The past few years have seen numerous new ink brands launch or expand successfully. KWZ, Bookbinder's, Blackstone, and Robert Oster - as well as older, "boutique" brands such as Papier Plume, Callifolio, and Akkerman - are now easily available to fountain pen enthusiasts via multiple online retail channels. Just six years ago, when I first got back into this hobby after years away, if you wanted colors other than the standard blue, black, blue-black, green, purple, or red, you were stuck with Noodler's or Private Reserve.
All of these new options are changing the ink market for the better. When Vanness Pens offered to send me some samples of the Robert Oster inks, I jumped at the chance because I was intrigued by the idea of this newer company offering over 40 different colors of ink right out of the gate. Plus I liked what I'd already heard from other reviewers, so I was eager to test some of the Robert Oster inks myself.
The Robert Oster website doesn't provide much information on the company itself, only that it's based in "one of the most famous wine producing regions, the Coonawarra District of South Australia." Robert Oster currently lists 10 global retailers that stock its products. The inks themselves are intended to represent "a genuine inventory of the Australian palette."
The Inks and My Overall Impressions
Robert Oster offers some genuinely unique colors, the names of which pay tribute to various Australian landmarks (i.e., Bondi Blue). The five inks that I've been testing over the past couple of weeks include: Tranquility (a deep turquoise/teal blue); Green Lime (a bright "electric" green); Khaki (what I'd call an "army green"); Direct Sun (a reddish orange, or orangish-red); and Claret (which is self-explanatory; it's the color of red wine).
All of these inks are excellent, and I tested them in a wide variety of pens, with both gold and steel nibs. The two inks that I've used the most are Tranquility and Direct Sun, but that's only because things at work have been absolutely nuts this week and blues and reds get the most "official" use. What strikes me the most is the combination of vibrancy of the colors and good behavior (i.e., quick dry time, lack of feathering and bleed-through). If I had to pick favorites and purchase two bottles out of these samples, I'd go with Tranquility and Green Lime. Tranquility is a deep Turquoise color that shades beautifully and has darker teal undertones, depending on the light. Green Lime simply because I've got a thing for bright green inks now, and this ink looks great in my Franklin-Christoph fine italic.
Companies like Robert Oster and KWZ have figured out how to offer an expansive color palette without oversaturating their inks and running into the same smearing and bleeding problems as brands like Noodler's and Private Reserve. If you're a fountain pen user looking to expand your color horizon, I'd go directly to brands like Robert Oster and save yourself the aggravation. I can't wait to try out another round of these inks. Right now, I'm looking at Astorquiza Rot, Gold Antiqua, and Verde de Rio, among others.
Where to Buy
Robert Oster's website lists its global resellers, so where you buy may depend on where you are located. Personally, I received these ink samples from Vanness Pens in the United States, and I purchase a large amount of ink from them every year (either online or at pen shows). Last time I checked, Vanness Pens had 48 different colors of Robert Oster Ink in stock! You can purchase ink in 50ml bottles or 4ml samples, at $16 and $2 respectively.
If you really, really like a certain color, you can buy 100ml bottles directly from the company itself. Unless you're located in Australia, I'm not sure how that would work out with international shipping. You're likely better off purchasing two 50ml bottles from a retailer like Vanness.
Many bloggers have reviewed other colors of Robert Oster inks, and the reaction has been mostly positive. I'd check out the following reviews: Susan Pigott reviews Tranquility for the Pen Addict; Ana at the Well-Appointed Desk reviews Aqua; and Macchiato Man reviews Summer Storm Blue-Grey.
Disclaimer: These ink samples were graciously provided to me free of charge by Vanness Pens. There's been some discussion recently about reviewer bias. Please be aware that I will ALWAYS disclose when something has been provided to me by a sponsor for review purposes. It goes without saying that everything you read on this blog is my own opinion (which I try to keep as objective as possible), and you should certainly take that into account when making your own purchasing decisions.