline de Weil, certainly the fragrance Cruella De Vil would wear.

  9. I am a guy, and ZIBELINE is one of my go-to's. Nothing in its mix insists that it is a feminine scent, especially... the floralcy is not, IMHO, the focus of the scent. Never mentioned in any pyramid is its prominent note of opoponax, a smell I like very much, and which, when wedded to tart citrus, feels regal and clean and stately. Gorgeous stuff it is!


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