This is a very special post for me, as it has been one I have always wanted to write – only very recently has it become a possibility.
If you’re reading this, chances are you are familiar with the pen hobby (and if not, welcome!) and perhaps a few other niche hobbies such as mechanical keyboards and/or knives. Another hobby I consider myself to be in concerns itself with what we drink. I consider it a hobby because I get a lot of enjoyment out of it, just as with fountain pens. The smell, the taste, the aroma – it’s all something I find fun.
When I call ‘drinking’ a hobby, I include alcoholic and non-alcoholic within the mix. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I am very into my craft beers. I also enjoy wines and a new thing is whiskey. On the non-alcoholic side, I am very into tea (being British, it’s a necessity) and coffee. Do you see where this is heading?
One day I was making a cup of Earl Grey tea and as I was boiling the kettle, I got thinking: how could I mix two things I’m passionate about together? When looking down at the flowers within the Earl Grey leaves, it hit me; a grey ink with purplish/bluish undertones called Earl Grey.
Well, guys. That’s what happened. I am extremely honoured to present to you for the first time, Diamine Earl Grey:
When I found out that this ink would come to be (and I will explain how that happened in a bit), I was very open about the colour and undertones I wanted this ink to have. I want to stress this isn’t my ink. I thought of a name and presented an idea to the Reddit community (over on /r/fountainpens – which you can find here) and they liked the idea. I do not in anyway own this ink (other than the sample in front of me) or own any rights to it, nor am I claiming I do. The post was presented to us by the user /u/fpwright (I asked permission before namedropping) as they thought it would be cool to have a subreddit specific ink within the community. So they reached out to Diamine and a series of polls followed. The first was in regards to what colour family the ink should be in, as well as possible names. Grey won the vote and Earl Grey came out on top for the name.
Other rounds followed shortly after. Final decisions on the colour tone (to which my preferred tone won, though I didn’t design the colour) and a final vote on the name. Earl Grey came out with >50% of the vote and a grey-purple/blue is what was chosen by the community. It was all very democratic, but as you might expect some people weren’t happy that a grey ink had won. You win some, you lose some I guess.
Earl Grey will be available through Diamine’s normal distribution channels. This doesn’t mean, however, that everywhere that carries Diamine will carry this ink. Though, I am sure that you will be able to buy this directly from Diamine if you can’t get it anywhere else. If you want to know if your favourite retailer will carry the ink, I suggest emailing round. Diamine will have this ink in their standard line up but only in 80ml bottles.
Before I get into the bulk of the review (and I am conscious that it’s been a while), I want to iron out a few things and usual disclaimers. This sample was sent to me by Diamine for review purposes. I absolutely will end up buying a bottle (or
two three) myself. I only recommended a name and voted on my favourite colour choice: that in no way affects my view of the ink. Clearly this is going to be a positive review as the colour I voted for was my favourite of the bunch – I am not going to vote for my least favourite. The point of this review is to give people a preview of the ink as well as my thoughts and review of the characteristics.
For a fairly dull colour, I actually have quite a few grey inks in my collection. One of the first, and for a while my favourite, was Montblanc Oyster Grey. To me, this seemed like the most exciting grey as it had some of the undertones that I wanted to see in an Earl Grey ink (though I found it to lean closer towards pink). However, next to Earl Grey, the ink looks a little boring and underwhelming; like a normal grey.
To go even further, I compared it with Diamine Grey (which is actually a very nice colour, but very very standard – as the name might suggest). This is where the character of Earl Grey pops out at you.
I lay awake at night (slight exaggeration) thinking to myself whether this ink is grey-purple or grey-blue. Ultimately, I think the purple is more pronounced, but it definitely has a hint of blue. It’s darker, which means that the ink is very usable, which compares to other greys out there such as J Herbin Gris Nuage, which I have been told is basically unreadable. However, it isn’t so dark that it sacrifices the undertones and it isn’t a black ink.
While on the topic of J Herbin, one thing I want to address is that there are other inks out there with tea themes, such as Lie De The or Oster Melon Tea. While I could just use those, I think there is always room for more ideas and innovation. If you want a brown ink to use, Lie De The works great. It is supposed to be “the dregs of tea leaves”, so why not have something to represent the leaves before they’re infused? As Earl Grey isn’t really purple in the mug – or even grey come to think of it (the name comes from a British politician by the name Earl Grey. So actually, there’s three of my interests in this ink, as a PPE student!). The actual drink is closer in colour to Lie De The. But it’s not my favourite brown ink at the moment, which also happens to be beverage orientated, is KWZ Cappuccinno.
To get the best out of the colour, you’ll want to look to use a medium nib or above. I was rather shocked by how well the ink performed in a fine nib (Japanese fine, may I add) as you still get to see the characteristics, but there will always be some level of sacrifice.
The ink is very well behaved on good paper (I tested it in particular on Clairefontaine 90gsm). The character is there and there’s no bleed through or show through.
On cheaper paper, I wasn’t sure about the performance. So I included a few controls. Pelikan’s Blue-Black is a rather dry ink and I have found works well with the type of paper I use in my printer, which I deem my “cheap paper”. Pelikan’s Blue-Black performed better than Earl Grey, but in comparison to a fellow Diamine ink, Eau de Nil, I found it to react pretty much in the same way: a very minute amount of feathering but nothing dreadful. Show through on the other side, but I didn’t get any bleed whatsoever. Then I compared Noodler’s Prime of the Commons. I had a bit of bleed, but generally I’d say Earl Grey performed better. Of course, some of this is down to the nib, but I find that the ink is rather wet and well flowing. As is the case I have had with many Diamine inks, with the one exception of Grape.
The ink didn’t sheen on any of the paper that I used it on. I don’t have anything like Tomoe on hand as I didn’t bring any with me to university. But for writing on other paper, I shouldn’t expect too much. There’s shading, albeit not excessive like you would expect from Autumn Oak.
In terms of waterproofness..
No. Just no.
To wrap up, I understand why this might not be everyone’s cup of tea (I’m sorry, I’ll show myself out shortly), but for me I think this is a fantastic grey ink; It is exactly what I had in mind. Are there more interesting colours out there? Yes. Will this be the most popular ink release of 2017? Probably not. But it represents a community where they voted on and chose the ink as a collective, and that’s not something you see everyday with other ink manufacturers – where the community gets to choose the ink (I believe the only other company is Pelikan).
Many thanks to /u/fpwright for making this a possibility, as well as Diamine for offering to make an ink for a particular community, as well as providing a sample for review purposes. It is fantastic to see companies getting involved with the community.
I have a handwritten sample of the review below. Apologies for the perhaps less than amazing quality; I am still getting used to the lighting and new scanner. It is written on Fabriano 90gsm paper!