If I were a pen manufacturer, I would dread thinking about inks.
After you reach a certain size, it’s kinda expected that you offer a range of branded ink, and you know that there’s potential for revenue there. But ink has the potential to be a huge ball-ache.
Do you try to compete with Diamine or Robert Oster and come out of the gate with 50 colours? Of course not. The SKU management, branding, development costs are the stuff of nightmares.
Do you stick to a single blue or black, just so you’ve got something to put in the pen boxes? This feels a little like giving up.
No, you probably aim to launch with a little group of, say, 5-10 colours. That’s what Scribo and TWSBI did recently, for example. It’s what Visconti has, and Graf, and Waterman. But then the conundrum becomes: which colours do you pick? Do you go for safe but uninspiring (pillarbox red, royal blue), or bright and bold shades that might not sell? Do you include a grey, a brown, an orange, a purple, a yellow, a turquoise…? What about a lime green, a pink, a blue-black, a teal?
When you factor in all the other choices available to you now — shading, sheen, shimmer, scent, permanence, flow — well, like I said, it’s a topic I would dread facing. It’s like being a hi-fi maker branching out into selling music, but only able to sell eight songs.
Luckily, it’s not my problem. In this case, it’s Otto Hutt’s.
And I have to say, as a “capsule wardrobe” of inks this selection of seven (or five, if you exclude the permanent variants) ticks a lot of boxes.
Two permanent inks in the essential blue and black. Tick. Two scented inks. Tick. One shimmer ink. Tick. Red, blue and green are covered, all dark enough to use every day without getting eyestrain. Tick. And at 15 euros each, or 20 for the permanents, they’re priced sensibly (although they’re not the bargain price of Diamine or Sheaffer Skrip, for example).
Before we get into the inks, let’s talk about the bottle. It’s 30ml, cylindrical, glass, with hard bakelite-style lid.
This is a useful size, and the wide mouth and stable shape make filling easy.
But the colour is only labelled on the cardboard box, so don’t throw it away!
Across the board, for all seven inks, flow is generous and smooth, dry time acceptable. In my unscientific assessment, permanent black, gold dust and emerald were less wet. There’s not a ton of sheen, no ‘complex’ colours (like Sailor 123), nothing illegibly light. I used these inks in pens ranging from the wet broad Leonardo Furore Grande to the more restrained Scriveiner fountain pens with well-balanced Schmidt #5 nibs. I had no problems.
Let’s start with the blacks. I hardly ever use blacks, and I don’t see these particularly converting me, but I understand their inclusion. Night Black, the non permanent, has a noticeable green tinge. Here on the left on watercolour paper under overcast natural light, with Permanent Black on the right.
On white 52g Tomoe, where I did a writing sample with a glass pen, you can still see the green tint.
The Permanent Black is a ‘true’ black by contrast.
Ocean Blue is a bright, vibrant mid blue with no green to it.
It’s a real punch in the face, which makes it much more interesting than a typical school blue. If it wasn’t so wet, and saturated, it would shade nicely.
You can see Permanent Blue on the watercolour paper next to it. Unlike all the other inks, this one sank straight in to the heavy paper, and feathered a little. It was fine on Tomoe and Col-o-Ring, looking much more similar to Ocean Blue, although still somewhat darker.
Both show sheen, but Permanent has perhaps a little more in normal use. You can also see the pigment in the bottle of Permanent — it’s heavy. The clear glass shows the blue from the outside.
Ocean Blue has one more trick up its sleeve: a strong, fresh scent that reminded me of laundry fabric conditioner. I like it. It fades completely when the ink is dry.
The other scented ink in the collection is Red Roses. It smells exactly like Turkish Delight. As you might guess from that, it’s quite a pink red, but very dark and saturated, so it’s plenty usable — not a sakura pale pink or a hot neon pink. Think Oku Yama or Yama Budo, or Herbin’s own rose-scented Rouge.
Emerald has no scent. It lacked a little something for me.
It’s a nice enough green, but it’s a little flat, dull. Compare it to something like Edelstein Aventurine and it has the heaviness of the colour of pine needles, rather than the vibrance of its namesake gem.
I am picky about my greens, though.
And that brings me to the final ink, Gold Dust. This is an orange-red ink, I think (!), with a metric ton of gold shimmer in it. The shimmer settles fast, and you can really see it in the bottle.
I normally stay the hell away from shimmer ink — not only for fear of clogging expensive pens, but because I don’t like the way the shimmer obscures the underlying ink colour. This one happens to be very pretty, and distinctly different from Red Roses, but I won’t be sticking it in a Montblanc.
So there we have it. Whether you want a traditional work-safe blue or black, an unusual heavy green or magenta, or a crazy orange shimmer, Otto Hutt has you covered. Of the collection, I’d say Red Roses and Ocean Blue are my clear favourites and I will be adding them to my permanent rotation. But all the inks perform well, and are handmade in Germany (I would guess by de Atramentis). I have no fears of batch variability or other such problems that you can get from hobbyist ink operations.
Otto Hutt sent me these inks for review. You can get yours direct from Otto Hutt’s webstore.