Friday, May 27, 2011

Noodler's Burma Road Brown (V-Mail) ink review

I've been quite enthusiastic about the fountain pen inks I've tested so far and that's because all of them have shown overall more positive aspects than negative ones. Noodler's Burma Road Brown is the first ink which has left me disappointed. Before you read too much into this, just bear in mind that this is a purely subjective judgment. This is simply not my kind of ink, but read on to see why.

Burma Road Brown is part of Noodler's V-Mail range of inks, which gives them a somewhat vintage look and feel. My review of North African Violet, the first ink in the V-Mail series that I tried, left me impressed. Burma Road Brown seems to be part of that series in name only, because most of its characteristics are different than its sibling's.

As its name suggests, Noodler's Burma Road Brown is a brown(ish) ink. Here's the first problem though: depending on the paper used, on the light, on the pen, this ink varies in color. To me it looks a lot more like khaki than brown. There are shades of green in it, no doubt about it. It is a dark ink but that also depends on the thickness of the nib and on how thick it is applied.

Before testing this ink I was considering buying an entire bottle, based more on preconceived ideas about its color. I admit I was also influenced by the exotic name, but in other reviews it seemed like Burma Road Brown really had a "dusty road" look to it. I don't see much green in a dusty road though. I'm just glad I ordered a sample instead of a bottle.

In my non-expert opinion, Noodler's Burma Road Brown is best suited for drawing, sketching and art in general. This would allow it to show off some of its shading properties because it does have some color variation but this can't really be experienced with a regular fountain pen ink. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who would like to use this ink for writing because it is formal enough to be used in any office setting or on any official document. To me though, it is simply too dull and the khaki tones don't appeal.

I have used Noodler's Burma Road Brown in my Pilot Prera with M nib. While the Prera is a very well-behaved fountain pen, the ink doesn't do it justice. This is easily the driest ink I have tested. Either that or it has flow issues but I've seen other reviews mentioning its dryness. As a result of this, lines are not always consistent, they break up and stutter. Frequently I have to turn the converter's piston knob to make the nib wetter. If you do like this ink, I recommend a fountain pen which is a very wet writer with other inks. Or, if you own a pen which is so wet that it actually spills or spits ink, Burma Road Brown might cure it.

Another thing that I don't particularly like about Burma Road Brown is the lack of saturation. This is a dull ink but sometimes dull inks can be pleasant. In my eyes, it isn't, and the greenish tones don't help either. I prefer warmer, richer browns, like Noodler's Polar Brown, for example.

Some of Burma Road Brown's better features are: its lack of feathering (I haven't seen any on photocopier paper and Rhodia 80g), the resistance to bleedthrough and the quick drying time (but I would expect a "dry" ink to dry quickly anyway).

There is just a little bit of water resistance but much less than its other V-Mail sibling, North African Violet, which can be safely called waterproof. After I washed the test sample for a minute under the bathroom faucet, the lines were still legible, though faint.

Having said all this, I urge everyone to take this review with a grain of salt. I've seen many instances of Noodler's Burma Road Brown being used for art and it looks beautiful in the right hands. Many people love it for both drawing and writing. Personally, I didn't manage to hit it off with Burma Road Brown but that should not stop you if you feel this is the right color for you.

In what follows are two samples, the first written on common photocopier paper, the second written on Rhodia 80g paper.

Noodler's Burma Road Brown

Noodler's Burma Road Brown


  1. Thanks for the information.  I've been considering this color, so I'll be sure to request a sample of this first in my next Goulet order. Think I'll also try a sample of the North African Violet based on your review. Do you think you'll be reviewing Whaleman's Sepia?  Nathan's video on this ink has made me curious.

  2. Ordering samples is a great trick that will end up saving you a lot of money. With my Goulet orders I almost always include a few samples of inks that I want to try.

    I've added Whaleman's Sepia to my wishlist. From the sample on their site it doesn't look very appealing to me but I'll give it a shot. The name is exotic enough :)

    I would advise you to get a sample for yourself because it takes me a long time to review inks due to the fact that I don't write a lot and I have to go through a full sample before moving on to the next.

  3. I love the color, but I too had flow issues in my otherwise problem-free Parker Vacumatic.