Category: Ink Review

Ink Review: Montblanc UNICEF Turquoise

There are a couple of brands of ink recently that I’ve developed a terrible case of FOMO about and a oddly, Montblanc is one of them. Generally speaking, I am not a big Montblanc pen fan in general because they are too expensive and fussy for me in regards to modern pens and the well for vintage pens is too deep and pricey to get into. But the inks… that’s a well shallow enough for me to play in and many of the colors are lovely and the themes are interesting – historical figures, music, literature and charitable organizations. It’s almost altruistic. So, after a dive into the new Lucky Orange, Golden Yellow and Miles Davis Jazz Blue which I will review soon, I was equally tempted by the UNICEF Turquoise ink.

It’s a limited edition color but it comes in a bottle twice the size as the regular limited edition colors – a healthy 60ml quantity rather than the 30ml but the price tag also reflects the larger size, $39 for the bottle. However, as its a UNICEF charitable project for literacy, part of the cost is a donation to UNICEF. The ink comes in a box decorated with letters from alphabets from around the world that coordinates with the Montblanc UNICEF pen as well. (I forgot to take photos of the box but Anderson Pens has images of the box on their site if you’re curious)

I love turquoise inks in general but I was absolutely tickled to discover that the UNICEF turquoise shades and SHEENS like crazy. It’s a beautiful color and made me absolutely giddy. It was well worth the price which as far as I was concerned was my “show ink” since I made poor Lisa Anderson schlep it to Chicago for me. The price of the UNICEF Turquoise is the equivalent of a bottle of Bungbox and I haven’t bought a bottle of that in over a year so I feel like I’m being pretty well-behaved – all things considered.

In my water test, the ink is definitely not water resistant but it will make for some interesting washes if I decide to play with it for drawing. UNICEF Turquoise has such wonderful Caribbean Seas tones!

As you can see, I clearly had lots of other turquoise inks to compare UNICEF Turquoise to in my collection. I threw Robert Oster Fire & Ice in because I knew folks would ask how similar it was. Fire & Ice is definitely more green. Akkerman Treves-Turquoise is probably the closest with Pilot Iroshizuku Ama-Iro bringing up a close second. Waterman Inspired Blue was very similar in hue without quite as much sheening.

Go buy a beautiful ink and support a charity and then know that you can get a regularly stocked color later that is a darn close replacement. See, we’ve got you covered! And when all is said and done, you’ll have a big beautiful Montblanc glass bottle you can fill with your favorite ink once you’ve used up all your UNICEF Turquoise which you’ll do quickly because you saw Leigh Reyes’ photo this week too, right? Don’t hoard your inks because they don’t keep forever!


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Ink Review: KWZ Chicago Blue

KWZ Chicago Blue (60ml, $15)  is an ink color exclusively created for the Chicago Pen Show 2017 but luckily for you, it did not sell out completely. There are still a few bottles left for sale through Vanness Pens. So, even if you weren’t able to make it to the show, you can still feel like you were a part of the event.

The bottle features a watercolor portrait of the skyline and the tagline “exclusively for Chicago Pen Show 2017” so its definitely a collector’s bottle. For those familiar with KWZ ink, it has the signature aroma of lightly menthol-honey that I’ve grown to love when you open the bottle.

Whether you are inclined to associate the color blue with the Chicago Blues music, the Chicago PD (I think more of their black leather jackets there), the color your lips turn on the average February morning (this color may be right on the money there) or the stripes on the city flag (which are actually pale sky blue) – this blue color is the bluest of the blues. It’s practically pure indigo.

We did a few accidental chromographs in Chicago to discover that there was not a hint of red or purple or black in this blue. It’s blue through and through.

Chicago Blue is so dense and dark that it doesn’t shade nor does it have any sheen but its a very rich blue.

I had a tough time finding any other blues quite as vivid. The closest was Noodler’s Ottoman Azure. It was the only color even in the ballpark. I included some vivid blues just to show exactly how deep these blues are without being blue-blacks.

I do find KWZ inks to be viscous, not runny or watery (what other people might describe as “wet” inks). I’d say similar in consistency to Diamine inks rather than DeAtramentis if that helps to give you some sense of the feeling. I’m not a chemist so I don’t know if that consistency will work better for some pens over others but I do find that it makes KWZ inks denser and less luminous. The colors are rich but don’t shade as often as thinner inks do.

I used my Esterbrook #2442 nib in a Shwan Newton holder so I had to dip midway through my writing which resulted in some color differences. I suspect the variations reflect the differences between a medium/broad nib and a EF/F nib. I tested on Rhodia Uni-Blanc paper using 7mm guide sheets. The titles were done with Silver Black Velvet #6 Round Brush. Swatches were done using the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book, of course.

Ink Review: Montegrappa Violet

I’ve been blogging about pens and ink for seven years and this is the first time I’ve tried a Montegrappa ink. Its safe to say, “Its about time!” So, my first bottle is the Montegrappa Violet (50ml $20).

Bottle rating? A+. Those Italians know a thing or two about making things look fabulous. The faceted glass bottle is elegant and classic and the matching facted top with gold coin logo is bellissima! The grippy gear at the bottom makes it possible to open and close the bottle even if your fingers are wet. Engineering points too!

I had fun using Montegrappa Violet as a watercolor. I was able to pull some of the pink out around the edges and get to see exactly how vivid and rich this ink is. Montegrappa Violet is a very saturated ink. In some ways it almost looks indigo its so rich.

In writing, especially with a flex nib, the color is so deep that there is not a lot of shading but it does give a good rich color that is very vibrant. If you are looking for a vibrant color for a fine nib, I think this would be a great option. It flows beautifully. And once dry, it does not move much so while its not a permanent or iron gall ink, it will survive an errant raindrop or drip from your beverage.

I realized that I didn’t have a lot of royal purples in my ink arsenal. Montegrappa Violet and Waterman Tender Purple are pretty similar but Tender Purple has a distinct green/gold sheen. All the other purples and violets in my collection were more reddish and purple and less violet.

While Montegrappa’s inks aren’t a titillating as the hot, sheening inks coming out of Australia or one of the FOMO colors from an itty bitty Japanese stationery shop, these colors are likely to be around for a long time and provide stable quality for a company that prides itself on heritage and craftsmanship.

There are seven other colors in the Montegrappa ink line to provide a good assortment of classic colors in classic bottles guaranteed to Montegrappa’s exacting standards.

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

Ink Review: Robert Oster Berry D’arche

Robert Oster Berry D’Arche ($16 per 50 ml bottle) is hard color to color to describe. It’s not quite a burgundy, not really purple but its not a brown either. And if you think describing it was a challenge, photographing it was even more difficult.

Looking at the swatch card next to other colors of similar hue is probably the best way to get a ballpark of the color in perspective. Scabiosa is definitely more purply and Syrah more red. Berry D’arche is definitely more of a muted, less vibrant color than some of the other colors shown. I began to think of Berry D’arche as a sophisticated color– appropriate for work but still a little different.

I still couldn’t get away from describing it as a two-color name… red-black, purple-brown, burgundy-grape? I would drive Myke Hurley to drink an entire bottle of Merlot with my two-color names! (If you listened to Episode 252 of The Pen Addict podcast, you’ll know he was not keen on the use of two-color names for things so I’m not helping myself here.) But some colors are just in that hazy, in-between space and what can you do?

Technically, this ink color does shade but there is not much sheening, if any, that I can spot.

The fact that its one of those is-it or isn’t-it colors makes it hard to recommend. Are you looking for a color that isn’t quite burgundy or purple or red or brown or maroon or black? Then this is for you.


Ink Review: Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Every year for the last… maybe eight SIX years now(?) Pelikan has tried to wow us with a new jewel-themed Color of the Year ink color. While Pantone is telling us this year is the year of “Greenery,” Pelikan is trying to convince us its a browner sort of year. Pelikan chose Smoky Quartz ($28 for a 50ml bottle) as its color of the year.

Side note: For a handy cheat sheet of all the Pelikan Edelstein colors released thus far, check out the list compiled on the Pelikan’s Perch. They even have information on the 2018 color that’s been selected: an olive-green though it has yet to be named. 

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

The color is a deep rich, chocolatey brown for sure. The only other neutral/brown tone the Pelikan Edelstein has offered was the Amber in 2013 and it was much more of an orange-brown so fans of this line of ink are sure to be pleased with the richness of this color. I was happy to see that the color is a warm brown with a yellow, golden undertone.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz swatch

When I swatched the color, it magically got this highlight spot so that I could see the undertones. t gave it quite a Western Americana feel to me. It was the first time I really got the “smoky” part of the color.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz writing sample

The writing sample did not show a lot of color variation but its a nice solid brown ink. There was no noticeable shading or sheening. It’s definitely a “staple” ink and not a “boutique” ink.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz Swatch Comparison

I had a really hard time getting the color “just right” on these swatches. Suffice it to say that the subtleties got lost but the overall color values are captured here. Smoky Quartz is definitely one of the darkest browns in my collection. Bookbinders Eastern Brown and Kaweco Caramel Brown are definitely warmer colors. Tears of a Clown is more reddish. Platinum Pigment Sepia is the lightest and both formulas of KWZ Honey are more gold, leaning to green.

I hope theses images help to give you a better idea of how Smoky Quartz performs in real world tests. Right now Oster Caffe Creme is probably my favorite brown ink followed by KWZ Honey but I’d probably put Smoky Quartz in slot #3. That’s not a bad place to be. Its a solid performer and a good rich color and a nice alternative to black or blue-black.

Testing Notes: I used Rhodia Uni blank paper for the writing tests and my trusty Esterbrook #2442 nib in my Shawn Newton nib holder. For the header and ink swabs, I used a #4 round watercolor brush. For all the ink swatches shown I used the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book and a Zebra G Titanium dip nib in a vintage holder. To keep my lines straight, I use 6mm and 7mm guide sheets.


Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz Giveaway Package

THE PRIZE: Winner will receive ONE (1) bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz graciously provided by Goulet Pens AND ONE (1) Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book from The Well-Appointed Desk.

THE RULES: Leave ONE (1) comment below and tell me which of all the Pelikan Edelstein Color of the Year colors has been your favorite thus far. Is it Smoky Quartz? Or one of the previous colors? Or do you have a recommendation for what the next color should be? If so, you must give it the appropriately gemstone-y name.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, April 10, 2017. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within seven (7) days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents only, please.

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

Pen Review: Lamy AL-Star Pacific Special Edition 2017 (EF Nib) and Lamy Pacific Ink

I spent a very amused hour listening to Myke and Brad fuss about the new Lamy Special Editions for 2017 on this week’s episode of the Pen Addict. Did you hear the episode? First, a big congratulations to the guys for reaching their five year milestone!

I was tickled that Brad was so passionate about not liking the AL-Star as much as he liked the Safari. My feelings on the subject are the exact opposite. The plastic Safari cost is about $30 but for about $7 more you can get the more durable (and IMHO more aesthetically appealing) aluminum AL-Star.

Finally, knowing that Lamy is doing the same pebbly finish on the Petrol Safari special edition that they did on the Dark Lilac means that the AL-Star is going to remain a classic since it keeps the original smooth finish. I’m not a fan of the pebbly finish that Lamy is using on the Dark Lilac and the upcoming Petrol model but you may disagree. So, as you can see, my opinions are diametrically opposite of Brad and Myke on the subject of the new Lamy Safari and AL-Star releases.

Onward, to the Pacific! Isn’t the color stunning? Like all the other limited edition Lamy colorways, the question really boils down to this… will you kick yourself later if you don’t buy it? Its the whole FOMO thing. If you love Lamy AL-Stars or you’re a fan of all things turquoise-y you are going to want to pick one of these up. If you’ve never purchased a Lamy Safari or AL-Star before and were considering buying one, this would be a good one to buy. As a fan of the AL-Star over the Safari, I’m always going to prefer it over the Safari but if you asked Brad, he’d tell you the exact opposite so you’ll have to use your best judgement here. Do you like metallic sheen? Or do you prefer glossy plastics or pebbled finishes?

I received the Lamy AL-Star Pacific with an EF nib ($37.60) from Goulet Pens. Generally, I find that the Lamy nibs tend to run a little wet and a bit wider than other European nibs. I find the Lamy EF nib to be a very pleasant everyday writing pen and with the Lamy Pacific ink ($10.50 for the 50ml bottle) its a great pick-me-up for a grey February day.

Don’t forget to add a Z24 converter ($4.95) to you order if you plan to use bottled ink.

There’s been a lot of discussion around the Lamy Pacific ink being repackaged Lamy’s Turquoise ink. Many pen shops (as well as Lamy) have clarified that the Lamy Pacific ink is the same ink as Lamy Turquoise so if you already own a bottle of Lamy Turquoise, you do not need to purchase another bottle of Lamy Pacific — unless you really want to. However, if you have not purchased Lamy Turquoise in the past, this would be a perfect opportunity to grab a bottle to match this lovely pen.

Lamy Pacific ink is a vibrant turquoise blue that has good shading and even a big of magenta sheen. Shading is visible even in the EF nib writing and the color stays bright and legible even in the fine writing of the EF nib. While Lamy has trouble getting a bright, legible green, they do a splendid job with their bright, legible blue. And at the price point, this ink cannot be beat. Add in the cool bottle with blotting paper built into the bottle and you have a great deal.

I’ve included a couple other current turquoise inks that are popular at the moment for comparison. All were painted on Rhodia paper. Robert Oster Torquay is notably darker and Sailor’s new Yuki-Akari is a bit lighter than the Lamy Pacific.

In the end, I find the AL-Star, and the Pacific color in particular, to be one of the nicest looking pens Lamy has done in awhile. Could you imagine if the Lamy 2000 had been Pacific Blue Makralon? I wish Lamy had been a bit more upfront about the ink color name change with retailers but Pacific/Turquoise is such a gorgeous color and it really does have a lovely sheen that I don’t think anyone will get stuck with too many bottles.

It does make me wonder if the ink for Petrol won’t be rebranded Blue Black though.

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

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.