IT professional living and working in Provence, France with a huge passion for perfume. "Smell has this reputation of being somewhat different for each person. It's not really true, because if it were like that it wouldn't be an art" (Luca Turin)
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Launched: 1996 Group: Aromatic spicy
Anyone interested in perfume history will inevitably come across the house of Parfums Weil and for good reason. Founded in the early years of the ‘roaring twenties’ by three brothers Alfred, Jacques and Marcel Weil in Paris when luxurious fur and extravagant fashion was all the rage, their aim was to scent their fur creations as was the custom in the past. You may have also heard of scented leather gloves; along with fur coats this was done before synthetics and masking agents were used in animal skin and fur preparations as is the case today, some unpleasant odours needed covering up.
Thus came fragrances named after expensive fur: Zibeline, Chinchilla Royal and Hermine all originally re-leased in 1927. Later editions of Zibeline as well as Antilope, Cassandra, Noir and Padisha appeared under the shared ‘Secret de Venus’ title until their 1981 discontinuation. Only the original Secret de Venus name was kept and re-issued in 1996 in eau de parfum and cologne concentration.
However, the scent, the subject of this review was created after InterParfums bought out Weil in the early nineties so has nothing to do with the original Secret de Vénus fragrance launched in 1933. The new owners more than likely just wanted to capitalize on the name and the legendary Secret de Venus collection that was a huge success for more than four decades worldwide!
The eau de parfum version of Secret de Vénus comes in a pretty egg-shaped transparent glass bottle with a metallic stopper on top that has a charming little heart-shaped golden scroll cap designed by Federico Restrepo. The box is dark blue with a golden or silver wave motif running around at the bottom.
Top notes: lemon, bergamot, mandarin, cassis, peach, grapefruit
The fragrance opens up with a blast of sharp and characteristically aromatic herby notes that are sur-prisingly dense and warm. I immediately sense lavender and cassis, an aromatic wood with a sharp and dark edge. There are no citrus notes to my nose, which is not surprising given the abundance of heavier and more aromatic components used alongside which obviously drown out the more volatile citrus oils.
Just around five minutes later, the floral notes start blending in with the aromatic ones giving the composition an unusual, sweet, powdery and spicy floral aspect, something that reminds me of sweetened clove bud essential oil. The lavender plays a big part in this and gets my nose tingling when I sniff my arm close it’s that spicy and powdery. While I quite enjoy this unusual powerful combination, I imagine it might be sneeze-inducing for some.
Of course, the sillage is a lot more tempered where the white florals, mainly spicy jasmine and aromatic gardenia are more observable from the distance. Then again after about 2 hours the scent has changed and become a less spicy and softer floral with a distinct note of vanilla lingering in the background and blending in perfectly with the soft, creamy and now balanced spicy floral phase. It still had an echo of the clove-like spiciness and the herbal edge of the lavender that then gradually disappeared after 4 hours of wear.
Base notes: sandalwood, patchouli, cedar, vanilla
About 4 – 5 hours later when the scent settled into its base notes, I enjoyed the milky powderiness of the sandalwood, it wasn’t harsh or soapy than in some other fragrances I recently reviewed. It didn’t stand out on its own, but mostly blended in with a nice, but fairly common vanilla-patchouli combo which were both discreet and close to the skin and didn’t really shine if I was to be honest, they were dimmed but on the other hand had a creamy and buttery feel to them.
I was surprised just how soft it became, a vanillary skin scent reminiscent of soft, barely there skin amber with a benzoin undertone, a staple fixative in most orientals.It was even a tad too soft for my liking but this is because the scent is a bit off-balance and heavy on the heart. I cannot dab on too much as it will quickly become cloying due to the heavy floral notes so will always end up with a very light drydown. Consequently, the scent never really lasted for more than six hours on me.
Secret de Vénus is a modern and very vegetal scent in a sense that there are no dark, oily animalistic notes like in some other reformulations e.g Tabu where the now banned animal-derived raw materials were replaced by their synthetic equivalents or replicated by using approximate plant sources. The fragrance is surprisingly clean and well-behaved floral with oriental undertones and a spiking of a lovely dose of herbs that give it a nice rustic twist and distinguish it amongst the just plain sweet modern orientals.
I recommend it for those who like their floral orientals ‘old school’ meaning a middle phase of sweet and fleshy flowers that are spicy and aromatic at the same time. Secret de Vénus is a great choice for autumn or winter as well as for an evening out.
I cherish my two 5ml miniature bottles of the eau de parfum concentration of the new Weil Secret de Vénus and love to be able to dab it on when the mood strikes me. However, I can’t help thinking what a shame that the original Secret de Vénus formula never got re-issued. The rapidly diminishing vintage stock will sooner or become obsolete or spoiled and the original formula of Weil Secret of Venus will be lost forever taking its secret with it.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The eau de cologne concentration can be bought on Amazon, ebay and online perfume discounters at around the £9 - 11/ 100ml price mark and is often marked ‘New Formula’. This is to avoid disappointment for those looking for the very original, first edition of the scent which of course only exists as vintage.
Not so surprisingly, prices for the full size and discontinued Eau de Parfum version has rocketed in recent years and are now between £70 - £100 / 100ml Eau de Parfum so for testing purposes a mini should suffice, they do pop up on ebay from time to time and are usually priced between £4 - £5 / 5ml Eau de Parfum.