Ink Showcase: Akkerman Dutch Masters SBRE Brown
Back in 2015, renowned fountain pen reviewer Stephen Brown collaborated with Diamine and La Couronne du Comte to release an ink based on his colorful surname. Toward the end of 2017, the ink was re-released using the same Diamine formulation, but packaged in Akkerman's lovely flask-shaped bottles. Now that I've finally gotten my hands on a bottle, it's time to take it for a spin!
Packaging & Bottle
Akkerman packages its Dutch Masters series of inks in sturdy white cardboard boxes. Given the unique shape of the bottle inside, I was a little curious as to how Akkerman would package the ink to prevent any movement during shipping. Fortunately, they use a square styrofoam collar around the neck of the bottle to keep it stationary, and also use an internal zipper-sealed bag as an additional layer of protection in case something does go awry.
Enough about the box, though; we all know what you came to see: that distinct bottle. From a distance, I've always been taken with the Akkerman bottle, but this is the first time I've been able to use one in person. I'll cut to the chase: I love it.
The bottle is shaped roughly like an Erlenmeyer flask, with a bit of functionality added via a small chamber at the neck of the bottle. This chamber tapers to an opening that leads to the larger chamber at the bottom of the bottle. The purpose of the top chamber is to serve as a reservoir for ink to allow for easier filling. There's a marble in the top chamber that acts as a valve when it nestles in the opening between the two chambers. What this means is that you can tip the bottle over (while capped, of course) to fill the top chamber with ink. Once the top chamber is full of ink, you can set the bottle upright, unscrew the plastic cap, and fill your pen easily from the reservoir. The marble fits tightly enough in the opening that the ink will not drain quickly, but it will eventually drain over time. It's a seriously neat setup, and I find it a joy to use each and every time.
One underrated aspect of the bottle is that the design also makes it less prone to accidental spilling. Because the base of the bottle is so wide and has a relatively low center of gravity compared to more traditionally-shaped bottles, it's harder to tip over, which is a thoughtful consideration, especially if you're prone to being a little klutzy from time to time.
Finally, I really enjoy that Akkerman omitted the standard label that usually appears on their Dutch Masters bottles. In its place is a simple, round sticker that includes a fingerprint, which I presume to be Stephen's. It's a clean, understated look, and I really like that it adds a "personal touch" to the ink.
Color & Inspiration
SBRE Brown is a warm hue of reddish-brown with some orange and gold undertones. It shades well, and has quite a good amount of color variation. For example, if you take a look at the writing sample below, you'll see that when this ink is put down in volume, it's a much darker, richer shade of brown. At other times, the orange and gold undertones really do seem to pop, and give a nice contrast to the starker brown hue.
The ink doesn't really have any sheening properties, and I'm OK with that. For me personally, the sheen hype is starting to wear off a bit, and I appreciate that the lack of sheen keeps SBRE Brown more office-friendly. Comparison-wise, SBRE Brown reminds me of a few different inks. In its darker shades, it reminds me of Montblanc Toffee Brown, but in its lighter forms, it takes on an appearance closer to Diamine Ancient Copper
Evaluating the "inspiration" for inks named after individuals can be a bit tricky. Unlike inks named after objects, locations, or the like, I can't really compare the ink to its namesake. What I am able to do, however, is compare the ink to the properties Stephen aimed for it to have. In his 2015 Inkcyclopedia post, Stephen said he specifically chose a warm brown with good shading because those are properties that he enjoys, and this ink definitely delivers in both departments. He also alludes to the fact that he wants it to be dark enough to be usable in a variety of settings, including the workplace, which is a thoughtful consideration that I share and appreciate. I have been using SBRE Brown at my office quite regularly for the past few weeks, and it never raises an eyebrow, yet it still has enough charm to it to give me joy.
As with most other Diamine inks I've used, SBRE Brown performs admirably. Simply put, flow is consistent and predictable. On quality paper, this ink does not feather, and show-through and bleeding range from minimal to non-existent. Dry times are a bit on the slower side; on less absorbent paper, you can expect to wait around 25-30 seconds for this ink to dry. SBRE Brown is not water resistant, at least not in ink form.
When it comes to cleaning and maintenance, SBRE Brown has given me no issues. I've used it in several clear demonstrators, including the TWSBI Eco and Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator, and it has left minimal staining. Any staining that did arise was quickly wiped out with a bit of pen flush. Overall I have no qualms about using this ink in any of my pens.
As of the time of this writing, you can get a 120ml bottle of SBRE Brown for $38 at certain online retailers. At approximately $.32/ml, this ink falls somewhere in the mid-range between budget-priced inks and more expensive options. Considering the quality and utility of the Akkerman bottle, as well as the predictably reliable performance, I’m inclined to deem SBRE Brown a pretty great value. One thing you may want to consider, though, is that 120ml is a pretty ample supply, and the ink isn’t offered in other sizes, so if you aren’t particularly drawn to this hue of brown, you may want to consider getting samples instead. For me personally, I’m too enamored of the bottle and the color to limit myself to samples, and I’m quite glad I opted for the full bottle.