Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Waterman Havana Brown ink review

Havana Brown is the first ink under the Waterman brand that I have tested. Though the brand name might suggest otherwise, apparently Waterman is a French company. Also, on the bottle and box there is no mention of "Havana Brown" per se, just Encre Havane and Havana Ink.

I was so intrigued by this ink (for whatever reason) that I bought a full bottle, based only on what I read in a couple of reviews. I needed a more "playful" brown than my Noodler's Polar Brown and this seemed to fit the bill. In retrospect, I don't regret buying an entire bottle at all. This ink really is a lot of fun. Read on to hear why, but before you do, please bear in mind that what I stated in my writing sample is no longer 100% true. Since then, I've had the chance to play some more with this ink, in a couple more pens, and I have become more acquainted with its characteristics.

Waterman has a fairly limited range of bottled inks, about 6-7 of them. I paid $8.64 for my 50ml/1.7oz bottle which gives a price per milliliter of $0.17. Not bad at all. Certainly comparable to Noodler's or Diamine.

Waterman Havana Brown

Color and saturation
Havana Brown is fairly saturated and to me that's a good thing. I like bold, saturated inks. The color is very interesting. Here I will reference Noodler's Polar Brown again because it's the only other brown ink that I have tested which comes close to this one. Well, I have also tested Noodler's Burma Road Brown but that one is an entirely different beast.

If you think of the color "brown" as a mixture of red and black, Polar Brown comes out as more earthy, with a lot more black in it. It is thicker and darker. Havana Brown, on the other hand, shows more red and even tends a bit towards burgundy, thus being lighter in contrast.

I wrote my first test with my Kaweco Sport Classic with a broad nib but I was a bit misled when I mentioned that there's only a little bit of shading in Havana Brown. Subsequently I have tested this ink some more in my TWSBI Diamond 530 to which I fitted a broad nib, as well as my new mystery pen which is in fact a Jinhao X750, also with a broad nib. It turns out that Waterman Havana Brown only got better the more I used it. The first time I used it in my Kaweco it flowed a bit dry but that was the pen's fault because the ink hadn't saturated the feed completely and it needed some time to get going. I found that the nib needs to flow wet in order for the beautiful shading to make an appearance.

Truth be told, I haven't tried it with a medium or fine nib but I think it would be a shame not to use this ink in a broader nib. The shading is really nice, with a burgundy base and darker brown shadows. If you look at the large q-tip swabs I did on Rhodia paper, you'll see what I mean.

There has been no feathering so far, even on the cheap photocopy paper I tested. The dip pen did produce some but that's understandable considering the amount of ink which oversaturates that low-quality paper.

The situation regarding bleedthrough is just as clear-cut: none whatsoever with a regular fountain pen, even with a broad nib. Once again, the dip pen breaks through the flimsy barrier of cheap paper but that's only to be expected. You ain't gonna use a dip pen in day-to-day writing anyway.

Flow and lubrication
It's hard to judge an ink's ability to flow, objectively. It depends on many factors, such as fountain pen used, nib size, filling system and so on. What amazed me is how well this ink flowed in my TWSBI Diamond 530.

Here's the premise. I used Polar Brown in the TWSBI since I first got it, but after I switched from an EF to a B nib, there were flow issues. Perhaps Polar Brown is actually dry flowing with a broad nib. Or maybe the nib itself has some issues. Either way, I decided to switch to Havana Brown, just for fun. What a difference it made! This ink flows incredibly well in the TWSBI. Now I can enjoy that bold nib to its full potential.

I have also used it a little in the new Jinhao X750 where it flowed well and gave a nice, wet line. My impression so far is that Waterman Havana Brown is far from dry, and in fact likes to flow really well even in pens with broad nibs.

Lubrication is even harder to define. I have tried this ink in a cartridge, a piston and a converter. There were no issues. 'Nuff said.

Drying time
For such a well-flowing ink, Waterman Havana Brown dries surprisingly quick, even on the more expensive Rhodia 80g paper. Just make sure you don't rub it before it dries completely.

Smearing when dry

Water resistance
I prefer my inks to be water resistant or, even better, bulletproof. Unfortunately, Waterman Havana Brown is neither, but then again, it isn't intended to be. It is, in fact, quite averse to water, as you can see from my testing sample. Within 10 seconds under running water this ink has almost completely washed off. That makes me a little bit sad because I would have loved to use this ink for more permanent writings. But hey, I guess you can't have it all. To be on the safe side, don't leave your notebooks penned with Havana Brown out in the rain - or don't spill any liquids on them.

As a side-effect, notice the traces of red left behind from the washed-off ink.

Waterman Havana Brown is one of those inks that grows on you with use. I found it both playful and serious. The nice shading gives it reddish as well as dark brown hues but it can still hold its own in a business setting (in my humble opinion) thanks to its dark tones. It likes to flow well in a fountain pen and it won't show through the paper, nor will it feather. While drying time is short, it does suffer from that one little flaw which is a complete lack of water resistance. If you don't need a water resistant ink and you like its other features, I highly recommend Waterman Havana Brown.

Following are two samples written on photopy paper and Rhodia 80g.

Waterman Havana Brown photocopier paper

Waterman Havana Brown Rhodia 80g


  1. I just found this--late I know--but thanks for the review. I'm finding I really like the Waterman inks.

  2. Have you tried others? This is the only one I have tested but I want to try at least one more.

  3.  I have South Sea Blue (gorgeous) and I bought Black the other day--which turns out to be a wonderful blue/black/grey color! I loved the Black so much I just bought Purple, Florida Blue, and Blue Black. I think I'll go back for the Havana though. (Mind you, they all have new lame names now). Thanks again for the review!

  4. Now I feel like I must try them all. The new names really don't make any sense. But I do like the new boxes.

  5. I like this ink too, though it's a bit orange... My favorite brown ink is the J. Herbin "Café des Îles" - I use that with a Pelikan M400 fine point nib and find it's just right. Other characteristics (e.g. Water [non] resistance, etc.) are as you described for the Olive Vert ink.

  6. I would say "red" rather than "orange" but I see what you're saying. To me this is one of the most beautiful inks I've tested. I do want to try Café des Îles at some point because I understand it's a more neutral brown. The one thing I'm not very fond of in J Herbin inks is that they feel a bit watery.