Pensieve: J. Herbin Stormy Grey Ink Review

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J. Herbin Stormy Grey ($26.00 at Goulet Pens) seems to be the ink everyone is talking about lately. Retailers can’t keep it in stock, so the buzz is bustling bottles off the shelves.

As one of J. Herbin’s 1670s ink collection (along with Rouge Hematite and Ocean Blue), Stormy Grey comes in a gorgeous bottle adorned with a black wax seal stamped “1670.”

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1670 is the time period of the French Sailor, J. Herbin. According to the J. Herbin Web site:

“The 1670 collection celebrates the rich life and adventures of J. Herbin, an enterprising French sailor of the 17th century. He made a number of voyages to India, collecting ingredients and formulas for his sealing wax and inks. He began making pen inks in shop in Paris in 1700–beginning with the ‘Ink of Ships’ and the ‘Jewel of Inks.’”

Stormy Grey is reminiscent of the sailor’s adventures on dark seas, and the gold flecks in the ink represent lightning. Obviously, the special 1670s inks are highly symbolic of the company’s namesake.

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I inked up four pens with Stormy Grey to see how it performed. First, I used my Montblanc 234 1/2 which has an italic, slightly flexible nib. I like this nib because it gives good line variation and I hoped it would show off the shading of the ink. Overall, I was pleased with the performance, though if I paused for any length of time, I had to work to get the ink flowing again. The pen skipped quite a bit, too. But after trying the ink in other pens, I decided that the problem is with my vintage nib and feed and not the ink. Guess it’s time to tune up the Montblanc.

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Stormy Grey looks gorgeous using the Conway Stewart 458 with a medium flex nib. The lines have good variation and shading, and in the sun the flecks sparkle.

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In my Nakaya Piccolo with a semi-flex music nib, the ink performed flawlessly. It flows smoothly and produces nice shading.

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I also tried the ink in my Platinum 3776 with a fine nib. Although the ink flowed perfectly well from the nib (I didn’t have problems with any gold flecks blocking it), the color is decidedly less saturated and looks almost like pencil lead. This ink clearly looks best when used with broad and/or flexible nibs.

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I saw significant show through and a little bleed through in my Rhoda spiral notebook which has 80g paper. I was surprised that my Tomoe River Paper journal didn’t have any bleed through (show through, yes), in spite of the wetness of the ink. But Tomoe River Paper is magical, to say the least.

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While many gray inks exist, the gold flecks set J. Herbin’s Stormy Grey apart from the rest. The flecks are most obvious in swabs and drops of the ink. I honestly couldn’t see the gold when I was writing my handwritten review, but the light in our living room is subdued. When I put the pages in sunlight, the flecks showed up, though they were tiny. I couldn’t get much sheen otherwise, though you can see it in the second writing sample in Brad Dowdy’s review on Pen Addict. The picture below shows the gold flecks in all their glory. I wish they were this prominent in writing.

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The gold flecks pose a potential problem for this ink, and the box comes with a triple warning: “Highly saturated ink;” “Clean nib and section w/ damp cloth to avoid potential staining;” and “Don’t leave ink in fountain pen reservoir.” I’ve not read any reviews yet that say the ink has clogged a nib or stained a pen, but this is a fairly new ink, released in October, so problems may turn up the longer the ink is in use. I’m not planning on leaving the ink in my Nakaya for any length of time, just in case.

In honor of the ink’s name, I close with a poem by Christian Wiman called “After a Storm,” from his collection Once in the West: Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014), 76. The poem is about a snow storm rather than a storm at sea, but the grey color suits it.

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