An 'Inky Thoughts' thread is collating the most expensive/least expensive inks. Herlitz ink was my suggestion for cheapest retail non-bulk and I believe it is as yet without a review in this forum.
Herlitz is a brand found in German supermarkets and is aimed at the office and school market. They offer notebooks, a variety of pens including fountain pens, protractors, erasers, binders and blue and black ink in bottles and cartridges. 30ml glass bottles of Herliz Royal Blue can be had for under two Euros.
Having R&K, Kaweco and Pelikan 4001 royal-blue ink in my draw there was never much temptation to try it, but last weekend, a 'how bad can it be' curiosity struck. I picked up 10 universal cartridges in the local ReWe supermarket for €1.95 (they didn't have a bottle). These are the long, reversible cartridges (one end fits Pelikan, the other Lamy) and they contain about 2ml each. So that's around 20ml for €1.95, or 1cent/ml in cartridge or 0.7cent/ml in glass bottles.
I fired up the Otto Hutt #4 medium nib and took the Herlitz for a test drive. The flow was good, the lubrication pleasing - this is not thin watery ink, the colour was typical school blue on the Rhodia paper but a deeper rather pleasing blue on coated paper. From the selection of royal blues my preference would be Rohrer&Klingner royal-blue but the Herlitz seemed every bit as good as Pelikan 4001.
So who makes it? Consulting the package it turned out to be ... Pelikan. Wait a minute ... The scan below is a direct comparison between 4001 Royal Blue and Herliz. It was difficult to control the quantity of ink from the cartridge in the swab tests but I believe ... well, what do you think?
The Lamy Safari is the standard school pen in German schools and probably Pelikan don't want to make Lamy compatible cartridges under their own brand, hence they sell the ink under the Herlitz name at a budget line, mum friendly price. Pelikan 4001 Royal-blue double length cartridges cost a little more:t €3.50 for 10. It's not a big difference: the strategy is likely driven by brand association. Further evidence: Herlitz glass bottles are identical to 4001 bottles.
Since the Otto Hutt was was fully inked it accompanied me to work this week. I enjoyed writing with this well behaved, washable and legible Herlitz blue. After a day or so in the pen the colour deepened towards the more attractive tone you see in the cotton swap area. It's great for work: once dry, the ink is never smeary on the page, so your shirt cuffs don't turn blue, cartridges keep your fingers clean and, well, there is not much to dislike at the price.
I am curious to try their black ink should I ever see it in the supermarket.