When Tyler and Tammy Kraemer re-launched the pioneering Blocki Perfume Co. in 2015, they created the Blocki Perfume Heritage Collection, fragrances that pay tribute to Tyler’s great-great-grandfather’s original formulas and concepts from the early 1900s in Chicago. We checked in with Tammy and Tyler to learn more about Blocki's history, their latest fragrance Esprit d'Amour and what comes next.
Q. Congratulations on Esprit d’Amour, it’s gorgeous! What’s the history of this fragrance and how did it make such a big impact in the 1920s?
A. Thank you, that is heartening. Esprit d’Amour is about the energy and optimism of the 1920s; think flappers but also the 19th Amendment. The 1916 perfume was a sweet floral with 27 rare natural ingredients that grew into a line of nearly one hundred cosmetic products. The essence of the spirit of love is to focus on the well-being of others, and Blocki saw a beauty line as an opportunity to boost women’s independence.
Like California Perfume Company (now Avon), Blocki perfumes and toiletries were sold through a network of women-owned beauty shops and salons. The entire Esprit d’Amour line was headed by a woman business manager. Products included cucumber lotion, night cream, facials, haircare, and even men’s and baby’s skincare. There were cosmetology classes that taught the Esprit d’Amour methods. The fragrance remained popular for three decades but the fact that it survived the depression is a testament to the impact of these early beauty entrepreneurs.
Q. How similar is the 2021 version to the original? We’d love to know a bit about the choices you made for the new formula.
A. We wanted a vibrant, unpretentious, and warm fragrance to celebrate the women who made Esprit d’Amour a success. A floral heart seemed a good tribute to the original fragrance, but 27 floral ingredients would be a bit much for today. For vibrancy, we emphasized the sunny sweet aspects of the bergamot on top and dialed down the sharp lemon and bitter aspects. The result creates a hint of fresh wild foliage. Finally for warmth, we accentuated the richness of the coumarin and creamy sandalwood.
Q. How would you describe the scent in three words?
A. Tyler: animated harmonious floral
A. Tammy: floral woody musk
Q. What was it like to collaborate with perfumer Lionel Nesbitt and why was he the right fit for the project?
A. We collaborated with Lionel before for Saharet and love the unique spin he gave that perfume. He is a good fit for us since he has experience with neo-vintage fragrances having worked on the Piesse and Lubin fragrance from the shipwreck Mary Celestia. We wanted distinctive perfumes that were also clearly part of the collection and Lionel found that balance.
Q. What initially inspired you to bring back Tyler’s great-great-grandfather’s fragrance house?
A. Like all good things, it started with an old book. This one contained a biography of John Blocki and the family perfumery. There was serendipity too. When we met Tyler would complain about his nose being bored, so I would surprise him with Demeter scents. Before we met, as teenagers, he was creating botanic stipple art and I was collecting vintage Mavis ads. Early on we began distributing essential oils and floral waters from Bulgaria, so fragrance and raw materials have always been part of our equation. As the family history unfolded, it finally all made sense and we knew the next step was reviving the Blocki house.
Q. What’s it like to run a fragrance house as partners in both work and home life?
A. Luckily, we really like hanging out together. We married in the middle of law school to the shock of many of our classmates, and our relationship has always been the top priority. Plus, the Blocki perfume house was a family affair from the beginning. Our kids enjoy smelling ingredients and think the history is interesting, so maybe someday they will get their turn at running a perfumery.
Q. Will you continue to build the Heritage Collection?
A. Maybe. Our American heritage is an endless source of inspiration to us. But we are also exploring new avenues of inspiration that would expand the Blocki house. Each fragrance in the Heritage Collection is like authoring a book, a lot of work goes into telling a story: the two qualifiers have been 1) a tie to Blocki perfume history and 2) part of a bigger story in American history. Esprit d’Amour was the grand finale of the original perfumery, and it may be the perfect spot to launch something different.
Q. Anything else exciting we can look forward to from Blocki in the near future?
A. While we contemplate new and different olfactive directions, we would like to work on a special candle or home scent (we’ve had a lot of requests). There is also a book about the Blocki perfumery in the works, there is so much more to tell. We would like to do something innovative in the fragrance space; the image of the 1907 Blocki perfumery patent on the side of our 50ml bottle box is an inspiration.
Try the entire collection with the lovely Blocki Discovery Set of 7 x 1.5ml spray samples for $40.