One of the trends of the last few years has been the revival of heritage perfume brands. There were a number of perfume brands which were thriving in the first half of the 20th century that would collapse in the second half. As these brands are re-discovered usually a distant relative decides to give it new life in the early days of the 21st century. Most often the trajectory goes like this; re-create a few of the original recipes followed by eventually striking out on your own with new constructs. This can be hit or miss depending on how dependent the originals were on currently proscribed materials. The reality of whether the brand has something to it comes when it starts trying to capture that heritage aesthetic in completely modern compositions. The newest heritage brand Blocki has decided to just forego the first step and go straight to the second.
Blocki was founded in 1865 by John Blocki. He would shepherd the brand until his death in 1934. At which time it soon faded away. Fast forward to 2000 and his great-great-grandson Tyler DeLaBar Kraemer, who had heard the family stories of the brand, began working with essential oils and flower waters blending them. During this period Mr. Kraemer, along with his wife Tammy Kraemer, realized they wanted to resurrect the family perfume business. To fully accomplish this they collaborated with perfumer Kevin Verspoor. Now 150 years after the first Blocki fragrance was released three new perfumes are here to reinvigorate the brand.
I think the choice of Mr. Verspoor was inspired for this project. I have corresponded with Mr. Verspoor sporadically over the last two years. One thing I know from that is he is passionately dedicated to using some of the less used materials on the perfumer’s palette. The three new Blocki perfumes reflect that. In Every Season is a massive floral that has the most retro feel of the three new releases. It mainly comes from the musky foundation which underpins the florals. Mr. Verspoor has deftly created a vintage musk accord. This Grand Affair is the most Retro Nouveau of the three as it fuses a tangy citrus opening with classic Oriental beats. Mr. Verspoor uses the unique herbal quality of davana oil as a twist on the zesty citrus before heading into a floriental finish. The third release, For Walks, was my favorite probably because it is the most contemporary overall.
For Walks, as all the Blocki perfumes are, is inspired by a passage from Mr. Blocki’s wife Emma in her memoir of 1872. The passage for For Walks is:
“As soon as the snow was melted but the soil still frozen, we took a walk into the forest where we heard the first larks chirp; we did this always. With expectation we looked forward to father’s birthday on April 22. To prepare for this, far ahead of time, we gathered moss, ivy, forest violets, crowfoot and anemones; the day before we wreathed everything in the house. And so the beautiful spring began for all of us.”
While inspired by writing from 1872 it is a very current perfume architecture as Mr. Verspoor captures violet peeking out from the last crust of snow prior to spring.
Mr. Verspoor opens For Walks up with a very frozen accord of metallic violet leaf, pine needles, and mint. The mint is the key here as it needs to be there to give that clean smelling feeling of a chilly spring day without tripping over into something less prosaic. This is like a deep lungful of morning air with a bit of chill left. Out of this peeks the violet itself. This is also where Mr. Verspoor reaches for a material not often seen in perfumery, boronia. Boronia contains many of the same molecules, beta-ionones, which give violet its distinctive smell. Boronia takes those and adds in a peppery spicy character which is reminiscent of the humus of the forest floor. Together the boronia and violet in For Walks create that accord of flower breaking free of frozen earth. This is where my olfactory walk lingers for hours with the boronia and violet. When it does finally move on vetiver, cedar, and sandalwood provide spring green woody foundation.
For Walks has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
All three of the Blocki perfumes are worth seeking out. I think they show a real effort by the Kraemers and Mr. Verspoor to take the past into the present and create a new modern heritage for Blocki.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Twisted Lily.