Category: Ink Review

Ink Review: KWZ Honey (New & Old Formula)

KWZ Honey (old and new formula)

I finally had a chance to test both KWZ Honey (the original formula) and the newly formulated (less odiferous) version ($13 for 60ml bottle) and thought I’d write up a side-by-side comparison. The new formula of KWZ Honey hit the US in the fall with little fanfare and mixed opinions. This gave me a bit of time to play with both versions and let me simmer down in my feelings one way or another. The reason the formula was altered stemmed from the distinct smell in the original formula of Honey. It has a distinct astringent scent from the preservative used to keep the ink from molding or getting funky. It reminds me of menthol. The new version has very little scent, more of a traditional inky smell. Some people feel that the change in the preservative also altered the color and translucency. So, let’s see if you agree.

The original formula of KWZ Honey was purchased in cases this summer. I know this for a fact because I helped sell a lot of it behind the Vanness Pens table in Chicago and DC specifically. By the time we got to Dallas though, the new formula had be introduced. We really hadn’t had much chance to compare the two versions prior to Dallas other than a few quick swabs and the sniff test. So this is the first chance I’ve had to publicly share my comparisons.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) swab comparison

Above are the swabs of both versions. The  original formula swab is in the center and I did that when I first received my bottle of Honey several months ago. The swabs right and left were done on the same day, with the same brush and dried for exactly the same amount of time to be as close in comparison as possible and as unlikely to have any fading or other changes as possible. And those were done last week.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) writing sample

These are writing samples left and right with the same brush for the headers (my Silver round brush #6) and the same Esterbrook fountain pen nib for the writing samples done at the same time for color comparisons. In side-by-side comparisons, I was initially going to be all “oh, you can definitely tell a difference” but in the end, I really can’t tell a noticeable difference between the two versions other than the distinct lack of smelling like Vick’s Vap-o-Rub when using the new formula.

Honey shades from a nice golden color to a rich chocolate brown. There’s great range to the color.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) swab comparison

I’ve include comparison swatches of some other warm golden browns, including Callifolio Heure D’orée which is a seriously underappreciated ink. I’ll be doing a more detailed review of it soon. Other browns don’t  shade with as wide as range as Honey.  Akkerman #22 Hopjesbrown is a much more reddish brown and Iroshizuku Ino-Ho and KWZ Green Gold 2 are both much more yellow-green but are closest in value.

So, if you had wanted to buy KWZ Honey but were not buying it because you only wanted “the one, true original formula” you are doing yourself a disservice. The new formula is just as lovely as the original with 95% less Vap-o-Rub scent.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Vanness Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Signature Khaki

Robert Oster Khaki

I am reviewing another in my heaping pile of Robert Oster Signature Inks. This time its the Khaki which I was surprised to discover was actually a bit more green than what I tend to associate with khaki but it may be a misinterpretation of Yanks vs. Aussies sort-of thing. Oster Khaki ($16 per 50ml plastic bottle) is a color I associate with the perfect cocktail olive — or at least the dark briny juice that one finds cocktail olives floating in. I couldn’t write with this ink without wanting to put on one of those fabulous Thin Man movies and fill a shaker with several ounces of the finest gin and copious amounts of crushed ice. Asta, darling, time for your walksies!

Robert Oster Khaki writing sample

All sloppy drunken jokes aside, the shading and color on this ink is quite delightful. It walks a perfect balance (at least for me) between a yellowy green and deep woodsy green. It’s dark enough to be legible but green enough to be green with enough yellow to be MY KIND of green. Sometimes, in order to get greens dark enough, inks get too black, too blue or too well, not green anymore. And I don’t always want a bright candy color (I know that might be hard to believe).

Robert Oster Khaki Swab Comparison

Here’s my comparison swatches. These are the greens that were closest in hue to Oster Khaki. The closest is Bung Box 88 Green Tea and you’ll be delighted to hear that Oster Khaki is considerably less expensive and (IMHO) a better color. Diamine Safari and Montblanc Daniel DeFoe are both much more saturated colors in comparison.

So, there you have it. If I were to make a list of my favorite green inks, this one would be pretty close to the top of the list. And I am super picky about the perfect shade of green. If I were to have my own “signature” green, this might just be it.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Vanness Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Fire & Ice

Robert Oster Fire & Ice

I could not wait to get my hands on Robert Oster Signature Fire & Ice ink ($16). It was sold out on Vanness Pens as soon as it was available so I had to wait a couple weeks to get a bottle of my own. It was totally worth the wait. This is one of the Oster inks with a lot of sheen so if that’s something you like in your inks, this is definitely a color to consider.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Ink Swab

Fire & Ice is a blue ink that leans to the dark turquoise (ice) side with a red/magenta sheen, hence the “fire”.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Writing Sample

The Oster inks still comes in the tall, slender 50ml plastic bottles, for better or worse, depending on your perspective. Its the only sticking point I have with their inks. I don’t mind the plastic part, since the inks ship all the way from Australia, I appreciate the overall weight reduction of the plastic and the dark material of the plastic. I even don’t mind the slender shape for storage but I know I’m going to get to a point with every single one of my Oster inks where I’m going to need to transfer them to other containers in order to get the inks out of the bottle. I’ll be buying lots of empty glass bottles from Vanness to store my inks for sure.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Ink Swab comparison

I hope the swatch comparison above helps show where Fire & Ice falls in the “blue and sheen-y” ink category — at least in my ink collection. I also included all the other bluish Robert Oster inks. Callifolio Omi Osun is very close in color but does not have the sheen. Oster’s Aqua, Torquay and Blue Denim all sheen as well but are different colors of blue. Torquay is much more turquoise, Blue Denim is a darker blue and Aqua looks more teal comparatively. Sailor Yama Dori and Pilot Iroshizuku Ku Jaku both have sheen but are closer in color to Oster Aqua than Fire & Ice. And finally, I included Private Reserve Daphne Blue and Akkerman Treves-Turquoise which both sheen a bit but are much lighter, brighter cool blues.

So… if you collect blue inks, sheening inks or turquoise inks with the same wild abandon that I do, you’ll not want to wait a second to order a bottle of Fire & Ice. It’s pretty magical and mesmerizing to write with. But if this kind of inky trickery is not your cup of tea, then you’ve been sufficiently warned. Oster makes many other ink colors that are beautiful colors that I’ll be reviewing soon that may be more to your taste.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Blue Denim

Robert Oster Blue Denim

By popular request, I finally have a review of Robert Oster Blue Denim. It is one of the many shades of the new Robert Oster Signature Inks that I have and it is a great, shading, sheening color. There is a distinct red halo with this ink, even in finer nibs.It’s one of the first things you’ll notice along with the vibrant deep blue color. It’s definitely a cool blue, despite the red sheen. What a conundrum of a color! A cool color with a warm sheen!

Robert Oster Blue Denim Swatch

I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it here, the only downside with the Oster inks, if you perceive it that way, is the bottle. It’s a plastic bottle. The bottle is tall and narrow which will require a syringe to access inks after a certain point and could be prone to tipping if you are not careful. You may want to decant the inks into a different container if you fill your pens directly from the bottle. However, the bottles are plastic which means they are unlikely to break in shipping and are recyclable which, in another way, is a plus. Also, the bottles are dark so they protect the inks from light so the colors are unlikely to shift due to exposure to light. So, there’s that.

Robert Oster Blue Denim Writing Sample

In my writing sample, I used my trusty Esterbrook nib holder and my favorite #2442 fine stub nib which showed more turquoise coloring. I also have the Blue Denim ink in my Karas Kustoms Bar Stock Fountain K EF and the ink looks much darker with the red sheen far more evident. You can see a writing sample in my recent writing samples of the Ferme à Paris Planner writing tests.

Robert Oster Blue Denim Ink Comparison

Compared to some of the other Oster inks in my cupboard, Blue Denim is probably the closest to a “blue black”. Blue Denim is probably most comparable, color-wise to Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo and Noodler’s Navy — at least of the colors I have on hand. But clearly, there are differences. So see? You really do need another blue ink!

Oster Blue Denim in 50ml bottles is available from Anderson Pens and Vanness Pens.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Papier Plume Garden District Azalea

Papier Plume Garden District Azalea

Garden District Azalea is the last of the three color I purchased from the New Orleans ink collection from Papier Plume. I laughed because earlier this week Sarah mentioned in the comments for the Streetcar Green that she specifically passed on the the “pink ink” and here I was thinking I was saving the “best for last”.There’s a color for everyone.

Alternately, there’s been a lot of other folks who have come around to appreciating pink inks, myself included. I think Callifolio Andrinople and the Sailor Pink Love helped to woo us over to the “pink love” for sure. But since this spring, I’ve been slowly adding new pink inks to my collection and coming to appreciate a few that have sat idle in my collection.

Papier Plume Garden District Azalea

The Papier Plume Azalea is a good pink addition. It shades nicely and is not too pinky-pink, leaning more towards a reddish pink than a candy watermelon pink. I didn’t notice any sheening in the color. I found the ink a little on the dry side so I think it might perform better in a wider nib pen than an extra fine. When painting the title, it did take a bit longer to dry and I got a bit impatient — especially considering I managed to misspell GARDEN. Doh! Overall, I like the ink and the price point cannot be beat.

Papier Plume Garden District Azalea

Compared to other pink inks in the Desk vault, Garden District Azalea is closest to J. Herbin Rouge Opera which is a very wet, runny ink and a touch more red. Andrinople is a tiny bit darker and moodier than Azalea and  Iroshizuku Tsutsuji is more magenta pink. Both Sailor Sakura-Mori and Iroshizuku Kosumusu are more peachy pink (watermelon-y) and the Kobe #41 is more purply-pink.

I hope that gives you a good idea where Garden District Azalea falls in the pink spectrum. Would bright up any black pen — would probably make the Black Pen Society guys weep so don’t tell them I said that.

Ink Review: Papier Plume Streetcar Green

Papier Plume Streetcar Green

Continuing the Papier Plume ink obsession, today’s review is the Streetcar Green from the New Orleans collection as well. I purchased this in the same batch with the Sazerac from yesterday. And while I had been given a big thumb’s up from Brad about the Sazerac, I bought the Streetcar Green sight unseen. Now, I love green inks and I have a soft spot for all things vintage and I love of New Orleans so I was willing to take the $8 gamble.

Papier Plume Streetcar Green

The color is one of the most unusual shades of green I’ve gotten. Its sort of a deep evergreen but was not like any color I had. It definitely reminded me of the color of the leather seats on an old streetcar. The one odd thing I noticed was how dingy the color looked when wet. It seemed to brighten and look cleaner as it dried. It was the strangest phenomena I’ve seen in an ink. So, don’t be fooled if you see the ink wet. It looks rather lusterless wet but it has a lovely appearance when dry.

Papier Plume Streetcar Green Ink Comparison

I had very few greens in my stash that looked even close in color to Streetcar Green. Oddly, DeAtramentis Document Green and DeAtramentis Cement Grey were the closest in hue and neither I would have thought would be even close. I would think something like Diamine Evergreen might be close but I don’t actually own it so I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison.

I found a few other comparable ink colors on the Anderson Pens Ink Comparison tool:

Streetcar Green Ink Comparison

Pricewise, I think the Papier Plume Streetcar Green is as good a value as any of the other options and it dries fairly quickly. It shades nicely too.

Ink Review: Papier Plume Sazerac

Papier Plume Sazerac

After recording the Gift Guide episode of the Pen Addict podcast, I fell victim to our own enabling and bought some of the Papier Plume Sazerac ink. See? We are even dangerous to each other!

Sazerac is part of their New Orleans themed ink collection and being a cocktail connoisseur, I couldn’t resist trying a bottle.

Papier Plume Sazerac

The color is a warm, vivid orange reminiscent of the color of a Sazerac cocktail viewed in the glass. There are lots of interpretations of the recipe but all are variations of rye whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters, a twist of lemon and the glass is coated with absinthe. Some recipes add a little simple syrup or sugar and the original recipes included cognac. No matter how you drink it, you’ll agree that Papier Plume’s Sazerac ink is a pretty close color match.

Papier Plume Sazerac

The ink shades nicely and has lovely variation. My biggest issue was that the ink was much lighter wet than dry making it a little difficult to write with in some light.

Papier Plume Sazerac Ink Comparison

For color comparison, Sazerac is warmer, more whiskey-like than Noodler’s Summer Tanager ad Dragon Napalm. Sazerac was also a bit warmer and richer than the new Sailor Kin-Mokusei which is a very bright, sunny orange. Sazerac is more on the orange side of the spectrum than Fuyugaki and the now-discontinued Sailor Jentle Apricot which are both more red.

Overall, at a mere $8 per bottle, the Papier Plume inks are definitely worth the investment. I like the wax seal cap though it did make closing the bottle a bit more challenging. I would, however, be willing to pay a dollar or two more per bottle for a nicer label.