A spicy floral Oriental with incredible tenacity and projection, Secret of Venus strikes me as unmistakably vintage in style, complexity and forthrightness. It might as well come with its own mink stole, cigarette holder and silk charmeuse evening gown, it's so bold and in-your-face. (See smoldering wild child Tallulah Bankhead to your left.)
There's a lot of conflicting information about Secret of Venus, in part because there are perfume and bath oil iterations (I have the oil), as well as Secret of Venus-branded Antilope (1935) and Zibeline (1927) perfumes, just to name a couple.
Why it would be "branded" Secret of Venus is confusing to me, considering the umbrella-brand is, in fact, Weil, a company that started out as furriers in 1898 and introduced perfumes in 1927 made to perfume furs. Zibeline, for example, was marketed as "strictly an odor for furs" and boasted its ability to get rid of a fur's stale smell without damaging it. (I have some vintage Zibeline and recall not liking it, but for the sake of being comprehensive and to contrast it with Secret of Venus which it's often confused/conflated with, I'll compare notes in my next post.)
But onto the perfume. Secret of Venus bath oil (dark and viscous as cough syrup) opens with symphonic herbaceousness, moves into a lush, spicy floral heart, and rests on a velvety, sumptuous Oriental base of sandalwood, amber, musk, honey and tonka. Its drydown is an irresistible mix of sweet, balsam-powdery softness, vanilla-amber creaminess, and incensy-spice. SofV is a little like Le Numéro Cinq (1925) and Coty's Styx (1911) in style and personality, if a bit sweeter. There was even a kind of vegetal-vetiver-salt note in the drydown, as if Secret of Venus needed any more complexity. In other words, this perfume doesn't let up!
Top notes: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, coriander, tarragon (maybe lavender?)
Heart notes: rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang, orris, gardenia
Base notes: vetiver, civet, sandal, amber, musk, honey, Tonka (maybe patchouli?) Notes from The Scented Salamander
The first time I took a whiff, SofV did that animalic/raunchy lurch that tends to mean that civet is prowling around, but it could just be a really animalic musk. Ironic that a perfume in a line meant to hide the smell of the animal in fur can't resist throwing some animal back into the perfume. (No word in my searches that Secret of Venus was meant for anything but a woman's skin.)
In notes I took when I was "reading" the perfume, I wrote, "Is the secret of Secret of Venus...almond oil?" It has that nougaty/nutty center that's redolent of toasted almonds, but perhaps this is the marriage of facets from the florals and ambery base.
Warm and sexy in a retro way, Secret of Venus is a must-smell vintage. Be prepared to have people in other rooms ask what it is you have on (it projects that far!) and to be able to smell its spicy shadow on your skin a good twenty hours later...
My vintage sample of Secret of Venus courtesy of The Miniature Perfume Shoppe.
If you can afford it, a pristine 1 oz. bottle (the image above) of Secret of Venus is on eBay for five days, with a starting bid (gulp) of $195. Yikes.