Weil was a Parisian furrier turned perfume house (founded in 1927), initially specializing in parfums de fourrure, scents that not only masked the sometimes unpleasant animalic undertones of natural furs, but complemented, beautified them. Perfumes such as the house’s classic Zibeline, alongside Chinchilla Royal, Hermine, Flamant Rose (Pink Flamingo), Padisha, Secret de Venus (a magical bath oil) and Une Fleur De Fourrure were all popular in the day, until the family was eventually expelled by the Nazis during World War II and were forced to emigrate to New York.
The company continued to create perfumes in America, but later made its peaceful return to Europe in 1946 with the release of the phenomenally successful Antilope, an incomparably serene aldehydic chypre I sometimes wear for its yellow-grassed tinges of calm and intrinsic elegance (and which was once chosen by the French Ministry Of Culture as a souvenir to be distributed to tourists visiting Paris). There is nothing quite like it, and even in tiny miniature parfum, Antilope is a scent I always look out for because sometimes, there are certain days when you just need to retreat to the tranquillity of its haven.
Weil, as a perfume house, now has fallen into anonymity since its grand heyday; the maison, as is often the case, deteriorating in scope and quality; fallen into the hands of numerous investors, passed along from one aromacompany to another, releasing populist sugar florals and gourmands of the current type (as you would expect, in order to keep up with the times), just at cheaper prices and with unfathomable names (‘Greedy Essence’, for instance, and………’So Weil’, which is of course quite problematic if, as I suspect, the first letter of the name might be pronounced like a ‘v’).
Weil De Weil, a perfume from 1971, released around the same time as Chanel N⁰19, Estée, and others in the 70’s vogue for green detachment, was a scent I was completely unaware of until some was kindly sent to me last week by a reader for whom this scent has a particular sharp poignancy. Weil de Weil comes from a more storied time in Weil’s history when the name still presumably had cachet in Europe and elsewhere, and was synonymous with a certain Frenchness and inscrutable panache (from the 1960’s, this was one of the first perfume houses to break the iron curtain and expand into Poland and beyond into U.S.S.R, based on its couturier reputation, and the success of its key perfumes, such as Cassandra).
As can be seen from a contemporary magazine of the period, Jean-Pierre Weil writes of wanting, with Weil De Weil, to create a perfume that was ‘fully floral’, light but enveloping; lovable, but ‘serious, like happiness’.
The perfume is, in fact, as the poster at the beginning of this piece announces, ‘as well as all these things, troubling, sumptuous and enigmatic’, a lovely green floral chypre with a mélange of fresh flowers (honeysuckle, mimosa, ylang ylang, jasmine, rose, neroli, hyacinth and narcissus) freshened further with green galbanum and tangerine, but pulsating softly simultaneously with a warmer, mossier interior of oakmoss, vetiver civet, musk, and sandalwood in the classic style: beautiful: but unrevealing; quite difficult to pin down.
When I opened the the package from England, from the slight seepage in the plastic envelope, my first responses on smelling this treasure- were the perturbing end vestiges of the classic seductive floral aldehydes like Lanvin My Sin or Detchema by Revillon, another furrier, though the perfume I most thought of when I actually smelled it properly was that regal arch-romantic, Capricci Nina Ricci; a similarly cushioned, quiet, ladylike extravagance. When sprayed, the piquancy of the citric leaf freshness instead brought back memories of Lancôme Trophée and Ô De Lancôme, as well as the slightly more bitter quinolic Quiproquo by Grès, but each time I go to approach Weil De Weil I get something quite different from before. I don’t think, in fact, I have ever encountered a scent that refuses to give its identity in quite this way, that keeps revealing new facets I can’t grasp; I will have to wear it on different occasions and weathers to see precisely where it wants to lead me. Weil De Weil is a delicate shapeshifter, for sure; its own creature; complex, quite difficult to ‘place’. But also kind of ravishing: which, as a lifetime signature perfume, on one you love, I am sure must have been extraordinarily captivating.