While I'm on the subject of favorites, I thought I'd do a quick recap of my favorite brand of ink: Sailor. Confession: I own nearly all of the current "standard" Sailor Jentle inks (everything except Tokiwa Matsu, which is essentially the same as the old Epinard), as well as multiple bottles of the "old" Jentle inks and several special editions manufactured for Japanese retailers Bung Box and Kobe Nagasawa. When it comes to Sailor inks, I have a problem.
My favorite color? I can't pick just one, though the inks that get the most use are the blues: Bung Box Sapphire, and Sailor Jentle Nioi-Sumire and Souten. However, now-discontinued Apricot holds a special place in my heart, and many people obsess over the teal green Yama-Dori due to its red sheen when it dries on the page.
Why do I like Sailor inks so much? It's a combination of deep, slightly offbeat colors, the fact that I've found the inks safe to use in pretty much any pen, and that they write really well on cheaper papers. In a finer nib, I've yet to discover any paper on which Sailor ink won't perform at least decently. Kiwa Guro nano-black will even write fairly well on a Moleskine and in Field Notes pocket notebooks.
Some people enjoy Sailor inks for their collectibility, and try to collect the various inks that Sailor bottles for Japanese retailers. The two most famous are the lines that Sailor manufactures for Bung Box (Hamamatsu, Japan) and Kobe-Nagasawa (Kobe, Japan). These are also the most widely available: Vanness Pens in the United States regularly carries Bung Box, and occasionally, Massdrop will run specials on specific colors. For the Kobe Inks, you likely will have to go through eBay (retailer CoolJapan) unless Vanness restocks them. Other special edition Sailor inks (such as those manufactured for retailers Kingdom Note and Maruzen) probably require you to use a purchasing service like White Rabbit Express, if you don't know someone living in or traveling to Tokyo who can pick up the ink for you. I've not gone this route, so I can't advise regarding how easy/difficult White Rabbit is to use, and whether it ends up being cost effective.
The Bad: The Bottle
Nothing's perfect, and Sailor ink is no exception. What's the one thing I would change? The bottle. Sailor inks come in a short, wide bottle that can be difficult to use with larger-nibbed pens. I've even had trouble from time to time getting Sailor pens to fill completely if the bottle is less than half full. At one point, I hoped that Sailor would permanently move to the taller, vase-shaped bottle they used for certain of their Japanese special editions, including Bung Box, but these bottles have since been discontinued. (Why, Sailor? WHY!?)
If I could encourage someone new to fountain pens to try a single brand of bottled ink, it would be Sailor. The colors are fun, unique, and most important of all, can't really be duplicated elsewhere (and certainly not in any ink that's available in cartridges). I know I keep going back to this, but one thing that's really important to me is performance on cheap paper. For many people just starting out with fountain pens, they haven't yet discovered or stocked up on higher-end paper, and they can become easily discouraged with inks that tend to feather and bleed through anything other than Rhodia or Clairefontaine. Sailor as a brand performs better than most.
The standard Sailor Jentle line is also relatively inexpensive for such high-quality ink that comes in a range of colors. Retail pricing is anywhere from $12 (for standard blue, black, blue-black) to $18 for Yama-Dori, Souten, etc. Pigmented inks such as Kiwa Guro are priced at a slight premium (around $21), but if you are looking to import the special Japanese editions, be prepared to pay as much as $43 per bottle. Occasionally, Amazon sellers will have specials on specific colors. For example, you can currently snag a bottle of Yama Dori or a bottle of Shigure (purple) for less than "full retail".
Why have I personally focused on finding a "favorite brand" of ink? When you find one that you can load into any pen, without worrying about how that ink will perform on basically any paper, then it adds an entirely new level of satisfaction to your writing experience. I easily could see myself start using Sailor ink exclusively.
But how about you? What are your favorite ink brands? I'm interested to see what people's thoughts are.
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