New Perfume Review Blocki Saharet and Kosciuszko- Grow Your Own Heritage

It seems as if the Heritage perfume brands have slowed down recently. A couple of years ago I was seemingly receiving the announcement of one new one every couple of months. A few years on from that, now I can look back and remark on the ones which successfully found their place in the current market. One of those would be Blocki Perfumes. Overseen by Tyler Delabar and Tammy Kraemer they extrapolated the heritage of Mr. Delabar’s great grandfather John Blocki into contemporary fragrance making. That continues with Blocki Saharet and Blocki Kosciuszko.

The path they’ve chosen for Blocki is to use the names of the perfumes as launching points for new formulations. It makes for an interesting combination as the personalities of the early part of the last century are who seemed to motivate Mr. Blocki to make perfume. Both Saharet and Tadeusz Kosciuszko fit that.

Saharet is inspired by the fin de siècle dancer of the same name. She was a well-known vaudevillian of the time. She traveled the world using publicity stunts to introduce her to audiences when she arrived in a new city. Perfumer Lionel Nesbitt translates this into a perfume with a keynote of geranium covered in shades of green.

Geranium has been referred to as “green rose” Mr. Nesbitt does a fine job of living up to that. In the early going he uses baie rose and green cardamom to dust that green rose. Mandarin provides a sweet come-hither effect. The exploration of green continues as labdanum and vetiver turn it up a notch. The vetiver used here is the grassier kind providing a softer verdancy than the sharper labdanum. At the center of it all the geranium happily perches. This ends on a warm earthy base of patchouli, amber, and cashmere.

Kosciuszko is inspired by the Polish engineer who participated in revolutions the world over. He is most known in the US for joining in with the American Revolutionaries bringing knowledge of the best fortifications from which to fight behind. Perfumer Duff Scott engineers a perfume with hints of the battlefield and the calm between it all.

Mr. Scott chooses a piquant combination of bitter orange and black pepper to open things with. The pepper segues into that hint of gunpowder. Beneath that a potent accord of fir and tobacco forms the nucleus of Kosciuszko. The terpenes of the fir are sweetened by the honeyed depths of the tobacco. Mr. Scott finds a beautiful balance between the two. The base goes woodier as cedar and cypress provide that with a bit of musk thrown in.

Saharet and Kosciuszko have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Delabar and Ms. Kraemer continue to find the best path to success is to grow your own heritage. Saharet and Kosciuszko add to that legacy.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Blocki.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Blocki Sanrovia- Evolutionary Heritage

Heritage can do one of two things, it can shackle you to the past or it can inspire you to add your own imprint. This is equally true when speaking of heritage perfume brands which have been springing up. Some decide to try and slavishly re-create. The ones I find more interesting are those who look to bring the style of the heritage into the present. Very quietly one of the latter success stories at doing this continues to evolve with the release of Blocki Sanrovia.

Blocki released a set of three perfumes in the fall of 2015 to revive the brand. Under the stewardship of Tyler Delabar and Tammy Kraemer, Mr Kraemer did his great grandfather John Blocki proud. These were all fantastically contemporary perfumes with vintage brushstrokes. The other part of this team which has made it work so well is perfumer Kevin Verspoor. Mr. Verspoor and I have spoken about perfume making. If there is something which I know is he is a student of the past so that he can translate it to the present day. That the creative directors and the perfumer are all on the same page is a reason why this has been a successful collaboration.

Kevin Verspoor

On a visit to a trade show in the fall of 2016 Ms. Kraemer shared with me the fourth perfume which would be released. It is one of that hazards of smelling something like that at a trade show when it is by far my favorite thing of the day and I am not allowed to speak of it. Now that Sanrovia has been released that restriction has been removed.

The original version of Sanrovia was released in 1911 out of Mr. Blocki’s Chicago shop. It was inspired by trips of Mr. Blocki to an Italian village. As the original Sanrovia was an interpretation of Italy through American eyes the current version does the same thing with the similarity being the prominent use of sandalwood.

Many Mediterranean perfumes choose to open with a blast of the citrus groves. Sanrovia starts here, too. Mr. Verspoor starts off with lemon structured to be as cool as it is tart. Orange comes along to mellow both effects. The heart is a floral two-step of paired floral accords. The first is lavender and geranium. They combine into a green tinted floral where the lavender does most of the floral lifting. This progresses into the second pair of jasmine and rose. The rose is an oil from Jacques Cartier roses which are a hybrid of Damask and China varieties. It has all the complexity of a typical rose otto but there is also more space for the jasmine to find some footing. The rose is on top but not as much as usual in accords like this. The star of the show arrives after this as Mr. Verspoor uses Australian Sandalwood. I would wonder if Mr. Blocki used Mysore Sandalwood back in 1911. By using the version available in 2018 Mr. Verspoor plays to its strengths as the modern sandalwood is more desiccated he uses vetiver and labdanum to enhance that.

Sanrovia has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

From the moment I got a sniff of this I felt like this would be my favorite of the Blocki releases to date, which it is. This never feels like a vintage perfume or even a Retro Nouveau. The only ingredient which carries that vibe is the Jacques Cartier Rose and it is more restrained than, I am guessing, if a full Damascene rose had been used. The citrus top accord is so often forgettable in most perfumes. In Sanrovia it is a bracing cool breeze. The florals cavort as if they were on holiday while the sandalwood stands to the side with stolid strength. This is a triumph of the Kraemers and Mr. Verspoor. If there is an afterlife which can see the present I have to believe John Blocki would be proud of the evolutionary heritage they have achieved.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Blocki.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Blocki For Walks- Modern Heritage

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.


Kevin Verspoor

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.

Mark Behnke