Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses (original formula) ink review

There's been some discussion lately surrounding Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses (see here for example). What essentially happened is that one of the components in the original ink was changed subtly by the manufacturer of said component, without informing anyone of the fact, much less Nathan Tardif, the man behind Noodler's ink.

A lot of people were (understandably) up in arms over this incident and many were of the opinion that Nathan should have discontinued the "old" Black Swan in Australian Roses (BSAR) and instead named the new formulation something else. I tend to agree, for the simple fact that as an engineer I like version numbers. If the old one was version 1.0, the new one is version 2.0 and the two, while alike, are not identical.

I don't doubt the new formulation is just as beautiful, as in fact many people have confirmed, but I'm also sure it's not the same as the old. So in my personal opinion I think he should have probably retired the old BSAR and called the new formulation something different.

As luck would have it, I had a sample of the original formula Black Swan in Australian Roses, and despite not getting sufficient votes for it in my ink sample survey, I decided to review it in parallel with my last ink review, Diamine Syrah. Why? Because the two inks are pretty similar. Doing them in parallel allowed me to better see the differences.

Because it's such a special ink, I decided to load Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses in my special fountain pen: the Pilot Vanishing Point with a broad nib.

Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses shading

Bottle and pricing

The new formulation of BSAR sells for $12.50 for a 3 oz / 90 ml bottle, or $0.14 per milliliter.

Color and saturation

In a nutshell, Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses (original formula :) is gorgeous. While initially I thought Diamine Syrah might have the edge, after using both inks in parallel some more, I came to the conclusion that I prefer Australian Roses.

To get a better idea, I compared the two inks with Sailor Jentle Grenade (also discontinued).

Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses vs Diamine Syrah vs Sailor Jentle Grenade

All three inks are a dark shade of burgundy red but Australian Roses is redder and slightly lighter. All are also highly saturated. To continue the wine analogy started with Syrah, which resembles dark red wine, Australian Roses is somewhere between that and rose wine. I really love it and it almost makes me drink it. Thankfully it's not scented, or who knows what might happen.

For the record, I've been hearing that the new formulation is more purple than red. Hopefully I'll get the chance to test that one day.


Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses is very playful in the shading department. The color variation is great, and depending how much the ink pools on paper when you write, it can vary from dark pink to deep burgundy. In that sense it beats Syrah. A wet swatch of both inks looks almost the same but as the ink starts to thin, BSAR gets lighter.

Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses shading

In addition to shading, there's even some sheen, when viewed at just the right angle, but you would have to use a thicker nib to spot that.


If you use cheap paper and a thick nib, and peer really closely, you might notice a little feathering. Otherwise, that's not an issue on good paper.


As in most such cases, using a broad nib on cheap paper with a dark, saturated ink, will at the very least produce some ghosting. Such is the case here, though it doesn't happen on Clairefontaine paper.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

There's nothing out of the ordinary to report here. Black Swan in Australian Roses flows well in the Pilot Vanishing Point, regardless of the broad nib. The flow was controlled, perhaps a bit on the wet side. The Pilot VP's broad nib has some spring to it and that certainly helps in getting more ink to flow if you press harder.

Drying time

Dark, saturated inks are a good recipe for long drying times on glossy, high quality paper like the Clairefontaine 90g I uses for one of the samples. It took around 30 seconds to dry on that paper, but less than 10 on absorbent photocopy paper. Even after 30 seconds, I would be careful of touching the written surface because it might still smear.

Smearing when dry

Yes and no. To elaborate, I would let it dry for a very long time before attempting to touch it. But after 24 hours or so it should be all dried out and smearing won't be an issue.

Water resistance

Apparently Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses is partially water resistant and that's exactly what I found. After 1 minute exposure to running water, some of the pink/red dye washes off but most of it remains, leaving the text perfectly legible. That's good enough for me.


Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses (old formula) marks the end of an icon. This beautiful ink has had a short but glorious life, if I'm to believe the hype surrounding it. That hype is well-founded though, because I found it to be a beautiful and unique burgundy ink, with great shading and good behavior, even offering the additional bonus of mild water resistance. I would recommend for you to go out and buy a bottle but I'm sure it's all been sold out at this point. You could always try the new formulation if you think that you're OK with a more purple ink. Myself, I'm a bit saddened that this ink is no more. I'm going to hold on to my remaining sample in case one day they'll be able to clone it.

Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses shading

Following are the two samples on photocopy and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses on photocopy

Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses on Clairefontaine


  1. I prefer the richer color of the Diamine Syrah but that, of course, is strictly subjective and there is no right or wrong. While the original Black Swan in Australian Roses is a lovely color, because I have a bottle of the Diamine Syrah, I never bothered buying a bottle (though I have had a sample in the past). When it comes to the Black Swan series, I much prefer the Black Swan in English Roses which has a brownish tinge to the red. As soon as I got a sample of that, a full bottle was ordered.

    Based on the comparison of the new vs. old BSinAR I saw done by Brian Goulet, I much prefer the old version. The new version reminds me too much of Noodler's Cactus Fruit American Eel, a color I do not especially care for.

    Once again, all of this is completely subjective so there really is no right or wrong. I must add, though, that I find your ink reviews very thorough and much appreciated.

  2. I found a couple things that I don't like about Diamine Syrah. Probably going to update my review of it. I also have a sample of English Roses. It's going to be interesting to test that one. And yeah, definitely subjective :)

  3. I'll be interested to know what things you don't like about Diamine Syrah and also your thoughts on BSinER. I have to admit that I have seen much more written about Australian Roses than English Roses so I assume that Australian Roses may be the more popular of the two colors.

  4. Interesting about the Syrah. I've never used it in a demonstrator and now I won't. Thanks for the heads up.

    As for English Roses, it is definitely not as flashy as Australian Roses which may be why I prefer it and why Australian Roses might be the more popular of the two.

  5. Olivia from the PenventoryAugust 5, 2014 at 5:41 AM

    I managed to find a bottle of the original formula on Amazon from a seller called "Passion4Pens. Inc." I saw their stock was low and guessed that it was probably older stock and, therefore, the older version, but I didn't get to find out until it arrived yesterday whether it was actually the original formula. I was so relieved I took the gamble!They apparently have 4 bottles left as of this comment -- it might be worth contacting them and finding out!

  6. Thanks for sharing! For now I'm not going to buy any full bottles of ink, no matter how rare, because I realized I can't justify keeping them around when I don't write that much. I prefer to buy samples or to accept the occasional sponsorship because that way I can try lots of different inks.