Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From Fidel with Love

Been three years at least since I bought a bottle of Waterman Havana ink. For a couple of months after that I used the ink regularly, never overly fond of it, but then not really disappointed either. I liked having seven or eight pens inked with a variety of colors and the Havana fit well into that custom. Some months passed and for one reason or another the Havana slipped into the background among the bottles on my shelves. In all honesty, it began to collect dust from lack of use and when the day came to pack it all up for shipping to Florida, the Havana got dusted off, wrapped carefully and nestled safely among its brothers and sisters in a big packing box. Unpacked and resettled on its new shelf it once more began to collect dust. Until I read something the other day about Waterman Havana on Peninkcillin.

Chances are good that Peninkcillin is already a familiar site to many, but if not then let me be one to recommend it. Especially for pen and ink lovers it’s a good read. But back to the Waterman Havana…

Reminded of the old bottle on my shelves, long unused and nearly forgotten, the urge came to once more dust it off and give it a wake up scribble. Since it's a Waterman ink I decided to fill a Waterman Carene medium nibbed pen with Havana and see if it balanced out with my earlier impressions.

The challenge that Waterman faces with this ink is the recent popularity of brown inks and the dozens of new colors in the brown range that have been introduced in the last couple of years. There was a time when brown ink was uncommon and there weren’t more than one or two companies producing it, but that has changed and these days brown ink is battling traditional colors for place. Sepia ink especially has enjoyed a boom, and with the appearance of Pilot’s Iroshizuku series the bar has been raised. Their Tsukushi (Horsetail) and Yama-guri (Mountain Chestnut) are top of the heap. Then came Maruzen’s Athena ink and a limited edition (1000 bottles only) of a hard to beat Sepia. Noodler’s has entered the competition with their class A Walnut ink and Diamine Chocolate is no less impressive than Chocolate Truffles from Godiva.

The result of all that leads to a slippery slide for Waterman Havana. The first swab I made today reminded me of nothing more than Shinola brown shoe polish, a comparison I have also used to describe Montblanc Sepia (or here in the US, Montblanc Toffee Brown). Surely there are many who like the particular brown typified by shoe polish, and for them the Havana will meet expectations. As one who especially likes brown ink, color-wise the Waterman Havana leaves me lukewarm.

Waterman makes high quality ink, of that there is no question. Like my favorite Waterman, Florida Blue, the Havana performs well in all the areas that draw attention. The shading is good, neither too much nor too little, and on both white and cream colored paper the result is a good balance. Saturation is good, and on the paper I used for testing—bright white copy paper and Rhodia Webbie cream-colored paper—drying time was exceptionally fast. Two, three seconds at most and the ink is bone dry. That might be particularly good news for left-handed writers.

I allowed the example in the second photo here to dry for an hour and then put it under running water for close to forty-five seconds, allowing it to lay submerged in cold water. At the end of that every word was perfectly legible. Let no one tell you Waterman ink is not waterproof.

In the end, chances are good I will go back to my favorite browns in the Iroshizuku and Maruzen families after using the Havana now in the Carene fountain pen. Waterman of course has never pretended to be a frontrunner in the production of ink, and the feeling now with the Havana ink is that the Waterman ink blenders have allowed it to be superseded by other inks in the brown spectrum.

Keep an eye out for a future Waterman Havana review from Peninkcillin. His review will most likely be more thorough than the one here.


  1. Hey thanks so much for mentioning me! I haven't tried this ink yet because I don't write a lot and my fountain pens are all inked up with other inks but I can't wait to use it.

    The shade of brown looks ok to me but I'm excited that it is waterproof. I might end up using it for my journal instead of Noodler's Polar Brown. That one is an excellent ink except for the fact that it smears if touched, even when dry. Problem gets worse on good quality paper.

    I really love your photo arrangements. Much more creative and "alive" than my sterile object-on-white photos.

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About Me

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