After a bit of a hiatus, I recently started publishing ink reviews again. "The ink review" can be a staple of the pen blogger's repertoire, especially when a blog is young and you find yourself having to finance most of your own content (i.e., buy stuff to review). Ink samples come cheap, and most of us pen nerds have a nearly endless supply of ink at home anyway.
The flip side of this is that the ink review space is crowded, with many excellent blogs specializing in ink alone. In order to get your ink reviews to stand out, you need to do something unique to develop your own "take" on things. Otherwise, you risk getting lost in the crowd. My standard ink reviews are admittedly nothing special, and don't get as much attention as a lot of the other content I publish.
This year I decided to focus more on the brands as a whole, rather than doing a lot of reviews of individual inks, in part because the distinct manufacturer and brand trends and identities are what really interest me about stationery in the first place. You may have noticed my broader-scope reviews of Blackstone Inks, Bookbinders, and Robert Oster. So what's up next? Well, in what might be my favorite "brand revitalization" story in the past couple years, Monteverde has completely overhauled their ink lineup and launched over 30 new colors. I've had the opportunity to use four different colors over the past couple months, and I'm impressed.
Background on Monteverde Inks
Monteverde is a brand that's owned by Yafa, a large pen company that also owns Conklin and distributes Italian brands Delta and Stipula. Monteverde has been selling their own inks for a while, and previously featured a standard color lineup of black, blue, green, brown, etc. While I've tried these inks, and they were certainly serviceable, I don't recall them being nearly as vibrant as the new colors. In truth, they were fairly boring. (Somewhere around here, I still have a bottle of a dark gray ink they gave away to attendees at one of the past D.C. Pen Shows....)
What do we know about Monteverde's new inks? For starters, they're made in Austria, and the rumor is that the inks come from the same factory that makes Montblanc. I have no idea whether it's true or not, but I will note that the new Monteverde inks behave similarly to Montblanc inks, in terms of dry time, feathering, etc. That is, the inks dry very quickly, even with a wet nib on Tomoe River paper, and the feathering and bleed-through is minimal, even on cheap copy paper. In case you haven’t noticed, these properties are basically my “gold standards” for inks. I often feel that I'm repeating myself, saying the inks that I use are “well-behaved” in this sense, but given the cheap paper that I have to use daily at work, if an ink bleeds and feathers all over the place, it’s useless to me. A “good” ink for my purposes also needs to dry quickly, since I generally take a lot of notes in a short period of time, and have to be able to turn the page without wondering whether or not the ink’s going to smear. Monteverde credits "ITF" - Ink Treatment Formula - which apparently is some sort of additive (probably a lubricant) designed to improve ink flow and "stave off clogging and corroding." I can’t vouch for these claims, but I will say that so far, Monteverde’s new inks check all of my boxes in terms of usability.
On to the Color Selection....
I’ve tried four different bottles of this ink so far: Moonstone, Chaorite, Mandarin Orange, and Napa Burgundy. I've enjoyed them all, but my current favorites are probably the Burgundy (of course) and the Chaorite. Some specific comments on each one in turn:
- Chaorite: The most surprising of the bunch, since I’m not a huge purple ink fan, but this one’s reminiscent of Private Reserve Tanzanite (only better behaved). It’s also been compared to “Blurple,” a “custom” ink made famous by Richard Binder that’s a 50/50 mix of Waterman Purple and Waterman Blue. Personally, I prefer the Chaorite, because it doesn’t take on the faded, washed-out look that Waterman inks sometimes do once they dry.
- Moonstone: A unique ink that looks like a brown when it’s wet, but dries to a dark greenish/brownish/gray shade. Despite being somewhat dry, it still flows well. It’ s probably my least favorite of the four, but a great color nonetheless and one I’ve used regularly. I'd recommend using it in a broader nib, as it can appear very light in a fine or extra-fine, especially on less-absorbent paper.
- Napa Burgundy: I love wine-colored, burgundy inks, and this is a great one, reminiscent of Montblanc Burgundy and Bordeaux. Great flow and extremely fast dry time. Doesn’t crust up on nibs, which is always a plus in a red ink.
- Mandarin Orange: A solid bright orange color that’s bright enough to use in extra-fine and fine nibs. Some oranges can get a little washed-out looking if they’re not saturated enough, but this one stands out fine in my Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black.
What's next on my list: Olivine, Topaz, and Fireopal. I'd also like to try out a turquoise or another light blue (Caribbean Blue, perhaps?) and see whether I can find an ink that comes close to the Montblanc UNICEF Blue. As I mentioned in a recent review, Lamy Turquoise is close to the UNICEF, but the Montblanc has a richness and sheen to it that Lamy can't quite match.
Note: Monteverde/Yafa appears to have divided these inks into two groups, the "Gemstone" collection, which is where inks such as Chaorite, Olivine, Topaz, etc. are grouped, and standard "fountain pen inks". Most retailers seem to have them all listed together, and while I don't know for sure whether there's any difference between the two groups of ink other than color and naming conventions, I suspect not.
Where to Buy
Monteverde inks are widely available. I purchased the inks featured in this review from Pen Chalet, which stocks the entire line. Right now, Monteverde inks might be the number one price/value proposition out there. You can get a 30 ml bottle for $8, or a 90ml bottle for $13.50, which is an absolutely insane deal. If you prefer cartridges, or simply like to have a couple packs of cartridges lying around for travel or working outside the house, most, if not all, of these colors are available in 12 packs of cartridges for under $5.
Disclaimer: I purchased these inks from Pen Chalet for my own use. This post does contain affiliate links.