For Love of Ivy: Roxana Villa’s Hedera Helix (And a Prize Draw!)
My first love in perfumery is “greens’ and especially the green floral style; I once wore Diorissimo almost exclusively and I only stopped when it became impossible to find, and then it was sadly reformulated. I even wore Gucci Envy by the quart (sorry, former colleagues). I went through many of them before I discovered chypres, and then of course my favorites were the greener ones like the original Jean-Louis Scherrer. However, I do like my greens with florals and a touch of sweetness; even the fierce March wind of the great Vent Vert is only a prelude to the impossibly delicate bouquet of spring flowers hiding behind her intimidating visage, and that’s just what makes it so effective. Needless to say, when I heard that natural perfumer Roxana Villa was launching a new fragrance that might be her greenest yet, I was eager to sample it.
Hedera Helix is the botanical name for what is commonly called English ivy, a rampantly growing and vigorous vine that is a particularly deep green color, and can look almost black in the shadows of the forest as it slowly but surely takes over the trees. The perfumer first began to compose it several years ago as a tribute to the Celtic sacred Tree Ogham of ivy, which is detailed here. The perfume is a perfect match for the name and the concept, a green floral chypre composed of many different leafy and floral notes and anchored with a base of resins, woods and real oakmoss. Like all of Roxana’s creations, it is 100% natural and made with organic grape and grain alcohols instead of the conventional kind. I was very impressed by the structure of this fragrance because the list of notes is surprisingly long but the overall effect is tightly focused on the green aspect. Everything else seems to be there to create that special mood, with nothing extraneous to distract from it. The base includes sandalwood, labdanum Tonka bean, styrax, Peru balsam, seaweed and oakmoss; the florals in the heart include rose, jasmine, orange blossom and boronia, while the opening has no less than four different kinds of citrus. Yet the dominant feeling is a canopy of fresh green leaves and lively herbal notes all mingling to make the point that this is all about the foliage.
What makes it really wonderful is the same thing that made the original Vent Vert so special, an ethereal breath of sweetness behind the veil of green that softens any harshness such fragrances may have. It reminds me of her wonderful sea chypre GreenWitch, but Hedera Helix takes another direction. Instead of being of the sea, it is essentially of the forest, a walk in magical woodland where every step brings up the aroma of the greenery underfoot and the slightest breeze brings the scent of living things in all their mystery. I want to be clear that this perfume is neither chilly nor gloomy, as intensely verdant as it is; the opening is dense and pungent yet as it develops it is shot through with warm grace notes dancing through the air like a shaft of sunlight in a grove of tall trees. It is smooth and calming in the way that a walk in the woods with Nature can be, and I recommend it most highly for those who are looking for a perfume that does double duty as aromatherapy to bring a sense of ease and equilibrium. Like Roxana’s other perfumes, it is available as a liquid or in solid form. I love her solid perfumes, which are made with natural beeswax from her own beehives, and this imparts a special aromatic quality that really suits this fragrance perfectly.
Hedera Helix is now available in Roxana’s Etsy shop along with her other scents. Roxana is generously offering a giveaway of a sampler set to one lucky reader, who will receive a sample of both the liquid and solid versions of Hedera Helix. The draw is open to the U.S. and Canada only. Please state in the comments if you would like to be included, and if you like, please tell us what your own favorite green perfumes are!
Disclaimer: The perfume sample I reviewed was given to me by Roxana Villa for testing at my request.
Image credit: “Magical Forest” computer wallpaper from openwalls.com