Wed. Review- J. Herbin 1670 Bleu Ocean

I hereby present, J. Herbin 1670 Bleu Ocean. It was announced a few months ago, with anticipation building for its release. It was just over two years ago that J. Herbin released the 1670 Rouge Hematite, to commemorate the 340th anniversary (wow!) of the company’s founding back in…..1670. The ink was available in very limited supply and was also in incredibly high demand. So when we would receive a shipment, it was not unusual for the ink to be on our site for a matter of hours, with months passing in between each shipment. The ink was so wildly popular that they decided to continue offering it into 2011 (it was originally only supposed to be sold in 2010). The uncertainty of Rouge Hematite’s future was finally put to rest when it was announced that not only was the ink here to stay, but that Bleu Ocean, a new commemorative 1670 ink, would join the line. Yes, 1670 is now its own line of inks within the J. Herbin brand.

J. Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite

The thing that draws us all to Rouge Hematite has been a heavily saturated blood red color, with an intense gold/green sheen to it. And that sheen is intense, more than any of the nearly 700 inks that I’ve encountered. Red inks are notoriously lame (usually), in my opinion, but this one stands out from the crowd, and has earned a reputation for its uniqueness. So when it was announced that Bleu Ocean would be another 1670 ink, it was hard not to get excited about it.

J. Herbin 1670 Bleu Ocean

Now I haven’t been around as long as some other folks in the fountain pen world, but I have seen some things over the last 3 years. Whenever a new ink is to be released, it’s almost always a big deal. Some of the more notably hyped ink releases since Rachel and I started include Herbin’s Rouge Hematite, Pilot’s Iroshizuku inks, the Pelikan Edelstein series, a slew of new Diamine colors (30 in all) including some awesome ones like Syrah, Red Dragon, Ancient Copper, and Oxblood. We’ve seen Platinum Mix-Free and Rohrer and Klingner’s Blau Schwarz. And who could forget Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, Blue Nose Bear, Rome Burning, or the drama that surrounded my own collaborative Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium. What is it about all of these inks that drive us all so crazy? Why, when we have access to hundreds and hundreds of inks do we still go so nuts over a new color? Because, we love it, that’s why 🙂 And the lead up to this ink has been no exception to the rest.

J. Herbin 1670 Bleu Ocean

So we find ourselves here once again! I have the ink, and you want to know about it. It’s always easy to get all hyped up and excited about a new color, and that’s definitely part of the thrill. $22 is a lot of money for an ink though, and I want to give you my very practical and objective opinion of this ink, all hype aside.

When I first found out that there would be a new 1670 ink, a blue ink, I got so incredibly excited. Blue is by far my favorite ink color, and I do love inks that sheen (can I get a shoutout for Diamine Majestic Blue?). I wanted to find out as much as I could about the ink before I went forming an opinion about it though.. I was told that it was going to be a dark blue, more heavily saturated than the standard J. Herbin line, something between Eclat de Saphir and Bleu Nuit, in a bottle identical to Rouge Hematite but with a blue cap and silver wax seal, and that it would not have a metallic pigment like Rouge Hematite. Okay, so that was a pretty decent description, better than I get for some other inks before they’re released. The stock pictures that accompanied were pretty enticing, too. But I didn’t want to really get my hopes up until I had the ink in hand. At this point, I know that as many inks I’ve handled, I am my own best judge for trying to get an idea of how an ink ‘fits’ into the ever-growing ink world. Especially since dark blue inks are in no short supply, I wanted to really keep an open mind.

Stock photo of 1670 Bleu Ocean box from J. Herbin
Stock photo of 1670 Bleu Ocean bottle from J. Herbin

Stock photo of 1670 Bleu Ocean swab from J. Herbin

Herbin’s marketing stuff states the motivation for the development of Bleu Ocean saying, “It recalls the sea voyages of J. Herbin when he was travelling in the far east and discovered the famous gum which will allow him to manufacture wax.” (Herbin was real big into sealing wax at its founding, still is, really).

Now let’s talk about the bottle. It’s stunning, and really beautifully crafted. I have personally always loved the combination of blue and silver, and the wax on the cap and front of the bottle definitely sets it apart from the other inks on my desk. Most ink companies view bottles as an afterthought, but a few brands like Pilot Iroshizuku, Pelikan Edelstein, and J. Herbin’s 1670 truly stand out from the crowd. The box that it comes in is beautifully designed. Though it doesn’t actually say Bleu Ocean on it, there is a blue seashell on the top, with J. Herbin and 1670 in blue writing. 

The only thing that I don’t like about this bottle is having to use it. That sounds crazy, but it’s honestly just not designed to be used as much as it is to be admired. The bottle itself is a square, which is okay, but the neck is a much smaller diameter than most other ink bottles. The opening is 12.85mm wide (about 1/2″), which is about the same as a Goulet ink sample vial. It’ll fit most pens in there okay (Pelikan m800 starts to push the limit), but when the ink level gets down to about half the bottle, you’ll have a hard time filling any pen from it because you can’t even angle the pen into the corner of the bottle and tilt it like you would need to. So basically, if you want to use this ink a fair amount, you’ll need to get an ink syringe to go along with it, or plan to decant it into another more usable bottle.

All of this packaging and design stuff is great, and J. Herbin really does this ink right in that respect. But if you’re like me, what matters most is what’s in the bottle. So without further delay, here is Bleu Ocean:

Some of the inks that I feel are closest to Bleu Ocean are:

It’s always a little tough to tell the intricate details of an ink from a computer screen, so I’ll talk you through my key thoughts on this ink.

  • It’s a pleasant blue with a slight lean towards purple, darker and more saturated than any of the standard J. Herbin inks
  • It does not have a sheen like Rouge Hematite, and shouldn’t really be compared to it except in the bottle/packaging
  • It flows extremely well, cleans easily, and does not appear to have any of the nib creeping/crusting issues of Rouge Hematite
  • It dries faster than most other inks, and reminds me of most of the Pilot Iroshizuku inks in terms of performance and pleasure of use
  • Water resistance is not incredible, but writing is still very readable when wet
  • The bottle is absolutely beautiful, but one of the least practical ones in the fountain pen world (mainly due to the diameter of the bottle’s neck)
The main thing that I’ve discovered and need to get across to you is that this ink, though labeled as 1670, is really quite different than it’s sibling, Rouge Hematite. Rouge Hematite is an ink that I love, but don’t find myself using very often because it’s quite frankly just not the most practical ink in the world. It’s hard to clean, crusts up on the nib, needs to be shaken vigorously before use, and sheens so incredibly that it almost changes color when the light shifts. But, for all of its quirks, Rouge Hematite is still a favorite because it’s just such a unique and intense ink.

Bleu Ocean, on the other hand, is much more of a conventional ink. It’s a solid-performing, rich blue ink that is more practical than Rouge Hematite….though I’m not sure that is what everyone who’s come to love Rouge Hematite was hoping for with Bleu Ocean. Nevertheless, I am eager to see how this ink is received in the fountain pen community. There are thousands of bottles of Rouge Hematite on desks and bookshelves around the world, and they are sure to be complemented by bottles of Bleu Ocean as well.

The supply of Bleu Ocean will be limited at first, but it will be available ongoing. it may take some time  before it’s regularly available, but eventually it will be. For the inaugural batch, we’re going to be listing it at on Thursday, 9/13/12 at 1:00pm EDT (East Coast US). See more details about our release here.

I’ve shared my opinions, and I’d love to hear what you think! Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Write On, 
Brian Goulet
2017-10-11T14:38:05+00:00 September 12th, 2012|Ink Reviews|30 Comments
  • Mike

    Why they didn't develop this ink with a similar sheen as Rouge Hematite (or even some real silver pigment, which is what most of us who asked J. Herbin to make this ink asked for, and would keep the mold that seems so desperately fond of Herbin inks at bay) I'll never know. Especially with the oceanic theme. One of the reasons I love Diamine Sargasso Sea so much is because its HEAVY white/gold sheen plays off the rich blue ink so beautifully, reminding me of a clear sunset glistening off busy whitecap waves. This ink is just another blue in the sea (couldn't resist) of dark blues on the market, and it seems like the only thing setting it apart is a gorgeous—and useless—bottle.

    I have to say, I'm disappointed. But thanks so much to Brian and Rachel for keeping us updated and putting together this awesome write-up!

  • autopsy

    Rouge Hematite is a unique ink that people were excited to use and have. Bleu Ocean could be found in the same link at the rest of the J Herbin bottles (that is, non-1670 for a much lower price), and no one turn their head.

    I don't understand the justification of the price and place Bleu Ocean was put into. I was excited for this ink, but the more I learned about it, the less I cared. If silver particles are possible, that would have made for a must-have bottle of ink.

  • anaximander

    Thanks for a wonderful review! This looks like a lovely blue ink, but the truth is I have some lovely blue inks already (incl. Eclat de Saphir) and don't feel the need for another one. It's hard to make a blue ink really stand out from the crowd enough to make it worth a premium price. I'll add that I am not a fan of metallic sheens, so the addition of silver to this one wouldn't have convinced me either. I love Herbin inks and might buy this one if it were part of their regular line, but it just isn't different enough to warrant the premium price.

  • Michael Hosea

    Very thorough review, way more info than expected. I must confess I was wondering how it would mix with Rouge Hematite. 🙂

  • erratica13

    Rouge Hematite is my favorite red ink by far, and it encouraged me to try other J Herbin inks. I too found that they can have serious mold problems, though since I switched to an all-syringe filling system, the problem hasn't cropped up again. I will absolutely be ordering a bottle of Bleu Ocean, though I'm also feeling a little disappointment at the lack of silver sheen. Think what could have been developed in a deep olive green and bronze! Or brown and copper! Ah, well. Thank you, Brian.

  • Another great review, Brian. It looks like Bleu Ocean could be going head-to-head with the esteemed Aurora Blue. I'm one of the outliers who never really warmed up to Rouge Hematite after the original hype. I ended up selling mine. But give me a saturated blue in a gorgeous bottle and I'm a happy pen-and-ink geek. 🙂

  • Miles Rind

    I hope you won't mind, Brian, if I offer a brief lesson on how to approximate French sounds in English. I do not expect people who don't speak French to pronounce French words in an authentic fashion, but there are better and worse ways of approximating the French sounds with English sounds. Specifically, "hématite" can best be approximated by saying "ay-mah-TEET" (not "HEM-a-tite"), and "Herbin" can best be approximated by saying "air-BEN" or "air-BAN" (rhyming with "can"; definitely NOT "air-BAHN," as you are saying). Your pronunciation of "rouge" is perfectly correct.

  • Freddy

    In general, I am not a big fan of blue inks but when I fall, I fall hard. I so loved Diamine Denim when I got a sample that I immediately ordered a bottle from you and since it arrived I have never been without a ready to go pen filled with it on my desk. The J. Herbin 1670 Bleu Ocean, by comparison, is, well, blue. (Read boring).

    I have a few J. Herbin inks that I really enjoy but absolutely hate their bottles, and for the same reasons you pointed out in your review. J. Herbin has to know by now that a lot of folks are frustrated by the design of those bottles. No matter how attractive a bottle is, if all the ink cannot be drawn from it into a pen then it is useless.

    And all of this for the "privilege" of paying a very premium price of $22.00! All I can say is, "Diamine Denim don't worry because I still love you best. 😉

  • MTruppi

    Are there any Noodler's Blues that are similar? I was surprised not to see one of the 50,000 Noodler's swabs in the comparison. Great review – I like this ink but I'm not 100% sure I want to invest in a bottle… Maybe a sample or two. Glad to hear that 1670 is now a line for J. Herbin, can't wait til they do a green or purple one.

  • The comparison with Diamine Majestic Blue is apt but for the price I would rather have the Diamine ink. Nothing wrong with buying a sample though. On the other hand I do have a bottle of Rouge Hematite but that one's really an extraordinary ink. It would be interesting if they made a green ink in the series. There's definitely potential there for some nice golden sheen.

  • Barnabas

    With a last name like "Goulet," I'm sure Brian knows how to pronounce French, but if we are going to get "Herbin" pronounced correctly, then perhaps getting the J part right is essential. It should be pronounced as we do the letter G, but with a soft consonant, like szzzzeeeee..

  • This is definitely darker than Aurora Blue, but writes really smooth and wet. I would say this definitely would be pretty comparable.

  • I don't mind at all! Despite my last name being quite French (and studying French for three years in high school), it never quite 'stuck'. I never *quite* know how to pronounce things sometimes, I'll be sure to try to say if correctly from now on 🙂

  • I completely understand where you're coming from. I don't think I know anyone who really loves to use Herbin's bottles (some really like the design, but their function is…well, yeah).

  • kp

    Very nice review, Brian. I appreciate the thoroughness of this one, as I've had my eye on this ink for some time; eagerly anticipating its release. Thanks to your review, I can safely say that I will have no regrets about skipping this one, but I do look forward to seeing more from the 1670 line. Thanks again!

  • Eh…not really. I mean, there are some that are kind of somewhat close, but the swabs I showed were some of the closest. Once I get the Bleu Ocean up in the Swab Shop it'll be easier to compare for yourself, but to my eyes there actually wasn't a particular Noodler's color that seemed to match it as close as the other inks did.

  • The thing we don't really know for the 1670 series moving forward is if we can expect a sheen with future inks, or if it'll just be something special to Rouge Hematite. I think the sheen was the one thing everyone expected with Bleu Ocean, and I wanted to make it very clear that there is no sheen. The goal with the 1670 series, I'm told, is to have inks with a greater degree of saturation, and I think a sheen is going to be independent of that.

  • As counterintuitive as it may seem, I (as a retailer) don't want you to buy this ink with an expectation of it being something that it's not…that's not really good for anyone, especially with a hot ink like this that's very much in demand. So I wanted to be really clear about what the ink is and what it isn't, and I feel that I did that as fairly as I could. I can pretty safely say I'm not going to be able to afford the time to be as meticulous in future ink reviews, as I spent about 12 hours putting this whole thing together…but it was worth it in this case. I'll always try to do what I can.

  • I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed too, as I love blue inks and I love sheens…but I tried not to hate on the ink just because of my own expectations. I had to put myself in a sort of Zen state when testing this ink so that I wouldn't be trying to make it into something that it wasn't, and when I did that I found that it actually has some nice qualities to it, though they're more subtle than the flashier Rouge Hematite. I do think that a sheening Bleu Ocean would have been a homerun for J. Herbin, but this is still a very pleasant ink for different reasons.

  • I can completely appreciate where you're coming from…$22 for a 50ml bottle of ink is certainly a premium price, and for that reason it's not going to be for everyone. I do think this ink will have it's place in the world, though it won't be as talked about as Rouge Hematite, I'm sure.

  • Haha, and I didn't even plan that! I don't even mix inks a lot, but the fact that it was written on the box NOT to mix it, and I had both bottles of ink just sitting there in front of me….I couldn't resist 😉

  • J. Herbin has had some mold issues pop up sporadically (no put intended!) in their regular line since switching to 'all-natural' ingredients a couple of years ago, but I haven't heard of it being an issue in Rouge Hematite. I don't anticipate a problem with Bleu Ocean, but only time will tell. J. Herbin will work to make it right if there is any issue that comes up.

    I hear where you're coming from with the sheen thing, but we have to keep in mind that sometimes it's actually a lot harder to develop things than we dream them up to be. Sure, putting a certain color sheen in a certain color ink sounds easy, but it's usually not. I don't know a lot about ink chemistry and how the stuff is actually made, but I've seen enough behind-the-scenes stuff to know that certain dye colors just don't do what we want them to do, so making certain ink colors with certain properties just aren't always possible.

  • You could argue (and MANY do) the same thing for the other premium inks like Pilot Iroshizuku, Caran d'Ache, or Pelikan Edelstein. Often, it's a slightly-better-than-average ink is a particularly nice bottle that warrants the premium price. If the bottle/packaging doesn't matter to you, then it's probably not worth paying the premium, I'll definitely admit that. This won't be the best ink for everyone, but I think that it will have a loyal fanbase.

  • Michael Hosea

    I wonder if Herbin was ever going for the kind of "sheen" that people seem excited about in the first place. IMO, the gold sheen of Rouge Hematite as seen under oblique bright lighting misses the point of that ink and actually sells the accomplishment of it short. If you look at a piece of red hematite like this one , the pigment in Rouge Hematite ink makes perfect sense and looks right without holding the paper at funky angles to get a specular reflection. Granted you need a well-shaken bottle, a wet pen, and not-very-absorbent paper to see it reliably, but just writing on Rhodia under fluorescent lighting in a public place, it was very pronounced for me, and I wasn't picking up my paper and looking at it at weird angles. I actually didn't like it, but that doesn't mean I'm not impressed. The same technique with a dark blue might have produced a mottling of grayish areas that only looked interesting when you went looking for sheen.

  • FraijoManda

    Very pretty! Great pen/ink combo, kinda meant for each other. I know I've said it before, but I love your photos! Especially this set with the shells – almost like a little jewel that washed up on the shore. Very pretty.

  • That's exactly what I was shooting for 🙂 Not so much a jewel, but more like the message in a bottle kind of thing.

  • I don't know that the sheen was ever intended to be carried through the 1670 line (obviously not), I was told that the line was to be inks that are more saturated than the normal Herbin colors. I think Rouge Hematite's sheen is unique to it, but I'll definitely be passing up the word that the sheen seems to be what people like the most about it. That's the general feedback I get.

  • Michael Hosea

    The point about Herbin is well taken. I'm a firm believer that we should all try to approximate proper names as best we can. Perhaps it comes from hearing my own name mispronounced so many times. However the words "Rouge" and "Hematite" are perfectly legitimate English words, the former coming to us of course from the French and the latter from the Greek. I believe it would come across to English-speakers as pedantic and somewhat ridiculous for Brian to break into a French pronunciation of "Rouge Hematite" in the middle of an English narration. In particular, I might actually laugh if he said "ay-mah-TEET". 🙂

  • Yeah…that's kind of my thinking. I always think it's a little ridiculous when I hear tv news reporters talking normally and then they bust out in native inflection when they speak about another part of the world. I mean, I get why they do it and it is proper, but I know I would definitely feel silly doing it.

  • Pretty disappointing if you ask me. I LOVE Rouge Hematite; it's probably my all-time favorite ink. Why couldn't they have added a silver sheen to Bleu Ocean, and made it a true sibling to RH??? That would have made a beautiful and unique ink, rather than just another blue…