2013 Goulet Pens Ink of the Year

This blog post was written by our own Andrea Goulet Ford – she is our content lead, social media/marketing strategist, and Brian’s big sister!

Drum Roll Please…

The Goulet Pen Company 2013 Ink of the Year is…

Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts!

Distinct. Historic. Bulletproof.

What more could you want in an ink? Not much, evidently. We looked back on our sales and reviews, and even though this ink has been out for just over a year — you bought it — a LOT of it.

Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts, when units of full bottles and ink samples were combined, was our top-selling ink this year. We can’t say we’re surprised though. When Brian reviewed this ink about a month after we started selling it he predicted its success saying “It’s going to become a classic, staple blue-black in the fountain pen community. I’m just calling it now.”

Speaking of Brian’s review, here it is:

So, what are some of the star qualities that make this ink worthy of our “Ink of the Year” title? We’re glad you asked!

Distinct Color

We compared Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts to all of the lines we carry, and the mid-toned bluish-greenish-grey stood out among the pack. It’s appropriate for the office, but asks for a subtle, second glance. When you write with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts, you’re making a statement, because there’s no way it will be confused with a disposable pen.

Our customers also raved about the color. Here are just a few of the things they had to say:

“I am currently conducting an experiment to find the perfect legal black/blue-black for me. Ladies and gents, this is the best I’ve found so far… The color is dark enough to be professional, but unique enough to make a statement.” – Charles H.

“Color varies from paper and lighting from a blue/black to grayish to greenish or tealish… It’s dark enough to use in the office, and colored enough to stand out from the printed black.” – Matt L.

“It quickly became my second default drawing ink (together with platinum carbon black). It has a slight blue undertone but I don’t mind for drawing, it adds a little softness to it.” – Tanja O.

“I’ve received many compliments on the colour of this ink. It is a very dark blue bordering on black with a slight grey-green hue. Clearly distinguishable from any blue or black ink I’ve ever seen, while still being perfectly appropriate for work or legal documents.” – Simon P.

“This is a great colour — and I say that as someone who generally avoids blues and blue-blacks because I tend to think they are boring.” – Alea M.


Noodler’s inks are made by Nathan Tardif, and he puts his full passion behind every ink he develops. Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts is no exception. If you’ve seen the movie Glory, you may be familiar with some of the history.

The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the first official African-American military units in the United States. After the Gettysburg Address, white abolitionists actively recruited free blacks to fight. They did. Bravely. Unfortunately, they didn’t get paid the same as their white counterparts. After the regiment protested, Congress passed a bill to get the men paid. This is an ink that is inspired by equality and American freedom.

There are also a number of interesting ties to the Society of Friends, to Frederick Douglass, the whaling industry, and more.

Be sure to check out Nathan’s video where he tells the full story.


On their website, Noodler’s describes their “Bulletproof” designation as: “Any Noodler’s Ink that resists all the known tools of a forger, UV light, UV light wands, bleaches, alcohols, solvents, petrochemicals, oven cleaners, carpet cleaners, carpet stain lifters, and of course…they are also waterproof once permitted to dry upon cellulose paper.”

It passed our water drip test with flying colors, and it did for a number of our customers, too. Here’s what they had to say about the durability of Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts:

“My running water test shows that this ink DOES NOT BUDGE from paper when dry (about 60 seconds).” – Kai H.

“Also, it is totally waterproof, like ‘put the paper in a bucket of water and nothing changes whatsoever’ waterproof.” – Benjamin D.

“THIS INK IS WATERPROOF…amazing for drawing and then going over with watercolour washes…if left to dry for a bit first.” – Janis J.

“I wrote a few lines with 54th and immediately plunged the bagasse sheet into a warm water bath…54th did not respond to the bath. It stayed exactly as it was when I wrote it.” – Phil

As Nathan Tardif puts it, “I hope American freedoms last at least as long as this ink.”


On top of all this, Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts is an incredible, all-purpose ink. It performs well on all types of paper, has good saturation while retaining some nice shading, and cleans up nicely (especially for a bulletproof ink). It’s a medium-flow ink, so it performs well in nibs of all sizes, too. It does have a longer dry time, especially on non-absorbent paper, but we think that’s a small price to pay for all the other positive attributes.

So, what do you think? Are you one of the many raving fans of Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts? Or would you pick a different color as your favorite for this year? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!

2017-10-11T03:30:25+00:00 December 18th, 2013|Top 10 Lists|52 Comments
  • Philip Kallenberg

    I love this ink. I do not, however, use this ink with an Ultra-fine nib as it starts to feel a touch drier when you get down that fine. I love the ink in stubs or standard nibs about the width of the Pilot Metropolitan. I never really know what color it is… but it is great.

  • Thanks for the comment, Philip! Yeah — it can feel drier in some EF nibs for sure, but it's still pretty versatile considering how well it performs across the whole range. I usually have a M or 1.1 on my daily writer, so I tend to have the opposite problem of inks being too wet. 🙂

  • Philip Kallenberg

    I was actually talking about custom ground ultra fine nibs. Most of the EF nibs have performed well (Edison – JoWo for example).

  • snedwos

    It is PAINT. I like it, though.

  • Joe

    I got this ink in November free of charge courtesy of a wonderful Goulet Pen's giveaway. I loaded it into my Pelikan Souveran 800 with a broad point and I have not switched colors since. I love the color and the fact that it is bulletproof. Highly recommended.

  • Rori Lieurance

    I love the stuff. I still prefer Navy, but 54th Mass is fantastic.

  • Bobby Bobbinson

    Yes! The first ink that I ever bought, and my favorite ink out of all that I have used. The only complaint that I have is that it takes a little more cleaning than most inks, most likely due to its heavy waterproofness. Highly recommended!

  • Brent

    This was one of my first inks and a staple of mine now. It's a bit hard to clean and I get a lot of nib creep, but I love this stuff.

  • Suzy Lyons

    I have had one pen or another inked with 54th Massachusetts since it came out! I like to add about 15% water, which increases flow for drier pens and produces some very impressive shading! Such a great ink, the best blue-black by a mile!

  • Freddy

    The 54th Massachusetts is a really great looking ink and I like having a couple of waterproof inks available for envelope or check writing. However, I have both Noodler's American Eel Black and Platinum's Carbon Black for my waterproof needs (and both are superb in the waterproof and dark black categories). For a true dark blue or blue-black my favorite remains Diamine Denim. I am usually not overly excited by blues but the minute Brian showed it I purchased a sample. The day the sample arrived and I used it, the Goulet Pen Company received my order for a full bottle. Diamine Denim remains one of the few inks I have that is always in a pen and ready to go.

  • Thanks for sharing, Joe. The bulletproof-ness is pretty awesome. I need to send out Christmas cards this weekend and this is a big contender for what I'll use to address the envelopes.

  • Glad to hear, Rori. Thanks for chiming in. 🙂

  • Glad you like it, Bobby. It's true that you always have a special connection with your first ink. Mine was Diamine soft mint.

  • Thanks, Brent. Yeah — a lot of people have talked about the nib creep. But most people say it's worth dealing with on this ink. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Glad you like it, Suzy. The water tip is a good one. 🙂

  • Mike R.

    Love this color! Really close to another favorite of mine – Organic Studio Manganate 5. I'm a blue-black fan!

  • I was just talking to Brian about Diamine Denim the other day. It's another one of our favorite blue/blacks. Thanks for sharing, Freddy!

  • Rock on. Glad you like it, Mike. 🙂

  • I can't believe I missed the free bottle earlier. I still haven't gotten it because I am having a silent revolt in the corner. I'll likely get it early next year.

  • Gordon

    Yes, I'm a raving fan of Noodler's 54th Massachussetts. Like a couple of other posters here, I got the free bottle earlier in the year and haven't looked back. A really distinctive colour, not "colourful" as such but it stands out boldly on the page and insists on being noticed – and incredibly for such a dark, saturated ink, shades noticeably when 'painting' it onto the page with a 1.5mm stub nib. As an added bonus, this ink now sits (more or less permanently) in my TWSBI Diamond Mini, which was often a hard starter with Liberty's Elysium (a far more vibrant colour) – but no such trouble with 54th Massachussetts, it starts immediately and flows smoothly!

  • What inks do you find work well in your custom UEF's?

  • Yes, Navy is another great one!

  • Yup, not uncommon with a lot of Noodler's. So worth it though, IMHO.

  • Definitely, and you can do this with a lot of other Noodler's inks as well. Nathan Tardif is a rather, shall I say, thrifty individual. That's why he fills his bottles up to the brim, and puts his ink in square bottles, so there's no wasted space in the packaging! He also heavily saturates his inks, and promotes that if you want to get even more mileage for your dollar, you can dilute it just as you mentioned here.

  • Yup!

  • Robert Matthews

    I'm also one of the people who got this as a free bottle, and I instantly loved it. Blue-black is my favourite ink colour, and I have a lot of Goulet samples: 54th Massachusetts instantly became my second-favourite blue-black, next to the glorious Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite — and Tanzanite isn't even waterproof, let alone bulletproof.

  • Ha ha. When you come out from your corner, we'll be sure to have plenty stocked for you. 🙂

  • Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

    Some people commented that adding a bit of water helps make this ink flow better in drier nibs.

  • Thanks for your comment, Gordon. It really does call attention, but not in a flashy way, which is so nice. It's like a wink instead of a yell. Also good to know that you didn't have any flow issues with it.

  • ACBB is another great ink. Curious — why do you have to use black ink in your research notebooks?

  • So glad you like it. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  • Thanks for commenting, Robert. Tanzanite is another jewel and the bottles from Pelikan Edelstein are gorgeous. Curious, what's the attribute that Tanzanite has that pushes it into your number one spot?

  • Glad you like it. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  • Erik Evens

    I love the 54th Massachusetts! I think the color is great, but I also really like the sightly-lubricated quality of it, and I hate to admit it but Ieven like the weird Sharpie-like smell of it.

  • ★ keri ★

    OH! I didn't think about dilution – that would have probably solved so many of my issues with the Noodler's ink I haven't liked as much, including 54th Mass. (it's a little TOO boldly saturated, I think, and the way my pens bump around at work, the nib creep means I get ink all over my fingers when I pull the cap off)

    But I adore the color of Diamine Twilight, and 54th Mass. is very similar to it. In fact, when I was showing my best friend the page in my planner where I jot down the name of each ink I use, she pointed to Twilight as one of her favorites – but also said she wanted a waterproof ink when she got around to buying a bottle (instead of bumming ink samples off me). So 54th Mass. is perfect for her. I gave her a bottle for her birthday this week and she was over the moon! When I told her that it's bulletproof and will work well with watercolors once it dries, she was even more excited.

    Her boyfriend is pretty envious, too. Earlier today, I tweeted at you guys that he has been coveting the Lamy Vista I gave her a few months ago, after getting her hooked on fps with a Preppy, and he happened to totally love the 54th Mass. when she demonstrated it. He's going to be blown away when he gets his new charcoal Lamy Safari next week. I hope they can share the ink without trouble. 😀

  • Professor-P

    For legal and patent purposes the legibility of black ink in both the original and in copies is desired. For virtually all science research the standard is to use a black, preferably indelible, ink. It is what was used in every industrial and academic setting I have known.

  • Robert Matthews

    Tanzanite seems to hit that perfect balance for me: just enough black, just enough blue-violet, dark enough to be conservative and subtle while still having plenty of visual interest, not dusty or shady (even though I love those attributes in other inks), exactly the right flow for the fine nibs I prefer. It's like some Platonic ideal of what an ink should be. I have about a zillion different inks, and Tanzanite is not only my favourite blue-black, it's my favourite ink, period. The wonderful bottle just seals the deal.

  • Tim

    I bought a sample of this ink when I was looking for some blue blacks for work. Unfortunately, I found it to be chalky in color and made my extra fine TWSBI write in a very broad line. I love the concept behind this ink but didn't enjoy writing with it and ended up putting the ink back in the vial and switching to Noodlers blue black.

    It was a new pen, so it might not have been flushed enough, but did I do something wrong/have a rare bad experience with this ink?

  • Gordon

    I didn't think to mention that, but… me too! For some reason I find the same thing: the smell of the ink seems to somehow add to its intrigue when I write with it…

  • Jay

    What was last year's ink of the year? Was there a post of one I can't find it

  • Scott

    Pretty good Ink. Been using it for about a year. A bottle goes a long ways.

  • Scott

    That's a well built pen TWSBI. That's what I use most of the time.

  • zac

    Just placed my first order and this was the ink of choice… Can't wait to get my order. Using it to write little notes to my wife 🙂

  • bibi

    I absolutely love this ink! It's my most used in a collection of at least half a dozen. It's perfect for both sketching and writing. 54 Massachusetts is the new black!

  • Hi, Jay. You didn't miss anything. This is the first year we've named an "ink of the year."

  • Glad to hear it, Scott. Noodler's inks are filled to the brim. You really get your money's worth.

  • What a fantastic idea, Zac! I'm sure your wife will love your notes. Keep in touch and let us know how it goes. 🙂

  • I love that, Bibi! 54th Massachusetts IS the new black! ha ha

  • soniasimone

    No ink is everyone's favorite. This one isn't my personal fave blue-black because it's not as saturated as I like, you may be the same. That's the great thing about the samples.

  • soniasimone

    Hm, now I need a sample of Tanzanite. 🙂

  • Tim, it doesn't sound like you did anything wrong. There are so many factors that go into writing with pens, that it's difficult to say what it was. I know that when I write with drier inks the angle that I hold my pen makes a big difference.

    Also, if y'all like saturated blues, have you given Diamine Majestic Blue a shot? It's probably one of the most saturated inks we carry. Brian did a full review on it here: http://www.inknouveau.com/2010/10/diamine-majestic-blue.html

  • Tim

    I have not, but I'm just starting to work into Diamine inks now (chocolate brown and ancient copper were recent purchases). I wouldn't mind if the Majestic Blue happened to make its way into the ink drop next month!