J. Herbin Ink – Past And Present


During a recent email exchange, Karen of Exaclair offered to send a few bottles of J. Herbin ink. What a great opportunity to compare the older ink in my stash to the more recently manufactured ink, reformulated to comply with <insert string of profanities> EU regulations. You don’t think I said “no” do you?

The first thing of note is that none of the new inks have any odor unlike some of the earlier inks that had a very mild chemical smell. For those who have sensitivities, this is a boon.

In case you are new to fountain pen ink, a word of caution is in order. Should a bottle of JH, or any ink for that matter get an off odor, it’s worth checking further for signs of contamination. Better to throw out a bottle of ink than to repair or rehab a moldy fountain pen.

J. Herbin Ink -  New Formula Comparison

J. Herbin Ink – New Formula Comparison

Consider this subjective but both the newer Lie de Thé and Poussière de Lune inks look just slightly more red than the older formulas. As a result the brown may look less yellow if more neutral and the purple slightly more red-purple but these differences are minor.

However, if like me you loved the grayed look of the original Poussière de Lune, the current offering isn’t a duplicate. The new formula is slightly more vibrant which is in keeping with current ink color trends. This is a subtle thing and only visible on close examination. For most PdL fans, it will be irrelevant since the other characteristics of the ink remain the same.

The older Vert Empire swab soaked up a good deal of ink and laid down a darker line than the new sample. It takes looking beyond that darkness to discern any difference. There might be a more yellow bias in the new formula but I am hesitant on this one since the odor of my old bottle may indicate some degradation or even contamination. Regardless, it’s an understated green and eminently useful.

The only thing I wonder is whether the shelf life will be as long for the new formulations. It may take years to know about that but a manufacture date or use by date would be helpful.

Now that I have fresh bottles of some of my favorite inks, it might be time to acquire another italic pen or two. J. Herbin’s relatively fast drying time makes it well suited to wide nibs. Despite EU tampering, I remain a fan and intend to enjoy this venerable line for years to come.



  1. Oh, I am sooo jealous, I love J.Herbin. Among lots of others I tried, they are my favorite. Probably, should get more colors in future. I got mine around 5-6 months ago, so it would be considered old or new stock?


    • Nikira, most likely your ink is the new formulation but that depends on how long it was on the shelf before you purchased it. If the retailer moves a lot of product, then it would be new stock. Check with them. Perhaps they will know whether your order is from the new formulation.


  2. Great post and very helpful indeed. I bought a J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune recently and color is not what I was expecting. To be clear, I am a fan of Scabiosa and Caran d’Ache Storm so I was expecting to find a “dusty” purple. However, it is so vibrant and purple nothing about beigin dusty. You can see my writing sample from the link. Now I see, that it is because I have the new formula. Pfffff!



    • Glad the post helped you. I know exactly what you mean about the dusty appearance as I have both Scabiosa and Storm. The former is an iron gall ink and needs a bit of extra attention like making sure it doesn’t try in the nib from lack of use. For someone who doesn’t want that extra responsibility, Storm is the closest ink to the dusty look of PdL. Actually, I enjoy all three inks. They are too similar to have in rotation at the same time but different enough to enjoy individually.


  3. I’ve had two bottles of the new formulation J. Herbin go moldy on me–one was likely moldy before I received it and the other went moldy after I used it twice. I’m off their ink for now–which is a shame, because I love PdL and it’s one of my favorites.


    • There is information about problems with moldy ink at Fountain Pen Network. It’s worth reading if you have any concerns about buying or using J. Herbin ink.


      • I did read some of the posts–unfortunately, I didn’t discover that either bottle was moldy until I’d had each for quite some time. And I no longer have either, as I threw them away as soon as I discovered their respective issues. I will likely come back to their inks at some point in the future, I just need to take a break from them in the short term (I also don’t use my pens often enough to warrant the number of inks I do have, so that’s another consideration).


  4. And I’m registering the new Vert Empire as bluer than the older. Yeah, I miss the older, grayer Lune. Glad someone’s empirically confirming what I’d noticed, but couldn’t prove.


    • Beth, I had hoped the colors would remain the same but there is no doubt now that the new formulations aren’t duplicates. I think JH did a good job with an unfortunate set of circumstances but with a different set of ingredients, something was bound to change. Blame it on the EU regs but here it would be the EPA. Come to think of it, PR and Noodler’s have continued to offer good quality and consistent color so maybe the U.S. is a better place to manufacture ink. Japan and England seem fine, too. Not that JH would want to relocate but there are plenty of empty buildings to be had these days. Just sayin’.



  5. Sad to see the old muted PdL has succumbed to Herblock’s Law (“If it’s good, they’ll stop making it”). Like others, I’ve switched to Caran d’Ache Storm as a substitute. If only it weren’t so darned expensive.


    • Joe, I would agree that Storm is the closest to the old PdL and that it is expensive especially in comparison to JH. As an equal opportunity enthusiast, the new version of PdL has its place in my collection as a slightly more lively purple. It is more subdued than Violette Pensée and so has its uses. It is easy on the eyes and good for long passages. My journal is quite content with it as are my pens. I’ll reserve Storm for special occasions and make PdL the workhorse. Hopefully, you will find a place for it in your rotation, too.



  6. Thank you for taking the time to do a comparison. It’s very useful to see the new and old formulations. I’m sure J.Herbin did the best they could in trying to stay as close to the old formulation as possible. I will say that I’m not as enthusiastic about the new formulation of Cacao du Bresil as I was with the old. Also, I am addicted to dark green, and find that Vert Empire is a little more greyish and muted than i would like.


    • I agree, kp, that JH did the best they could under the circumstances. Government regulation run amok is the best I can say about the situation.


      • Please forgive me; I honestly wasn’t trying to be difficult, and didn’t mean to come across that way if I did. I have remained a committed J.Herbin customer. I still enjoy their inks, mostly for the incredible shading. My favorite inks to use in an italic are, hands down, J.Herbin (especially Vert Olive). But, most importantly, I consider J.Herbin one of the “safer” inks in my stash, as I’m never worried about having a J.Herbin ink in my pen. I’ve never had an issue with staining or clogging, and can’t say that for some other inks. I am currently trying to collect all of the J.Herbin “colors”, and still regularly use the new Cacao and Empire.


        • KP, I have no issues with your reply and agree with your perspective on JH. Their formulations would likely have remained the same forever had the EU stayed out of it.

          Frankly, I think ink should be formulated for long shelf life. Whether following the imposed regulations will align to that or not remains in question. That a slight color shift has occurred with some JH ink is certain. Some users care – others do not. Some manufacturers have been less consistent with color than JH and perhaps we have held this company to a higher standard than others. No matter. So long as we like their ink, we will continue to purchase it. I cannot imagine my collection without those little bottles and, like you, I remain a fan.


          • Thank you! You make a good point about color consistency, and perhaps we are holding them to a higher standard, as certainly there are brands which regularly produce variations in “batch consistency” alone. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’ve given me something else to consider. =)

            I do enjoy those little bottles, too.


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  9. […] in Australian Roses. No new ink colors came my way but Karen at Exaclair sent three reformulated J. Herbin inks for comparison to what I had on hand that were produced prior to EU meddling. I still enjoy all three, Vert […]


  10. […] in Australian Roses. No new ink colors came my way but Karen at Exaclair sent three reformulated J. Herbin inks for comparison to what I had on hand that were produced prior to EU meddling. I still enjoy all three, Vert […]


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