Monday, July 19, 2010

By Any Other Name…

If you were here a few days back you might have seen my remarks about ink I bought at the Montblanc store last Monday. In the earlier post, I was indulging myself in a review of the Oyster Grey fountain pen ink from Montblanc, but I got two different inks that day, and this time the focus is on Montblanc’s Toffee Brown ink.

A few words of intro are required, though I risk repeating some of the things I said on July 14 in the Oyster Grey review. My experience with Montblanc products has until this month been all with stores in Tokyo. Until leaving there I regularly visited several Montblanc stores and I only just learned that the Montblanc inks in Tokyo and Florida don’t always match up. Bottles, size, names and prices are all different. The American bottles are larger by 10ml, different names are applied to the same ink, and Japan prices are higher. Still, one Montblanc product is the same worldwide: Service inside the store is what anyone would call excellent.

Brown Toffee is the name given to an identical ink I bought in Tokyo last year, an ink called Montblanc Sepia. I did not realize this when I sampled the Brown Toffee in the Florida store on Monday. Obviously, I haven’t used the Tokyo sepia enough to recognize it offhand.

In the last two or three years sepia ink has grown in popularity. Several of them have come to live among my ink bottles, and I even put up a sepia post in January of this year. That post compared the Montblanc Sepia (Brown Toffee) with Hakase Sepia. I said then that Montblanc Sepia had a touch of shoe polish red that I didn’t care much for. I also complained that the ink was lacking in both depth (saturation) and shading. Disappointingly, the ‘new’ Toffee Brown 'sepia' doesn’t change my mind completely about color, shading or saturation. I feel the ‘toffee’ is a poor name choice, as the ink does not have at all the yellow brown of actual toffee. Perhaps the makers thought the toffee name sounded good.

Two other inks come very close to matching the Toffee Brown’s color. Line up swatches and written lines of Montblanc Sepia with Waterman Havana and Iroshizuku Tsukushi. You will find all three close enough to confuse experts.

Since the Montblanc Oyster Grey did so well in the waterproof test, a similar test with the brown ink was something I tried, but the result was not so good; unlike the Oyster Grey, the Toffee brown is not waterproof. On the plus side, I couldn’t help but feel that both saturation and shading are better in the Toffee Brown than in the Montblanc Sepia from Tokyo.

Bottom line, I doubt I will use this new Toffee Brown anymore than I have the identical sepia. Maruzen’s Athena Sepia will continue to be my first choice for an ink in this range.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America