I haven’t used Private Reserve ink regularly in years. For those of you who were in this hobby a decade ago, you may recall a time when Noodler’s, Private Reserve, and maybe Levenger were the only options for bright, saturated fountain pen inks that came in dozens of colors. Sure, ink enthusiasts complained about slow dry times, smearing, clogging, feathering and other “high-maintenance” behaviors, but options weren’t plentiful if you wanted to write with an ink other than your basic black, red, or washed-out blue, and these inks were widely available at retail. (Private Reserve ink remains one of the few inks stocked in my local “pen store,” Nashville Trunk & Bag.) Two colors - Private Reserve Burgundy Mist and Sherwood Green, were among the first five bottles of ink I purchased after I discovered fountain pens.
Unfortunately, over the years, as new ink companies emerged, and as the larger pen companies such as Pilot, Sailor, Pelikan, etc. began to introduce a wider range of options into the ink market, Private Reserve lost ground. Reports of quality control issues didn’t help - I personally lost a bottle of Burgundy Mist to “Slime in the Bottle” (mold) and another red ink turned brown as the dye deteriorated. Then, the owner passed away, and the future of the company was in doubt. You didn’t see much Private Reserve ink in stock at retailers or at pen shows. From an outsider’s perspective, things looked grim.
Not so fast. Recently, things have turned around. A former employee purchased the company. Changes apparently were made to ink formulations. Old favorites such as D.C. Supershow Blue, Burgundy Mist, and Tanzanite began to reappear in stock at retailers. And you know what? The ink I’ve tried thus far is excellent. Back at the beginning of March, as I was getting ready to leave the Baltimore Pen Show, Lisa Vanness asked whether I’d like to take a bottle of Private Reserve to review, as the new owner had been making the rounds at the show - where she had her own table - promoting the company and letting everyone know that Private Reserve is back and ready to do business.
So what about my beloved Burgundy Mist? Is it as good as I remember (minus the whole SITB issue)? In short, yes. Burgundy Mist is the same saturated, classic dark burgundy that shows up well on the page and is perfect for a more conservative office environment. Despite the saturation, the ink behaves incredibly well - it dries nearly immediately in a fine or extra fine nib, with no noticeable feathering and minimal bleedthrough even on the cheapest of generic memo pads from my desk at work. Not what I expected from Private Reserve. Did I mention that the ink remains inexpensive? At $11 for 66ml, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal based on price-per-ml, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see that price come up a bit in the future as the company regains its foothold.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
Based on my experience with Burgundy Mist, I’m going to give Private Reserve another shot, and look forward to picking up more old favorites such as Sherwood Green, Supershow Blue, Tanzanite, Avocado (yes, they fixed the spelling) and Chocolate. At the price-point, it’s a low-risk proposition, and based on my experience with Burgundy Mist I’m confident that at least a few of those will turn out well and wind up back in the rotation.
Though not as widely available as it used to be, Private Reserve is still relatively easy to find at retailers. Vanness Pens currently has many of the inks in stock, in either bottles or their hefty 4ml samples. As I mentioned, Private Reserve ink remains a bargain at the $11 price point, and the deep bottle is more of a jar, with the wide mouth making it easy to fill pens with large nibs.
Disclaimer: This post contains links to paid sponsors and affiliates. I received the ink featured in this review free of charge for Vanness Pens for review purposes.