Ink Review: KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold

KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold writing sample

I have used Iron Gall Aztec Gold in two pens, a Lamy Safari with broad nib and a Lamy 2000 with fine nib. I kept Iron Gall Aztec Gold in the Safari for seven weeks — refilling it a few times. I may have set a new “no time to review inks” record, but at least I had a lot of time to get to know Iron Gall Aztec Gold.

For me, Iron Gall Aztec Gold behaved perfectly. It’s a wetter ink, and felt extra smooth and nicely lubricated in both pens, even the dry-writing Safari. As long as the pen had enough ink remaining, startup was immediate, even if I hadn’t used the pen in days.

Best of all, although it’s a nice wet ink when you write with it, Iron Gall Aztec Gold still writes a tight, non-blobby line, so both nibs wrote true-to-size. And I liked Iron Gall Aztec Gold in both the broad and fine nibs. Color, shading and behavior were consistent, not only across nib widths, but on all the papers I’ve used.

Here is Iron Gall Aztec Gold on Rhodia.

KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold writing sample

As its name connotes, KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold has iron gall in the formula. This is mostly discernible in the ink’s slight, but pleasing, color change. When first put down on the paper, Iron Gall Aztec Gold looks more golden, but its color darkens a bit as it dries. So the color gains complexity, with the gold taking on a slightly more gray or green tint before your eyes. Almost brass-like.

Here is what the ink looks like on cream-colored Tomoe River paper.

KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold writing sample

Here is a closeup of the Rhodia writing sample.

KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold

That shading is a characteristic of iron gall inks, along with the color change.

Nevertheless, Iron Gall Aztec Gold contains a lower level level of iron gall than many iron gall inks. In fact, checking back over my notes, I realize that KWZ told me so, way back in January. Iron Gall Aztec Gold and Iron Gall Mandarin are the two iron gall inks KWZ classifies as “Light Iron Gall.” That means Iron Gall Aztec Gold has a smaller amount of iron gall and is designed to be very low-maintenance. And in my experience, it is.

I hadn’t remembered this “Light” classification when I was testing the ink, but I could tell by using it that Iron Gall Aztec Gold has a lower level of iron gall. One clue was its behavior on poor paper. In my experience, stronger iron gall inks generally outperform on poor paper — think of Pelikan Blue Black, or the old formulations of Montblanc Midnight Blue and Lamy Blue Black (both of which contained iron gall).

But while Iron Gall Aztec Gold does just fine on lower-quality paper, it’s not amazing. Here is an extreme closeup on Staples Sustainable Earth legal pad paper, my everyday paper.

KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold writing sample

This blow-up is the only way I can show the feathering, but note that it’s also unfair. Iron Gall Aztec Gold can feather on lower-quality paper, but the feathering is at a level I find perfectly acceptable, and I’m super picky about feathering. I’m pointing it out only because it’s an indicator that this is an iron gall ink that’s on the lighter side.

Another indicator? Iron Gall Aztec Gold is not particularly water resistant. Traditional iron gall inks are very water resistant. But with Iron Gall Aztec Gold, there’s only some water resistance.

KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold water test

On absorbent regular paper, on the left, Iron Gall Aztec Gold remains very legible even after exposure to water. However, on the right, you can see that most of the ink ran off the writing sample on fountain-pen friendly Rhodia when exposed to water.

As a nice corollary, however, Iron Gall Aztec Gold cleaned out of my pens very easily with only water.

That all adds up to my conclusion that Iron Gall Aztec Gold is indeed, as promised, a very gentle iron gall ink. In fact, I’d rank KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold at about the same level as Waterman Serenity Blue for ease of maintenance, safety and easy flow, based on how it behaved for me. If you are nervous or worried about trying iron gall inks, this is a good one to try.

Note also that Iron Gall Aztec Gold had absolutely no effect on the stainless steel nib even after seven weeks in the pen.

Lamy Safari nib

In terms of comparison inks, for me the closest were KWZ Old Gold, which is a dye-based ink from KWZ, and Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho. Here are swabs of those three, plus two J. Herbin golden browns for comparison.

KWZ Old Gold and KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold ink swab comparisons

I’ll put up a review of Old Gold in the next couple of days, too. But in the meantime, know that I was using both these KWZ inks at the same time in different Lamy Safaris with broad nibs, and I could never tell which ink I had just by picking up the pen and writing with it.

For fans of KWZ’s golden brown inks, here are Iron Gall Aztec Gold, Old Gold and the wonderful KWZ Honey, previously reviewed here.

KWZ Old Gold KWZ Honey KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold ink swabs

You can see that Honey is warmer and sunnier, and the two “Gold” inks really look more gold.

Here is paper towel chromatography of Iron Gall Aztec Gold.

KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold paper towel chromatography

It’s a straightforward golden brown mixture, plus the iron gall component.

4 thoughts on “Ink Review: KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold

  1. Wow, that Honey looks very appealing.

    I have and enjoy very much the Aztec Gold. It’s a kindv strangely fun ink for me.

    Have you seen or tried El Dorado?

    Lastly, I love ink sample comparisons. Thanks (on top!) for including them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What another excellent review Laura! I did not realize they had light versions of the iron gall inks. Since almost all of my pens have stainless steel nibs, I’ve been wary of iron gall. I would rather use a nano/carbon ink, or Warden/bulletproof if I need extra resistance. But this is still an interesting ink, and I like the color. The only nano ink I have is Sailor-Kiwa guro, and I don’t leave it in my pen for long at all. (maybe a day or two more than a Warden ink) I can keep bulletproof inks in my pen longer. I can only think of one fully bulletproof only ink I have, and that is Lexington Gray.
    I am quite interested in KWZ inks. I look forward to seeing upcoming water resistant inks from them. These iron gall inks are pretty, but not tempting enough for me. Maybe in the future I will get a designated iron gall pen, and give it a go.

    Liked by 2 people

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