This season's hottest and most controversial ink

If you like fountain pens, you have definitely heard about LAMY Dark Lilac. If you don't like fountain pens, you might have heard about it anyway because somehow it ended up getting a story on the New York Times. Granted, the Times publishes many stories that hardly qualify as news or factual information, but regardless, "limited edition fountain pen ink controversy makes it onto national news publication" is not something I had on my 2024 Bingo card. The crux of the apparent "controversy" is this: company permanently rereleases 8-year-old limited edition ink color, but now the color is different.

As it happens, I bought a bottle of Dark Lilac 2: Electric Boogaloo, so now we get some unsolicited commentary about both the ink and the circumstances surrounding its release.

Showing off Dark Lilac in the bottle, in my notebook, and on a swatch card

The ink

I'm going to discuss the ink on its own merits without comparing it to the old edition. Summary: I am going to drink this ink.

Dark Lilac is a slightly warm-leaning purple with a green sheen. Some photos online make the sheen look like a true green, but it looks chartreuse in all my swatches.

Looking at the green sheen from different angles (neutral and catching the light)

I tested the ink out of a Platinum Plaisir 03 (fine) pen on a Rhodia dot pad.

Dark Lilac writing samples and tests

Ink properties

Dry time: This ink dries in about 10 seconds (completely by 15).

Water resistance: No water resistance here!

Highlighter resistance: The ink smears a bit after being highlighted, but not to the point of illegibility.

Flow: This is a slightly wet ink. It flows more readily out of this nib than most other inks I've tried.

Saturation: Dark Lilac is ridiculously saturated. Repeated swabs don't offer much difference in opacity because the pigment load is so high.

Shading: Wet flow and high saturation means basically no shading.

Sheen: This ink sheens ridiculously on the swatch card. It doesn't sheen as much in writing for two reasons: fountain pens dispense ink in much smaller quantities than a swab, and Rhodia paper depresses sheen because it's pretty absorbent. Even then, the sheen is pretty obvious when it catches the light. (If an ink has noticeable sheen on Rhodia paper, it's going to go bananas on less-absorbent paper.) I learned while grading papers that it even manages to sheen a little on printer paper, which is no small feat!

Testing out sheen on Rhodia paper. The green is delightfully present!

Thoughts

I've wanted to buy purple ink for a while, but nothing has stood out to me until I saw this one. I really like the base tone of it because it's dark enough to be legible without passing for black, and I'm biased towards warm purple. And with green sheen??? I like interesting sheeners, I like green, this was a no-brainer. The sheening pigment mixes with the purple to make an interesting brownish color that I really like.

The ink behaves really nicely for what it is. I'm surprised at how fast it dries considering it's wet and sheens pretty heavily (some heavy sheeners don't dry down for days, if ever). Something worth noting is that dry time varies wildly depending on the pen, nib size, and paper you use, so it might not be as speedy with a broader nib or on coated paper. But for my purposes, it exceeds expectations.

The controversy

Now I will put my personal feelings about the ink aside and address the whole kerfuffle with LAMY. I really have no idea how bent out of shape people are getting about it because I don't get out much on the internet these days: is there actually controversy or just a sea of talking heads saying there is? Who knows! So I'm mostly just here to be another talking head and comment about how LAMY has handled this release.

So, yeah, the new Dark Lilac is a pretty unsubtle change from the original. I haven't witnessed the difference in person since I don't have the first edition, but Goulet Pens has some comparison swatches. The original ink is visibly cooler than the new one. The sheen is now green when it used to be gold, and the new ink sheens a lot more than the old one.

Here's what LAMY had to say about the change:

After the worldwide success of the cult favorite T52 dark lilac in 2016, It was important for LAMY to revive this remarkable ink and make it permanently available to the public. Given the nature of color pigments and production changes, we were unable to exactly replicate the beloved ink. While we tried to reproduce the same shade of ink, the production for one of the key pigment ingredients has been stopped. Although there is a slight color variation and not an exact replica of the original, we have decided to keep the name as it is a purely technical color indication like all inks within the LAMY T52 family.

I don't know a lot about ink chemistry, but I can believe that the original pigment isn't replaceable and LAMY did their best with what they had. Mixing colors for any product with a sensitive formulation like makeup, soap, or ink isn't as easy as mixing paints together. The pigments need to play nicely with the other stuff in the mix without compromising the function of the final product. My completely uneducated hypothesis is that LAMY could only get so close to the original base color without completely throwing off the sheening color and behavior.

If LAMY really wanted to ride the Dark Lilac hype train, they would have waited for people to throw money at them and find out about the color difference later (after which they probably would have tried to downplay it). The marketing lead-up to this ink was basically nonexistent, and LAMY got out in front of it to explain why the color was going to be different. This is also a permanent addition to their ink line, which means they're not capitalizing on FOMO, either. It's the opposite of a marketing stunt.

It's also worth noting that the ink looks a bit cooler in person than it does in the photos and swatches I've seen, and the sheen can certainly pass as gold if you're not looking at it too hard. In any case, it's definitely not the bright green I've seen in some photos. There's still a difference, but I have to wonder it's really as dramatic as it looks in some pictures.

(For what it's worth, I like the new formulation way better than the old one. The old color is fine, I like it, but it wouldn't have stood out to me in the sea of purples like the new one did.)

Overall, I think LAMY dealt with this whole thing really well, a refreshing occurrence considering how widespread corporate bullshit is nowadays. Now I'm going to go drink that ink.