Ink Notes: Montblanc Mystery Black

Montblanc Mystery Black bottle and Vac 700

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of Montblanc inks. Despite not owning any of their pens. But I’ve ignored Montblanc Mystery Black because there are so many other blacks I like – Aurora, Sailor Kiwa Guro Nano Black, Platinum Carbon Black and more. But I decided it was time to give it try and ordered a bottle a couple months ago.

If memory serves, Montblanc changed up their inks in 2010 but the Mystery Black ink remained similar to the Black it replaced. I never used the old black ink so I can’t compare them.

Montblanc is a luxury brand so it’s thought of as an expensive ink, but at $19 for a 60 ml bottle it’s $0.32/ml, which puts it well under some of today’s other luxury inks and competitive with many others.

It’s not a deep, dark pitch black and in fact some line variation can be detected at times, with wider or wetter nibs. The dry time is very acceptable with my preferred fine and extra fine nibs.

The flow is very good and the ink seems well lubricated. I prefer dryer nibs and found this pen to be near my “wetness” tolerance in them, although not a gusher.

I was especially taken by it’s performance in my Esterbrook #2668 Firm Medium nib. Despite my preference for thinner nibs I liked the ink in this pen. Drying time was longer than the TWSBI medium I tested with and I had a few accidental smudges since it was a wet writer. The line stayed true to the nib size despite being wet.

The ink is dark enough to contribute to some show through on papers prone to such things (but not on the Rhodia or Doane paper I used). I didn’t encounter any bleed through or feathering, even on cheap non-FP paper.

The ink didn’t wash completely away in the water test but it was close. I wouldn’t trust it if moister could be a problem.

Pens Used

The TWSBI Vac 700 with the usual nib selection (x-fine, fine, medium, broad, 1.1 mm) was used for testing. The ink didn’t remain in the pen very long so I didn’t expect problems cleaning it and there weren’t any.

I started using my Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black with a fine nib as a daily writer to test the ink. It was problem free and I didn’t encounter and skipping or false starts. The ink was in the pen just under a month and there wasn’t any problem cleaning it.

After I inked my Esterbook J with the #2668 medium nib with Mystery Black I enjoyed it so much it became my daily writer when I wanted black ink. Again, no problems and it was easily cleaned after being inked about two weeks.

Bottom Line

I like the performance of the ink. Unfortunately it’s not pitch black and I prefer grey inks over black. This puts the ink behind the eight ball. I won’t use it when I want a black ink since in those cases I want pitch black. And the color isn’t different enough to make me want to use it in daily writing. On the other hand, I was really taken by it in the Esterbrook medium nib so I’d like to say I may use Montblanc Mystery Black in some wider nibs from time to time and see if there are other nibs with which it gets along as well. But the reality is that Montblanc Mystery Black will probably be lost among the many other ink choices I have.

Additional Reading

Reviewed on FPN


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Ink Notes: Montblanc Midnight Blue

Montblanc Midnight Blue bottleI’m back on the iron gall ink train after a brief detour. Midnight Blue is a “permanent” ink from Montblanc. The permanence comes from iron gall, although the enclosed pamphlet calls this “ferro-gallic content.”

I’ve seen reference to a non-permanent/non-iron gall Montblanc Midnight Blue. My box was labeled “Permanent for documents” and the pamphlet, while general for MB inks, mentioned that Midnight Blue was “permanent, ferro-gallic.” So this bottle is definitely iron gall based.

The ink is a fairly wet flowing ink and it’s also fairly slow drying. Slower than the other iron gall inks I’ve tested recently. I stop timing the dry time when it reaches 20 seconds and on Rhodia a broad nib barely met this deadline. A 1.1 mm stub took well over 20 seconds on both Doane Paper (large jotter) and Rhodia. On the positive side, drying time was very reasonable with my preferred thin nibs, especially on Doane Paper which is my preferred note taking paper. The ink is suitable for work and meeting notes.

There wasn’t any bleed through on any of the papers that I used and feathering was non-existent. The line width was true to the nib size. The ink is waterproof in that it can still be read after drying for 24 hours and then being soaked. There was dye in the water and a little spreading of the ink.

The ink does have some nice shading to it, especially when if first goes onto the paper. It gives this business-like ink a little character. I can’t quit place why I like this ink so much so I’m calling it “character.”. There’s just something about this ink I like. Its color varies just slightly depending on the paper or lighting. Sometimes it’s a little grey, sometimes a little more black. I guess I’d classify this as a blue-black ink. I equate it to my R & K Blau-Schwarz, both in color and character. The MB ink will be a capable replacement when the limited edition R & K ink is used up.

Unlike the other iron gall inks this ink doesn’t darken a lot after it dries. That’s mainly because it starts as a dark blue.

Pens Used

The ink worked well in my TWSBI Vac 700 with extra fine, fine, medium, broad and 1.1 mm nibs, These nibs tend to be on the dry side, but not with this ink. The ink flushed out easily although it wasn’t in the pen very long.

I used my Stipula Model T with the titanium nib as a daily writer with the ink for a few days. There was a little nib creep but other inks have a tendency to creep on this nib too. Not a lot, just enough so that the nib always had a little ink spreading from the slot between the tines. I also had a hard start after a day of ignoring the pen. No extraordinary measures were needed to get the ink flowing, just time with the nib pointed down.

Bottom Line

It doesn’t have a lot of the iron gall characteristics of the other IG inks such as a significant color change or absolute waterproofness. That said, the Montblanc Midnight Blue is another nice Montblanc ink that keeps me a fan of the ink brand.


Ink Notes: Montblanc Jonathan Swift Seaweed Green

photo of the box and botleMontblanc is one of my favorite ink brands as it makes up three of my five favorite inks. Montblanc Jonathan Swift Seaweed Green is a limited edition ink which means it sells at a premium price. Prices vary considerably since availability is limited but I found mine for $17 for a 35 ml bottle. At 49 cents per ml this puts it solidly in the luxury ink category and about twice the proce as the standard Montblanc inks.

The ink color immediately reminded me of Montblanc Racing Green, #3 on my favorite inks list. When swabbed the ink is a little lighter than Racing Green, but when used from a fountain pen it’s a fairly close color, just a little less saturated.

Seaweed Green is not a wet, free-flowing ink. But like other Montblanc inks it’s consistent and puts down a nice line. The ink has enough water resistance so that it can still be read after having water spilled on it. Dry time was very good. I didn’t experience any feathering or bleed-through.

The color does vary quit a bit depending on the nib and paper. In my thin wet nibs the ink was noticeably darker. With drier nibs or nibs where the ink spread out more, like my broad stub the ink had more of a khaki color. I like the variety in the way the ink performs.

There was some nice line variation with both the stub nibs. There was some nice shading with the wetter nibs, when there was enough ink put down to actually shade.

Pens Used

I tested this ink a bit differently this time, skipping the TWSBI Vac 700 opting to use four different pens.

Sheaffer PFM I with a fine nib – the ink was at it’s best in this pen. While it’s a fine nib it’s the wettest nib of the bunch that I used. The ink when onto the paper with a nice dark color. Because of this the ink took as long to dry when using this pen as it did when I used the broad nib. No signs of feathering. I liked this pen/ink combo so much that it’s been my daily writer.

Esterbrook J with 1 #2442 Fine Stub – a nice consistent flow without any skipping or other problems. The ink was drier with this nob but still problem free. Drying time was less than 5 seconds.

Caran d’ Ache Geneve with a medium nib – this was the only convertor fill pen of the bunch and was a problem pen. It’s been a long time since I used the pen but it’s always been a good writer. I had flow problems mainly from the ink clinging to the convertor, but it was inconsistent from the beginning. I’ve yet to try another ink in the pen, but this was so unlike the other pens I used I’m blaming the pen. You’ll see some smudges on the Rhodia sample. This was when I had just forced ink into the feed because it was stuck in the convertor.

Pelikan M620 Shanghai with a custom broad stub – while the widest nib used, it was ground and tuned by Mike Masuyama to write on the dry side. So dry times were comparable to the PFM I fine nib.

Wrapping Up

It’s a well behaved ink with a color I like. Is it worth the premium? I bought mine at the low end of prices I’ve seen. It’s a well behaved ink with a fast drying time and pretty good water resistance so I don’t regret buying the bottle. I also like that the color varies depending on the nib used.

Additional Reading

Review on FPN

FPGeeks Inkcyclopedia

Reviewed at Inked Up and Happy

At Glenn’s Pens




Ink Notes: Montblanc Toffee Brown

Montblanc Toffee Brown sample vialMontblanc Toffee Brown is the fourth of the current Montblanc inks that I’ve looked at recently. I only bought a sample since it seemed like a rather unexciting brown.. Some browns are described as “reddish brown”, some a “yellowish brown”. I’d describe Toffee Brown as a “brown brown”. It’s a nice dark, saturated brown ink.

I tested this ink differently than other ink tests, at least in the pen selection. The Vac 700 just doesn’t work well with ink samples and all those nib swaps. So I decided to use different pens. I picked my collection of Sailors, mostly 1911. I didn’t go back and check, but this has got to be the first time I used all gold nibs, and mostly 21kt gold at that. The Sailor nibs are thinner than the European counterparts, more so for the fine nibs. I added a Lamy Safari medium nib to add a dose of reality with a steel nib. The Lamy is a steel nib, the 1911M is a 14 kt gold nib and the rest are 21 kt gold nibs.

As I said, Montblanc Toffee Brown is a dark brown with good saturation. There’s a little shading and line variation with my thin nibs. Shading is more pronounced with thicker nibs although it’s not heavy shading, but I like the look.

The ink is well behaved. The only noticeable feathering was on cheap copy paper with a broad nib. There was some feathering with medium nibs but I had to look really close to see it.

Since it is a dark, saturated ink there is some show-through on both Doane and Rhodia paper, even with the thin nibs. It becomes minor bleed-through on Doane paper with thicker nibs. I call it minor because it only happens when there’s a higher concentration of ink than normal writing would put down. There wasn’t any bleed-through on Rhodia paper. The bottom line is I can take notes on both sides of my Doane Jotter without being affected since I typical use extra fine or fine nibs. Even a medium is OK.

Drying time is better than most inks. On Doane Paper a Sailor fine nib dries in about 3 seconds. The Lamy medium takes about 8 seconds on Doane Paper. Fast enough for my typical use. See the sample photos for the drying times of the various nibs.

The ink has a hint of water resistance. I could still read the washed out ink after the water test. Some of it was mostly gone and none of it looked brown after getting wet. It might be enough for a accidental spill that is quickly soaked up, but I wouldn’t use it when I really needed to count on it be water proof.

Cleaning is extremely easy. A couple flushes with the bulb syringe and the pen was ink free with any pen I used.

The bottom line – I love this ink and added it to my DC show shopping list.

Pens Used

Lamy Safari with a medium nib – Good ink flow and saturation as shown in the samples.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black with a fine nib – One of my favorite writing thin nibs and the thinnest of the nibs tested. The dark brown is easy to read even with the thin line.

Sailor 1911s with a medium nib, a zoom nib and a music nib and a Sailor 1911M with a broad nib. The ink wrote fine with the topside of the zoom nib which is a very thin line.

[Updated Sept 1, 2013] – I’ve been using the ink in my Edison Menlo Pump Filler with an extra fine nib. Never a hard start or any skipping. A consistent flow.

Writing Samples

Additional Reading/Viewing

FPGeeks Inkcyclopedia

From the Pen Cup

Ink Notes: Montblanc Oyster Grey

I’m continuing my string of Montblanc ink reviews, this time with Montblanc Oyster Grey. I only had a sample of this ink, not a bottle, so using the Vac 700 for my ink testing just wasn’t practical if I wanted to swap nibs. So I went back to using several pens.

I like the Oyster Grey color. It has good flow and dries quickly. I could use it for my daily notes at work without accidental smudges. It’s a little blacker/darker than my current grey of choice – Iroshizuku Fuyo-Syogun. There was plenty left behind after the water test so I could easily read what was written. The ink cleaned easily out of all my pens, even the one left unused for a week.

I didn’t experience any feathering problems although the only cheap paper used was a quick test using office copy paper.

I used the ink in the latest “America the Beautiful” Field Notes book.(which has different paper than normal). I used the Edison extra-fine and VP medium stub nibs. There is just the hint of show-through but there’s no problem writing on both sides. There’s slightly more show-through (but no bleed-through) with the original Field Notes books. I still write on both sides but the show through is noticeable and may annoy some people.

The only hard start I had was with the Sailor 1911 with a broad nib. I syringe filled the converter and didn’t wait for the ink to flow in into the feed. So I don’t really count this as a problem even though it shows on the writing sample.

While I like the Montblanc Oyster Grey I already have a bottle of Iroshizuku Fuyo-Syogun and don’t see a reason the replace it. I’ll use up the sample, but won’t be buying a bottle of Oyster Grey. The writing samples have a comparison of the two inks.

Pens Used

Edison Pearl 2012 LEE with an extra fine nib. No problems with this pen and it cleaned easily. This is the pen I used as my daily note taker for a couple problem-free days.

Franklin-Christoph Model 29 with a fine nib // Faber-Castell Emotion with a medium nib // Sailor 1911M with a broad nib – all these pens handled the ink well and were easy to clean. It’s the 1911M that had the ink left in it for a week. It wrote immediately and then was easily cleaned.

Pilot Vanishing Point with medium stub nib. I liked the ink with this nib, it’s the one pen where I might choose Oyster Grey over Fuyo-Syogun. It’s a bit darker and shows just a bit more variation with the nib. This is the pen that will use up the rest of my sample. While I won’t get a bottle, I won’t rule out another sample for use with this nib.

Additional Reading/Viewing

Inkcyclopdedia entry (

Write to Me Often review

Writing Samples


Ink Notes: Montblanc Burgundy Red

Montblanc Burgundy Red Bottle

[Updated pens used on Oct 16, 2013]

Montblanc Bordeaux is one of my favorite inks, if not my absolute favorite. When Montblanc discontinued Bordeaux I was prepared to hate it’s replacement, Montblanc Burgundy Red, as a usurper to the crown. Since I had stocked up on Bordeaux I was in no hurry to replace it and ignored Burgundy Red. I finally broke down and bought a bottle at the Long Island Pen Show once I saw the swabs in person.

I like the Burgundy Red. There’s enough pop from the red in the ink, but it’s not a neon red. The ink is a quick drier, especially in my thin nibs. It’s relatively easy to flush from the pen. It’s not water resistant but there was enough left behind so I could still read my words after the water test. Although I wouldn’t use the ink to address envelopes or write checks.

One thing I have noticed is the ink seems to darken a bit after it’s been in the pen awhile. At first I thought it was my Esterbrook writing darker, but then realized the ink had been in the pen much longer than others (and was refilled without flushing) so checked some other pens and sure enough, it had darkened a bit, looking more like the Bordeaux.

Montblanc Burgundy Red  will be a regular in my pens although I’m still partial to Bordeaux. I’m glad I bought the bottle.

Pens Used

Opened Montblanc Burgundy Red bottleTWSBI Vac 700 with 5 different nibs – EF, F, M, B, 1.1 mm  Stub. This pen was used for the writing samples in the gallery. The extra fine nib was used as my primary writer for a day and then on and off after that. I didn’t have any hesitation or hard starts and cleaning was easy.

Esterbrook $1 Bandless with a #9555 Fine nib – I first noticed the ink was darker when using this pen. The ink has been in this pen longer than any other and it was not flushed when it was refilled with the same ink. I’ve since revisited my writing with the Vac 700 and it too has gotten slightly darker. Flushing the pen was easy and there wasn’t any sign of staining despite the ink being used (with a refill) in this pen for about a month.

Sailor 1911 Sterling Silver with a Medium Nib – I just filled this pen in order to write the draft of this review since my Esterbrook went dry and it was time time to flush it. Writing has been smooth and consistent, without any hard starts.

[Oct. 16, 2013] Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket with a Needlepoint nib – the line got a little thin when I wrote fast, although never actually skipped. No problems with any paper and easy to clean from the pen.


Ink Notes: Montblanc Irish Green

Montblanc Irish Green Ink BottleThe discontinued Montblanc Racing Green is a favorite of mine and although it’s discontinued I still have a couple bottles. So let’s get this out of the way first – Montblanc Irish Green is nothing like Racing Green. The writing samples show that Irish Green is a much brighter green. When I think “green” the color I think of is more along the lines of Irish Green.

I rather like this shade of green along with its properties. The ink has good saturation and some subtle line variation. Plus, it dries in 5 seconds or less with my thin nibs on Doane Paper.

I’ve also been using Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku recently but I seem to prefer the Irish Green color slightly more than the Shin-ryoku although it’s close enough that I might pick Shin-ryoku on some days, depending on my mood.

Cleaning was easy and problem free.

While not really water resistant, I could still read what I wrote after the water test although I wouldn’t want to rely on it.

Photo comparing irish Green and Racing Green

Irish Green on top, Racing Green on bottom

Pens Used

The TWSBI Vac 700 is the only pen I’ve used this ink with so far, but with 5 different nibs – EF to 1.1mm stub. (I did ink my Huron Grande this week but haven’t used it enough to comment yet.) I used the extra fine nib as my writer for a day and didn’t have any hard starts or skipping in writing about 10 pages, The other nibs were just used for the samples below but didn’t have any issues.