Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses ink review

With my recent reviews of burgundy inks - Diamine Syrah and Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses - I thought it might be fitting to end this "series" by reviewing the other ink in Noodler's Black Swan family, English Roses.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses (BSER) is a bit of a departure from strict burgundy, but it's close enough that I can put it in this category.

I reviewed this ink in my Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib, same as its Australian sister. The VP really helps bring out the qualities in the ink.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses shading

Bottle and pricing

I didn't have a whole bottle of BSER, just a sample. But a 3 oz / 90 ml bottle will set you back $12.50, same as most Noodler's inks. That amounts to $0.14 per milliliter. Dirt cheap!

Color and saturation

While Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses is still a shade of burgundy, it's definitely more brown than Australian Roses. The original formula of Australian Roses was redder, while the new formula is apparently purplish. But English Roses leans towards brown. In fact, the first thought that came to my mind when I saw it on paper was that it looks like dried blood.

Saturation is high.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses writing

Initially I didn't like it much, after just having transitioned from Australian Roses, but it quickly grew on me. Now, I'd say it's a wash between the two. It may be that I slightly prefer English Roses over the original formula Australian Roses.

Here's a comparison between English Roses, Australian Roses (original formula), Diamine Syrah, and Sailor Jentle Grenade (discontinued). Notice how brown Enlish Roses looks compared to the others.

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


English Roses is very pleasing shade-wise. The line variation with the Pilot Vanishing Point's broad nib is outstanding, and it confers a lot of personality to the ink. The springiness of the nib helps bring out this character even more.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses shading

Sometimes shading is complemented by sheen, and I'm happy to note that, under the right light, Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses shows some interesting golden sheen, almost (but not quite) in the vein of J Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite. Don't get your hopes too high though, because this is hard to spot in written lines, but it can be seen in the q-tip swab.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses sheen


There is a little bit of feathering on cheap photocopy paper unfortunately, but it's probably due in part to the high saturation of the ink, as well as the broad nib. It's nothing to worry about, especially since it's a non-issue on better paper.


Black Swan in English Roses will produce a little show-through (but not excessively so) on cheap paper, since, I re-iterate, it's a dark and saturated ink, and it was tested with a broad, wet nib. On Clairefontaine that's not an issue.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

I am extremely pleased with how Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses flows in my Pilot Vanishing Point. It is wet and very smooth, just the way I like it. Apart from that, there's nothing else to say, except maybe that it didn't dry once from non-use, despite using the pen briefly once a day. I guess that's also a testament to how good the VP is.

Drying time

Wet, saturated inks will usually have longer drying times and so is the case here. On cheap paper it can take up to 15-20 seconds to dry, with the broad nib, while on Clairefontaine that time can stretch beyond 30 seconds. That is a bit of a problem because one of the things I do with this ink and the Pilot VP is to jot down journal notes in a Clairefontaine 90g notebook. I have to be careful to let it dry thoroughly before I turn the page.

Smearing when dry

Surprisingly, despite the darkness and saturation, English Roses doesn't really smear, even on smooth, glossy Clairefontaine paper, provided enough drying time is allowed. That's in sharp contrast to Diamine Syrah which does smear. In fairness, if I rub it really hard, I can see just a little bit rubbing off but not if I casually touch the text with my skin. I suspect this resistance to smearing is partly due to its water resistance.

Water resistance

The inks in this family are water resistant and so is English Roses. Not completely, as you can see from the sample, but plenty, such that you won't lose valuable notes if you get them wet. A little dye does get washed away though.


I started out being a little "meh" about Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses but as I used it more and more, it quickly grew on me, to the point where I can confidently state that I like it a lot, perhaps even more than Australian Roses. Imagine a saturated, brown-leaning, water resistant burgundy ink with great flow and exquisite shading, and that would be a good description for Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses. If you can load it in an awesome pen like the Pilot Vanishing Point, even better. My recommendation is to buy yourself a bottle (if you like the color) while the current formula is still being made.

Here are the two samples, on photocopy 75g and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses on photocopy

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses on Clairefontaine


  1. I really like the color of this ink. Indeed, I like it better than the old formula BSiAR. I thought I was probably the only one who preferred the English Roses to the Australian Roses until I saw your review. :-)

  2. Well, it looks like you were right Freddy :) I do like this one better than Australian Roses. Do you have a whole bottle of English Roses?

  3. Yes, I do. I have only had a sample of the old Australian Roses but as soon as I received a sample of the English Roses I ordered a bottle. As silly as this sounds, some ink colors just 'speak' to me. English Roses is one of those colors.

  4. Does it dry quicker/smear less than the old formulation of Australian Roses? I LOVED that color, but I couldn't use it because I typically take lots of notes on a regular basis and can't wait a minute between page turns.

  5. It is a very slow drier indeed. Bear in mind that I'm using it with a broad, wet nib (Pilot VP) and that contributes to the long drying time. As for smearing, it doesn't smear if you let it dry really well (at least 24 hours). If you rub it really hard though, and the paper is good quality, it might smudge just a little. Regardless, I love this ink.