Straits Pen Honest Inks: come for the bottle and the sense of humour, stay for the ink

The lovely people at Cult Pens recently sent me a bottle of ink to review. I asked to try one of the new inks by Straits Pen (new because although they’ve been around since 2018, Cult has just started to stock them), and didn’t specify which colour from the range. My mistake.

Cult sent me ‘Shitty Sepia’. Apparently they have a potty mouth (and they seemed so friendly at the pen show!). Or maybe they’re saying something about my writing.

I love a brand that does something different, and that describes Straits Pen down to a tee. Yes, the brown ink in the range is called Shitty Sepia, with the tagline “One man’s shit is another man’s sepia”. The blue is Poorman’s [Parker Penman] Sapphire, there’s a teal called Sad Stormy Swedish Sea (tagline: “Attempt at alliteration because boring blue-green”), their royal blue is called ‘Ultramehrine’ because they found it more boring than the colour they were shooting for, and the blue black is, I shit you not, called “Literally the only serious colour in the entire lineup”. Bravo you crazy bastards. Bravo.

In an ink market that’s filled with pretention (I currently have a pen inked with Wearingeul “Sky, seasons passing by“, for heaven’s sake), this no-nonsense quirky naming is beautifully refreshing. These guys from Singapore have a sense of humour fit for a Brit.

What’s also refreshing is that Straits ships their 50ml ink size in the wonderful ‘vase’ bottles that Maruzen and some other Sailor bottlings use in Japan, previously rare and desirable.

I’ve spent £50+ on a bottle of Sailor in these shapes. And Straits gives it to you for £16 a bottle, in a simple cardboard box. Not half bad.

Now, I must say I’m not a huge fan of browns. The only ones that have stuck in my collection lean strongly towards orange, like SBRE Brown from Akkerman, and Single Malt from Montblanc. Walnuts and chocolates and coffees and brown-blacks and grey-browns (like Montblanc Cigar, Bungubox Nostalgia, hell, actually most browns) leave me a little cold. Sepia too. Regardless of how you define ‘sepia’.

This one is pretty good, though. I inked it up first in the Cult Pens exclusive Narwhal Voyage, and it was very well behaved. Good flow, good shading, good enough dry times (except when I dripped big splats, which failed to dry even overnight).

No funny odours, no smudging once dry, no nib crud, no bleeding or feathering on my usual papers, again except on big splats, which soaked through Tomoe yellow, orange and brown.

Plenty wet enough from a nib. No staining that I can see.

In terms of colour, this is a brown that leans a little towards dull red and grey, away from yellow and green.

When you lay lots down it looks almost black, and even in less extreme accumulations it has a little bronze sheen.

I like the subtle shading. It has crisp edges.

Will I keep using it? Probably not. Shitty Sepia is not in my preferred colour family. But it’s certainly not shitty. I’m impressed enough that I’ll be heading back to Cult and picking up Sad Stormy Swedish Sea and “Literally”.

I was sent this bottle for free to review. You can check out the full range here.

4 thoughts on “Straits Pen Honest Inks: come for the bottle and the sense of humour, stay for the ink

  1. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit adventurous and using colors other than blue, or black at work. I’m thinking this ink may be suitable. Too bad I just received some dark brown ink from Cult Pens I’ve yet to try. But I still may buy this in the future. Thanks for reviewing.


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