One of the newly-sprung ink-makers of the current fountain pen renaissance, Noodler’s Ink is very much a one-man operation; I will frequently speak of “they” in reference to the company, but I really should be saying “he”.
Noodler’s is a remarkable producer of inks on several fronts, being a labour of love by someone who felt that the mainstream ink producers were dropping the ball on many counts. The bottles are very large (90 ml is the regular size) and always perilously full, making them good value for money. There are scores of colours, more than any other maker I can think of bar Diamine, and they come in several grades of permanence, including “bulletproof” which is meant to be tamper- and indeed entropy-resistant. With the notable exception of the “Baystate” line, the inks are pH neutral and from that standpoint theoretically* quite safe for pens. They are generally of high saturation, making for extremely bold marks on the page.
People tend towards extremity in their appreciation of Noodler’s inks, either loving or despising them. Their high saturation makes for little shading and occasional challenges when cleaning the pen. There is also a bit of a reputation as being the ink most given to nib creep currently in production. Some colours are very given to feathering, as well. I mention Baystate inks previously, and these are probably the most contentious of Noodler’s products– extremely vivid inks, following what Noodler’s describe as recipes from the golden age of pens, which means they are also of some extreme pH numbers. Some folks will simply not use Baystate inks for fear of melting or explosion. Conversely, I’m in correspondence with someone who will put Baystate Blue in just about any pen he owns, apparently without consequence.
For my part, I enjoy most of the colours I’ve tried, and find most of what I’ve seen at least pleasing. Because there is a constant tinkering with formulae, it is a little hard to say, “Of Noodler’s ink, X is the best bet,” since the next lot of it is apt to be different to some degree,
but in general I’m a supporter. *2012-2013 has seen rather a lot of people voicing concerns about the interaction of Noodler’s inks and soft rubber pen components– sacs and diaphragms– in the direction of rendering them lumps of goo. Mindful of this, and finding a few of my own pens showing some signs of deterioration in these components, I’m putting this asterisk on my support for Noodlers. I still think they’re usually a safe product, as not every contact of rubber and ink produces the dread effect, but I can’t in good conscience urge their use in pens reliant on soft rubber for their reservoir. In practical terms, this means most vintage pens, and a few uncommon sac-using moderns.
I will also mention that I find most of the “bulletproof” inks to induce feedback in pens which otherwise write smoothly. I don’t know exactly why this is, but it frequently happens that a pen using one of these inks will have a little grittiness in their writing. If you find this happening, don’t be too alarmed– it doesn’t appear to affect the pen at all, and going back to a less permanent sort of ink (after a thorough cleaning, of course), will return the pen to its previous behaviour. I leave it to you to decide if the permanence of the marks is worth the possibility of almost-scratchy writing.
One of the interesting aspects of this maker is that they produce inks specific to a given outlet. My examples of this specificity are all inks made for the Fountain Pen Network (“FPN”), but there are also store-specific colours.
Examples (note– I’ve not calibrated my scanner, so these are mere approximations of the true colour):
Blue: Exactly that; a quite jolly true blue.
Blue Eel: Several of Noodler’s inks have “eel” in their name, and the distinction is not one of tone but of function. These inks are meant to lubricate the mechanism of piston fillers; I don’t understand the how of it, nor can I quite vouch for the efficacy, but it’s an interesting thing to attempt. The visual difference between this and the previous sample are more down to a different pen and an update of scanner software; to the human eye, they’re very similar.
Turquiose Eel: Same notion as above, different colour.
Polar Blue: A pleasant “bulletproof” blue on the lighter side which does give some sense of the colours seen down the inside of glaciers. Quite given to feathering. The “polar” designation means that it is resistant to freezing, although this is meant more to protect the bottle from destruction in transit than to allow the pen to work in harsh weather.
La Couleur Royale: An extremely pleasant, and apparently well-behaved, indigo. The name suggests to me that it’s meant to be a response to Diamine’s Majestic Blue, to which it is quite close in tone, and if that’s the case it is an excellent alternative, being easier to clean out of a pen and a little less of a menace to a reader with moist hands. I view it as a timid person’s substitute for Baystate Blue; it’s not as vibrant as that colour, but it also has no reputation for shenanigans.
Liberty’s Elysium: Not “Bulletproof”, but resistant to removal and described by Noodler’s as “forgery resistant”, it’s otherwise very similar to their basic Blue, although a touch more vivid.
Ottoman Azure: This is a colour that sort of demonstrates the problem with having a zillion different colours offered by one one maker. It is not, quite, precisely the same as Blue, or Liberty’s Elysium, but the difference is so small it is hard to define and only evident when it is right alongside of the others. A quantum more green, perhaps?
FPN van Gogh Starry Night: A very dark blue-black, so much so that one is tempted to call it a black-blue. Shading tends not to be visible.
FPN Dumas Tulipe Noire: One of my favourite inks, a burgundy which shades into a near-black.
Red-black: In pens with narrower points, this comes across as a rather pleasing dark brown. With a broad point, it is definitely red.
Tiananmen: Named in memorial of the semi-uprising that took place there, this is a rather dark cinnabar-like red, and not at all purple as my scanner is trying to convince us.
Cayenne: A very warm red well on its way towards orange.
Walnut: A rather pleasing dark brown, slightly inclined towards red.
FPN Galileo Manuscript Brown: A very red brown, meant to emulate the look of Galileo’s sketches. This is a “bulletproof” ink, and I find it to be extremely willing to feather.
El Lawrence: What I’d call a dark khaki colour; grey with a hint of green in it. It’s a “bulletproof eternal” ink, but is extremely well-behaved in the area of feathering.
Green: As a standard green, it’s relatively dark and slightly mossy.
Black Eel: Sharing the operational aspects of the other Eels mentioned above, it is otherwise a relatively well-behaved black which is slightly less profound in its darkness than some of Noodler’s other blacks.