I don’t really do ink reviews, I’m not equipped to do a particularly good job—my scanner, and camera lighting, don’t reflect what is actually seen on the page as accurately as I would like. And I don’t have a very extensive ink collection to review (but I’m getting there). What inks I have, I rely on for my work.
I write with blacks and blues; I address envelopes with a waterproof black; I annotate papers and student assignments with red, and sometimes green. My limited color range is in regular use, but some colors not as much as others. My red ink of choice—until very recently—had been J. Herbin’s 1670 Anniversary Rouge Hematite. I loved everything about this ink, the color, it’s performance on different papers, I even loved the styling of the bottle.
First, the Bad News
I kept a Platinum Balance fountain pen, in wine red, with a fine nib, permanently inked with the Rouge Hematite. It’s nib, and I thought the attractive, deep red shading of the ink, complemented the pen rather well; and the fine nib allowed me to write crisp, clear annotation on papers I read and graded.
I was very happy with the arrangement… until recently. A bit of desk reorganization had resulted in one or two pens being placed on their side, in the carved wooden box in the picture above. They were only put there for an hour or two… until I forgot about them completely, and the hour or two turned into a few weeks. The TWSBI Diamond 580AL, loaded with Sailor’s Kiwa-Guro Nano Carbon Black; another Platinum Balance, with J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage Green; and a Sailor 1911L with J. Herbin Perle Noire Black, that were all in the box with the red pen, had no incident. But the Platinum Balance with the Rouge Hematite? That was in a bad way.
Platinum’s slip & seal technology in the cap wasn’t really necessary, the nib didn’t dry out, it flooded. And that beautiful, sparkly, J. Herbin ink, had caked all around the nib. Much, much, flushing with tepid water ensued. Then a lot of flushing with 50/50 white vinegar and water. Then an overnight soak in J. Herbin’s Pen Flush, before the water I was flushing through the pen finally cleared.
Didn’t you read the reviews?
Well, you might say, everybody knows that this ink shouldn’t be left in a pen for a couple of weeks, it’s notorious…
When using this ink, gold sludge builds up on the nib of your pen. This might bother some people, but I actually like it. Although, nib creep never really bothers me unless it’s affecting the writing experience or functionality of the pen. The gold nib creep is a positive aspect in my book.
And the wonderful Azizah also warned everybody who could read, back in 2011…
Things to be aware of? Don’t leave it in an unused fountain pen too long. Within a few days, it starts drying and after a few weeks, it becomes thicker and gummier (when damp) and flakier (when dry). It’s not waterproof though, so you can clean that nib up with a good washing. I make sure to flush my pen every time I use it with this ink, even if I’m refilling with it again.
Right. Well, no, I didn’t read the reviews did I? I was standing in the marvelous Take Note stationery shop in Toronto…
2993 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON M6P 1Z4
Tel. 1 416 766 1235
… and the lovely Jolanta had just sold me two amazing pens, and I was looking for an impactful red ink to go in my new wine red Platinum. And the other thing that everybody agrees on, apart from how much of a pain in the backside it is to clean out of your pens, is what an incredible color the Rouge Hematite is on the page. So I bought it, and didn’t read any reviews.
Bugger. I won’t be doing that again. Also, the bottle may look great, and is wonderful for having in the background of blog pictures, but it’s lousy for filling pens with large nibs—my Platinum 14K music nib, on the Century 3776, doesn’t fit in the J. Herbin bottle deep enough to get a complete fill of the converter.
Unlike the all-round wonderfulness, that is the Sailor Jentle Four Seasons Irori red…
Now, the Good News—Sailor Jentle Four Seasons Irori (Red) Ink
Whilst the Rouge Hematite makes a mess, and is at the very least, a high maintenance ink, it’s still really attractive on the page; so maybe on special occasions… whatever they might be. Somehow I can’t imagine myself inking up a pen, just so that I can write special feedback on a particularly excellent class paper. Littlest kid now has the only pen inked up with that… she enjoys it, and if I have to throw one of her pens away, I’ll deal with my ecological guilt some other day.
Waiting in the wings, or rather, at the bottom desk drawer for the last few weeks, has been a 50ml bottle of Sailor Jentle Four Seasons Irori (red) ink. I bought this because, to be honest, as nice as the J. Herbin is, it was never the bright, fire-engine red I wanted when it had dried. Step forward the Irori, because a more vivid red you would be hard to find.
And this time, yes, I read some reviews. The lovely Laura at Fountain Pen Follies had this to say:
I used Irori in a Lamy Safari with 1.1 mm stub and in a Sailor Professional Gear with fine nib for over a month. I never saw a startup or flow issue with either pen, even if I didn’t pick up the pen for days.
I think the ink looks great in both pens. A Sailor fine is a very narrow nib, but Irori had the presence for that, writing a tight but clear and legible line even on very bright paper like this Rhodia.
Cleanup was moderate, which is good for a red ink. I only used water for cleanup, but I did have to soak the Sailor nib unit a bit. Since I had kept both pens inked for five weeks, I thought that was quite good.
OK, the color looked great on-screen, and Laura said it looked good on the page, and it was (very importantly) a reasonable ink to clean out of a pen. Sounds good so far, what about a second opinion from the marvelous Mike Matteson…
It’s a bright, vivid red with just a bit of gold sheen. It behaves itself on cheap papers, and it’s worked perfectly in every nib I’ve used it in.
Very succinct, thank you Mike. So, at $24.75 (Canadian; August 2017) for the full 50ml bottle from Wonder Pens, it was a sale.
I loaded the Irori into the same Platinum Balance that I had used for the J. Herbin. It’s the only red pen I own, and I like to match colors to pens, but more importantly, I thought it would let me make a comparison between the sailor and J. Herbin inks in the same pen, with the same nib.
So far, the ink has been in the pen for about four weeks. During that time, I’ve used it for the writing samples you’ll see below—made on the first day I inked the pen—and once again, three weeks later, just to see what everything was like after some idle time.
The Irori, I am pleased to say, behaved impeccably. That is to say, after three to four weeks laying on its side in the same box as before, I had no problems. Now. I’m the first to admit, this isn’t exactly a controlled experiment, but it’ll do for now.
So, moving on to actually using the ink…
What’s it like on the page?
This is just the shade of red I was originally looking for—bright, and stands out from the page. Shading is present, but doesn’t detract from the striking nature of the core color.
Also, the red that comes out of the pen is pretty much what you’re going to get when it dries on the page. No great surprises are to be had here, which is helpful in a regularly used work pen and ink combination.
Great so far, what’s it like to write with?
The samples below are a mixture of photographs (with less than ideal lighting, sorry), and scanned images. All samples were made on a Rhodia Ice-White A5 pad, with 80gsm paper, using a Platinum Balance fountain pen, and a fine, steel nib.
This isn’t a pen review, so I won’t go into the Balance nibs once again (they’re great for the price; go and speak to Jolanta). The ink flows smoothly, and I had no hard starts even after three weeks of inactivity.
It’s not a fast-drying ink, but I don’t think that between 15 and 20 seconds, for a fine line on the shiny Rhodia paper, was a bad time. That seems more than acceptable to me. There was no real feathering, but heavy use does result in a little bleedthrough…
As you can see from the picture above, even with the very heavy ink spots on one side, the degree of bleed is still so little, that writing on both sides of the paper is perfectly okay, and easily legible.
Know what you’re buying. Standing in a shop, surrounded by tempting colors, attractive products, and a desire to use your new purchases, is not the place to make objective judgment calls about spending your money. If in doubt, ask the person behind the counter. I have never yet met a pen and ink retailer, who doesn’t love talking about their products, and they want to sell you the right product for you. In the case of ink, they’re going to want to sell you that product again and again.
Read reviews… and treat your pens with more respect than I did.
If you want a bright, in-your-face, reasonably fast drying, red ink—that doesn’t seem like it’s too much grief to clean out of your pens—then the Sailor Jentle Four Seasons Irori is an excellent choice.
If you want glittery gold sparkly bits, in a deep, scarlet red, and you don’t mind extended clean-up times, then the J. Herbin Rouge Hematite is beautiful. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a workhorse, daily carry.