Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Fountain Pen Ink Review: Honest Ink Ultramehrine

Honest Ink Ultramehrine by Straits Pen

Last October, our local fountain pen group, Fountain Pen Network Philippines, organized the first-ever Manila Fountain Pen Show. Members of the group, guests, and local sellers of fountain pens and related products were present during the much anticipated one-day fountain pen show. Straits Pen, a company from Singapore was also at the show with their store-exclusive inks, notebooks, and fountain pens. Straits Pen produced the Manila Fountain Pen Show's special edition exclusive ink, Manila Copper.

I was excited to visit Straits Pen's table at the show because of their blue inks. I wanted to get their store-exclusive Noodler's ink Blue Straits of Malacca and the newly-launched Honest Ink Poorman's Sapphire. I was only able to get Poorman's Sapphire because Blue Straits of Malacca was already sold out. But Ng Lip Sing and the Straits Pen group offered me a bottle of a still-unreleased Honest Ink for review.

I appreciate details such as this one. Most of us throw away the boxes that our ink bottles came with, not knowing that the box helps prevent the ink from fading due to exposure to bright light and heat.

Straits Pen's Honest Ink is a very young ink brand. The ink series is the company's significant move to becoming a manufacturer from being a distributor and reseller of fountain pen inks. Most ink manufacturers are from other parts of the world, and Southeast Asia seemed poorly represented. As a Singapore-based maker, Straits Pen wishes to bring colors and approaches to the market that people from the region would recognize as being from their "neck of the woods." The ink colors' names such as Bougainvillea Purple is a message to the world that Straits Pen is part of a wave of makers that are embracing their own traditions and bringing Southeast Asia to the world.

Not even a year old, the first season of four ink colors was launched in August, during the San Francisco International Pen Show for the US market. The batch includes Poorman's Sapphire, Shitty Sepia, Sad Stormy Swedish Sea, and Happy Accident Lilac. The inks were again launched twice in Japan at the Tokyo International Pen Show and at Itoya's INK.ink.ink! event in September. In October, Honest Ink was launched in the Philippines at the Manila Fountain Pen Show.

Honest Ink is still young, yet the second batch of four new colors is already awaiting their launch. One of the colors in the second batch is Ultramehrine, and the Straits Pen group is thinking of a launch during the Singapore Fountain Pen Lovers Pen Show in 2019. While Honest Ink has been released in different places already, it has not been introduced formally to the local fountain pen community in Singapore. The upcoming pen show in Singapore is the perfect opportunity to launch the inks. The group will also launch the second batch of Honest Ink at the next San Francisco International Pen Show.
Honest Ink comes in a simple no-fuss bottle with a simple no-fuss label.

Ultramehrine is a deep, dark blue fountain pen ink with purple tones. This ink has moderate flow and excellent shading (see writing and calligraphy samples below) which is very visible when used in fountain pen-friendly paper such as our local Victory notebooks. Ultramehrine is not waterproof, however, but it doesn't stain, and I was able to easily clean it off a Lamy Al-star which was used in my writing samples.

The people at Straits Pen named their inks Honest Ink because these inks reflect the reputation that the group has made over the years. They believe in selling honestly, and in telling people the truth about the products they sell. They do not only tell customers about the upsides of a product, but they reveal the bad points as well -- which is evident in the story behind the name Ultramehrine.

According to the group, they wanted an ultramarine ink color, but initial tests were underwhelming --  the color was a subdued dark blue rather than the brilliant ultramarine blue that they want. The resulting color was still a good dark blue, and they decided to use it, even though they felt the ink was 'meh.' And this is how the name UltraMEHrine was created.
Swatches of Honest Ink Ultramehrine.

I love blue inks, and I had so much fun testing this ink (See the tips I used in swabbing inks for this review.). I like using fountain pen inks which surprise me and Ultramehrine did. In the ink swatches above -- details below -- the single layer/single pass swatch is already a nice handsome blue, but note that the double layers swatch is not only significantly darker, it has a distinct poignant character, and I'm thrilled that this same depth is what I see in my writing samples from a 1.1 Lamy nib.

Ultramehrine up close, single layer/single pass. It's a nice, handsome blue ink!
Two layers of Ultramehrine give us a poignant, dramatic dark blue ink.
I'd love to use this ink in my journal entries!
Ultramehrine's drying time. From a Lamy 1.1 nib on Victory paper, it took 12-13 seconds to dry.

I have a wide selection of blue fountain pen inks, including some dark blues which are similar to Ultramehrine. I find Ultramehrine to be very close to Noodler's Midnight Blue, Diamine Sargasso Sea, and Rober Oster Midnight Sapphire. All these inks are beautiful dark blues, but I have stopped using the heavily saturated Sargasso Sea after it stained a converter. Ultramehrine is a dark blue ink but it's not heavily saturated at all and has not stained the two fountain pens I have inked with it.

Honest Ink Ultramehrine is very close to Noodler's Midnight Blue and Diamine Sargasso Sea.
Among the Robert Oster inks that I have, I find Ultramehrine to be closest to Midnight Sapphie.
Here's a (long) writing sample of Honest Ink Ultramehrine. I wrote this using a Lamy Al-star with 1.1 nib on local Victory notebook. 

I love shading inks, and I'll take shading over shimmer or sheen anytime. But, does Ultramehrine fountain pen ink shade? I tried this ink using 1.1 and 1.5 Lamy italic nibs to see its shading, and I was not disappointed. Ultramehrine is a shading ink, and when I tried it using the 1.5 Lamy nib for italic calligraphy, the ink color became more dramatic and meaningful.

It's confirmed. Ultramehrine is a shading ink!
This is Ultramehrine in italic calligraphy using a Lamy 1.5 nib. Excellent shading, beautiful color.

Ultramehrine is a blue ink that every fountain pen user should have. It's a versatile dark blue that is suitable for business or art purposes, or even for daily journaling and notetaking. It doesn't stain so I'm sure it won't clog pens. Overall, it's a joy to write with.

Right now, we don't see the Honest Ink selection in the Straits Pen website. The group said they cannot put it on the website yet because they do not have enough bottles to sell at the moment. Well, I think they should hurry up. These inks are sure to fly off the shelves fast as soon as they become available online.

After my week-long visit in 2011, Singapore became a special place for me. That visit opened my eyes to new horizons, new opportunities, and to more knowledge about the world. Singapore is even more special to me now because of Straits Pen and Honest Ink.


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I received the ink in this review for review purposes at no cost from the Straits Pen group during the Manila Fountain Pen Show in October. The Honest Ink selection is available for purchase at Straits Pen in Singapore. Their office is located at Office Block 212 Hougang Street 21 #04-349 Singapore 530212.

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