April 18, 2016
Blocki on the cover of P&F, formerly the American Perfumer magazine. Courtesy of BLOCKI
I first heard about BLOCKI Parfums when I read Creative Director Tyler DeLabarr Kraemer’s Profile in American Perfumery and have been intrigued ever since. Now, for most of my life, I’ve been accused of over-romanticizing things, and I suppose it’s true, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a perfume house with a more captivating story than BLOCKI Parfums, and I can’t think of any others that can boast of their Founder surviving a shipwreck. Less than 10 years after that shipwreck, John Blocki apprenticed himself to a chemist; at 17, he took his first and only job working for someone else at a drug firm in Chicago. By the time he was 20, he owned his own drug and retail company and he kept right on rolling until “his perfume boutique on Michigan Avenue was so large and had such a vast assortment of perfumes that it was referred to in the trade as a perfume palace”. He was a true pioneer in America perfumery, known for the high quality of his perfumes, as well as their artistic presentation. Tyler DeLabarr Kraemer and his wife Tammy have picked up the mantle of his legacy and debuted three high quality, beautifully presented perfumes, in 2015 on the 150th anniversary of BLOCKI’s founding. There are three superb fragrances in the collection to date: For Walks (reviewed here by Pam Barr, Sr Contributor), In Every Season and my favorite This Grand Affair
Kevin Verspoor Perfumer
The perfumer for BLOCKI is award winning (and former CaFleureBon contributor) Kevin Verspoor, who is a synthesate. He is such a perfect fit for this House that I just had to ask Tyler DeLabarr Kramer why he was chosen. He wrote, “BLOCKI is an original American heritage perfumery and working with Kevin, as an American perfumer, was simply inspired. His passion and understanding of classic fragrance combined with his knowledge of unique and modern niche perfumery was a wonderful match. Our aim is to create modern classics.”
Oscar Arthur Bluhm (German, 1867-1912) – Vor der Vorstellung
From the very first spray, I was transported back to the Belle Epoque; a time of incredible style and lavish galas. It smells of powdered white shoulders rising above tightly corseted waists, and I could almost hear satin skirts rustling on the ballroom floor.
Oscar Arthur Blum Vor dem Ball Mondäne Dame in einem Sessel
It reminds me of something a master perfumer would make for a woman he loved dearly, and (like all of BLOCKI Parfums fragrances) it was in fact inspired by the memoirs of Mr Blocki’s mother, Emma. A woman who survived a six week transatlantic voyage with eight children in tow, only to be shipwrecked on the shores of Lake Michigan would not have settled for the insipid little bottles of meh that pass for mass market fragrance these days, and Mr. Kraemer and Mr.Verspoor did not make such a thing. This Grand Affair is as magnificent fragrance that evokes other classics, and could stand proudly next to pre IFRA Guerlain Shalimar, Houbigant L’Ideal and L’Origan by Coty (latter two are favorites of Mr. Verspoor’s).
Oscar Arthur Bluhm
This Grand Affair opens with a very pretty neroli and crisp, especially aromatic Davana oil. The combination is very distinctive and, to my nose, is what gives a very modern feel to the perfume. Neroli plays up the sweeter facets of the Davana, without diminishing its herbal and woody characteristics. It’s a fantastic opening, and lays the perfect foundation for the lavender and rosy heart. Davana shares many underlying attributes with lavender and these shared nuances make for a seamless segue.
Oscar Arthur Bluhm (German, 1867-1912) – Garderobe
The rose at the heart of This Grand Affair is lovely; soft, but very full, and almost suede like in its plushness. It’s beautifully done and adds a rich, vintage feel to the fragrance as well as a great deal of elegance. The sillage at this stage of the fragrance is extraordinarily elegant, as sueded rose and lavender caress the air around you.
On The Balcony, by Oscar Arthur Bluhm (1867-1912)
This soft rose melds in to a deep, warm base of vanilla and tonka beans in another flawless segue. The rose is still there, really a whisper, as is the tonka and vanilla; I notice that the vanilla and tonka beans smell a bit like pipe-tobacco. But the blending of notes here is so masterful that I think you’ll be more than content to simply drift from one softly fragrant cloud to another, thanking your lucky stars that there are still people who care enough to make perfumes as beautiful as this truly grand affair.
Notes: duet of grapefruit and neroli and sweet woody davana oil leading to a heart of Bulgarian lavender, rose d'orient, petitgrain of lemon and mandarin. The base lingers with vanilla, musk, tonka bean and patchouli.
DISCLOSURE this review was based on a sample sent to me by the gracious owners of BLOCKI Parfums.Opinions my own
Tammy Schuster, Sr. Contributor
Art Direction: Michelyn Camen, EIC. I chose the artwork of a relatively obscure German painter Oscar Arthur Bluhm who painted during the period known as La Belle Époque, (between 1871 and 1914), when the original BLOCKI, founded in 1865 was a leading American House.
A Grand Affair Collage by BLOCKI
Editor’s Note: For those readers who have not read former Vintage Contributor Kevin Verpsoor’s Legends of Modern Perfumery: History of Coty and History of Houbigant, I encourage you to do so. They are two of the most thoroughly researched and historically accurate articles we have published.
Thanks to the generosity of Blocki Parfums we have a 50 ml bottle of This Grand Affair for a registered reader in the US. To be eligible please leave a quality comment with what appeals to you about This Grand Affair based on Tammy’s review and if you knew the history of BLOCKI. Draw closes 4/21/2016
We announce the winners only on site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS option…or your dream prize will be just spilled perfume