During my visit to Vanness Pens in December, Lisa and Mike were kind enough to send me home with samples of essentially the full line of Kyoto TAG inks, save for a couple that were out of stock. If you're unfamiliar with these inks, they're yet another line of specialty Japanese inks developed for specific stores. These inks are made by the TAG stationery store in Kyoto, Japan using traditional Japanese dyeing techniques and named after locations in and around Kyoto.
The Kyoto TAG inks are divided into two groups: Kyo-iro and Kyo-no-oto inks. So far, I've had the opportunity to use three of these inks extensively: Kyo-no-oto 01 Nureba-iro (a very interesting black ink with undertones of blue and green, as well as some sheen); Kyo-no-oto 02 Imayou-iro (a bright pink ink that's surprisingly usable as an everyday writer); and Kyo-iro 02 Morning Snow of Ohara (a deep blue black/blue-gray). So far, the latter is my favorite of the bunch.
Kyo-iro 02 / Morning Snow is a softer dark blue that probably falls into the "blue-black" category, though the tone changes depending on the lighting. It's a highly usable, work-friendly ink that shades nicely. Standard blue-black inks can be a bit on the boring side, so it's always fun to find one that has some character.
All of the Kyoto TAG inks that I've used have been super well-behaved, and I've had no issues using Morning Snow on cheaper copy paper at work, even in a stub nib. This is pretty remarkable to me because I've found the Kyoto TAG inks to be on the wetter side, with above-average ink flow. Morning Snow of Ohara stands a chance of becoming a go-to blue ink for work, since it's interesting, yet at the same time not distracting. Another thing I'll note is how easy these inks are to clean out of pens - I had no trouble quickly flushing the Nureba-iro or the Morning Snow, and even the Imayou-iro cleaned up easily, which is notable for a pink ink. I'd characterize these inks as "safe" to use in most pens (with the proviso that any pink or red carries the possibility of staining).
Takeaways and Where to Buy
For the past month or so I've had this ink loaded into my Montblanc 146 Ultra Black, and I'm on my second fill. I switch inks constantly, and rarely refill a pen with the same ink twice in a row unless I'm at the office or on the road without a new option, so that tells you something about how good this ink is. It's on the list for a full-bottle purchase at the upcoming Baltimore Pen Show.
You can purchase the full line of Kyoto TAG inks from Vanness Pens. The inks come in 40ml bottles - slightly smaller than the standard 50ml - and are priced at $28 per bottle. Since they're made in small batches and imported from Japan, they're on the pricier side, but there are much more expensive inks out there, and if you're a fan or collector of the Japanese boutique inks you don't want to miss this particular line.
Disclaimer: Site sponsor Vanness Pens provided me with a sample of the ink featured in this review free of charge, for review purposes. The pictures of the ink bottle and label are courtesy of Vanness Pens, since I don't have a full bottle of this ink at home.