April 27, 2013

Kinunu Coffee

Outside The Bag
I was in the Phoenix area recently, and had time to stop by one of the best coffee shops in Arizona: Cartel Coffee Lab. They roast their own coffee, pull decent shots of espresso, and know how to make a proper cup of pour-over coffee. Win, win, and . . . win. I ordered a macchiato and it was a PROPER macchiato, not one of those ridiculous milkshake like concoctions you'll get at Starbucks. I also picked up a bag of freshly roasted beans. I usually like African coffees, so I decided to buy the Kinunu coffee. The description on the label may be a little confusing to most sane people, but it's full of juicy details for coffee geeks.

Inside The Bag
I made a cup of this Kinunu coffee using my Clever Coffee Dripper, and the brew was outstanding. I really noticed the sweet candy-like aftertaste that remained well after drinking each sip. I'm happy that I bought a bag of this coffee, but I'm sad that I won't be able to acquire more without having to pay for shipping. I highly recommend this coffee, and highly recommend the roaster: Cartel Coffee Lab. Pay them a visit the next time you are in Arizona!

April 19, 2013

Pilot Custom Heritage 91 Fountain Pen

I acquired a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 fountain pen several months ago, but haven't had the time to write about it until now. At the time of acquisition, I really wanted to try a good Japanese nib, and I had my eye on the Pilot Prera fountain pen. After doing some research and over-analysis, however, my eye started to wander over to the higher quality Pilot pens, such as the Custom 74, the Custom 823, and the Custom Heritage 92. I accidentally learned about the Custom Heritage 91 model while reading up on the other Pilot models (the 91 is not readily available in the United States and there isn't a lot of published information about it). Long story short, I ordered one (in the Tsuki-Yo colorway) from a Japanese vendor, and am pleased to say the least. As the picture indicates, the nib is a 14 karat rhodium plated variety. I opted for a fine sized nib, assuming that it would write lines having a thickness similar to my Lamy extra fine and my Pelikan extra fine.

Although I was a little paranoid about ordering something from a Japanese website, the experience was painless and the pen arrived safely and with little overseas delay. The pen came packaged in a simple box, with one complimentary Pilot ink cartridge. Nice package, but I would have been OK with a plain cardboard box and a lower price.

I also ordered a Pilot CON-70 converter for the pen; the CON-70 employs a cool button vacuum mechanism that literally sucks in the ink. It's actually somewhat fun to use the CON-70. Really.

CON-70: Before Filling
CON-70: After Filling
My understanding is that the Custom Heritage 91 pen was released by Pilot in different colorways that match the color of some of Pilot's Iroshizuku inks: Tsuki-Yo (the blueish color of my pen); Yama-Guri (brownish); and Yama-Budo (reddish pink). The 91 also comes in a standard black body for those who like something more traditional.

I already had a sample of the Tsuki-Yo ink waiting for the pen, and it was nice to try the ink for the first time using its matching pen. I recently bought a full bottle of the Tsuki-Yo ink and plan to keep the 91 loaded with it. Pilot did a great job at matching the pen color to the ink. The white balance and lighting used in my pictures may not depict how close the colors are, but in reality they are very close (especially when good white paper is used).

So what about the pen itself? It's a great pen. The nib is high quality and it writes very smoothly but with some "toothy" feedback due to the fact that it is a Japanese fine sized nib. It always starts right up, it flows nicely, and doesn't skip. It has a little bit of give to it, but it is not as springy as the extra fine nib on my Pelikan M205. Take a look at the first picture above, the rhodium plating and design of the nib is top notch. The silver trim on the body is also very nice; I really prefer silver trim to the gold trim found on many traditional pens.

The size, shape, and weight of the pen work well for me. It's a little on the light side, but I don't mind (it weighed in at 22.2 grams, including the cap, with the converter nearly full of ink). I can comfortably use the pen with the cap posted or unposted. I really like the "plain" traditional design of the pen, including the monotone colorway that carries through to the grip section. Stay classy.

FYI, good reviews and better pictures of this pen can be found here (The Pen Addict) and here (Leigh Reyes).

I'll end this post with some writing samples on different types of paper. Each sample was written using the Pilot Custom Heritage 91 pen, with the matching Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo ink. I tried to size, crop, and combine all of the images together for the sake of comparison. The image really shows how the the line width, feathering, and the color of the ink vary depending on the type/quality of paper. The images are ordered (top to bottom) from best to worst results, in my opinion. Rhodia Dot Pad = A; Moleskine Notebook = D.

April 13, 2013

Leatherman Juice S2

As I wrote in an earlier post, my first multitool (the Gerber Dime) was a multifail. I returned the Dime the day after I received it, and immediately began the acquisition process to identify a better product. As soon as I returned it, I knew that I would be looking for a Leatherman multitool. I looked at the different Leatherman models and decided to get one of the pocket sized multitools. The Skeletool models look super cool, but they have limited functionality. Ditto for the Freestyle model. After eliminating those models, I was left with the different Juice models. From there it was easy for me to pick the Juice S2 model because it has scissors in lieu of a corkscrew. I don't drink wine, and consider a corkscrew to be a silly addition to a multitool. I decided to acquire the orange version because I thought that it would be distinctive, difficult to lose sight of, and easy to locate.

The orange color is unusual, but not annoying or childish at all. I like it. I also like the awesome fit and finish of the S2, which blows away the fit and finish of the Gerber Dime that I had.

My original intent was to EDC the S2 for a month to see whether or not I would ever need to use any of the tools other than the knife or the scissors. Speaking of EDC, the S2 is small and light enough to EDC, although for me it pushes the envelope of what I would call "comfortable" EDC. Whether or not the S2 is too bulky or bothersome for use as an EDC item will depend on which pocket you use and how it settles into the pocket.

When I hear the word "Leatherman" I immediately envision a set of pliers. The Juice S2, as expected, includes a set of needle nose pliers that also serve as wire cutters. The clamping action and tolerances are very good; I only wish that they were spring loaded.

The above picture is my attempt at showing most of the S2's tools: phillips screwdriver; knife; scissors (look at the size of that thing!); bottle/can opener; and flat screwdrivers. Would it be nice to have some other items? Sure, but then the S2 would become bloated, heavier, and lose its primary selling point (for me at least): EDC functionality. By the way, the S2 can also be configured into a Transformer-like bipedal Edward Scissorhands thing:

This is an unadvertised benefit and function of the S2 that brings the tool count up to thirteen in my book. Anyhow, I got the Juice S2 in early December 2012 and didn't use anything other than the knife and scissors for a good while. Fast forward to Christmas day, and I had an opportunity to deploy the pliers, the phillips driver, and a flathead driver. I also used the scissors and the knife to break down some boxes. To be honest, I could have used a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine for some guests, but whatever.

As mentioned above, my goal was to to EDC the S2 for a month or so to determine whether or not it makes sense to carry all of that functionality around. Well, the S2 didn't last an entire month. The day after Christmas, I needed a phillips screwdriver to install some batteries in my kid's toy. I made a point to announce to all the EDC disbelievers in the house: "it sure would be nice if I had a screwdriver on me . . . wait a second, I DO happen to have one right here in my . . . hey, where's my Leatherman?" It wasn't in my pocket, it wasn't in my EDC valet tray, and it wasn't in the garage near the boxes that I had broken down. I swore that I placed it in an unforgettable place after breaking down the boxes. Where did I put it? Why, on the back bumper of the car! Brilliant.

Unfortunately, my bright orange Juice S2 was not covered with a grippy rubbery exterior coating. Nor was it outfitted with an ultra heavy duty magnet. Accordingly, it fell off the bumper on the way to the local wine shop. I retraced my drive in an attempt to find the S2 in the street, but the distinctive and conspicuous orange sheen did nothing for me. Meh.

Anyway, I really enjoyed and liked the S2 during the few weeks we had together. I'm glad that I captured some pictures of it before I lost it.

PS - I acquired another Juice S2 a couple of months ago. I got the gray colored model and haven't lost it yet.

April 7, 2013

Aftershave Aquisition Disorder

I have never been a scent or fragrance person. Except for an extremely brief experimental phase in high school, I've never worn cologne. Not into it. At all. Moreover, I never used aftershave . . . until a few years ago.

Aftershave acquisition disorder (ASAD) hit pretty hard soon after I got into traditional wet shaving with a double edge razor. I consider aftershave to be an essential part of the wet shaving routine (for medicinal and therapuetic purposes, not to smell like a 70s disco or an old time barbershop). Yeah, so ASAD forced me to buy, sample, and try an extraordinary number of different aftershave products. It really is an impressive (or demented and sad, depending on your perspective) list. First up are the different aftershave splashes that I've tried (in alphabetical order): 4711; Adidas Dynamic Pulse; Anthony Logistics Astringent; Aqua Velva Ice Blue; Bravas (from Japan!); C.O. Bigelow Dr. Galen Herbal Skin Tonic; D.R. Harris Arlington; Floid Suave; Floid Amber; Floid Blue; Hattric Classic; Kiehl's Blue Astringent; La Toja; Lucido; Ogallala Bay Rum; Pitralon (Swiss version); Proraso; Santa Maria Novella Lavender; Speick; Thayers Witch Hazel Aftershave; Thayer's Medicated Witch Hazel; The Shave Den Lavender Tea Tree; and The Shave Den Mojito.

Next are the different aftershave balms that I've tried (in alphabetical order): Art of Shaving Unscented Balm; Gentlemens Refinery Unscented Balm; Gentlemens Refinery Standard Balm; Kiehl's Facial Fuel SPF 15 Lotion; Nivea Sensitive Balm; Nivea Replenishing Balm; Saint Charles Shave Avocado Oil Balm; Saint Charles Shave Lime Aftershave Milk; Saint Charles Shave "Bay Rum with a Twist" Aftershave Milk; The Shave Den Signature Scent Aftershave Milk; The Shave Den Tea Tree Aftershave Milk; The Shave Den Unscented Aftershave Milk; The Shave Den Lavender Tea Tree Aftershave Milk; Truefitt & Hill Ultimate Comfort Balm; and Trumper Limes Skin Food.

Wow, that's ridiculous! To be honest, most of those were samples or trial sized portions. Moreover, I didn't like most of those products for one or more of the following reasons: (1) smelled like old man, Grandma's flowerbed, ass, or a combination thereof; (2) left a sticky residue on my face; (3) too greasy; (4) the scent was too strong and lingered for too long; (5) unimpressive list of therapeutic ingredients. So, the above lists are so long because I've been searching for the perfect aftershave product.

As of the writing of this post, only the following items are worthy of continued use and repurchase: Proraso splash; Kiehl's Facial Fuel SPF Lotion (although not sold as an aftershave per se, it works well and it has sunscreen in it); D.R. Harris Arlington splash; Nivea Energy splash (which I spiked with some menthol crystals); and Speick splash. This "top shelf" lineup actually resides on the middle shelf of my cabinet, but whatever:

I'm totally over the trial-and-error phase, and I will only consider something new when I run out of one of the above "top middle shelf" products. I doubt I'll find anything comparable, but I'll still keep my eyes and nose open just in case. By the way, if I had to pick only one of the above, I'd go with the Speick splash. It's good stuff.

April 3, 2013

Fountain Pen Purchase: Real-Time Thoughts, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series of posts related to the engaging topic of a new fountain pen that I'm planning to acquire. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

I've decided to get the Sailor Professional Gear Matte Black version rather than the Imperial Black version, for the following reasons:

1. Unless I'm mistaken, the nibs are identical other than the final plating scheme. So the actual real-world writing experience should be identical with both pens.

2. Although I really like the "none more black" color scheme of the Imperial Black version, I fear that it may be a passing phase and that I'll grow to dislike the black plated nib in a few years or decades. In contrast, the standard two-tone nib that comes with the Matte Black version is more traditional, and I'm sure that its aesthetics will hold up over time. Plus, my son prefers the two-tone nib over the black plated nib of the Imperial Black version, and he's a smart kid.

3. Cost. I believe that the Matte Black version has a lower acquisition cost than the Imperial Black version. Yeah, I know that the Imperial Black version is a special "limited edition" and all that, but see Reason 1 above. I'm struggling with the idea of paying more for the purely ornamental design features of the Imperial Black. It doesn't seem practical (although, buying another fountain pen at this time is far from practical).

OK, so a Sailor Professional Gear Matte Black fountain pen will be in my possession soon. I just need to decide on a nib size/type. This is NOT an easy task for me because Sailor makes a wide variety of standard nibs and a number of crazy specialty nibs. I'm leaning toward a standard Medium or Medium-Fine nib, and I'm intrigued by the Naginata Togi specialty nib (but am not seriously considering it). I have learned enough about fountain pens to know that the actual line width of a "Medium" size nib can vary quite a bit from one manufacturer to another. Moreover, a general rule of thumb is that a given sized Japanese nib will be smaller than the same sized Western nib. For example, a "Medium" size nib from Pilot, Platinum, or Sailor (the big three Japanese brands) will be close to a "Fine" size nib from Pelikan, Kaweco, or Waterman.

I own or have used the following: Lamy Vista (Extra Fine); Lamy Vista (Fine); Pelikan M205 (Extra Fine); Pilot Custom Heritage 91 (Fine); and Pilot Varsity (Medium). Although I usually prefer narrow line widths, I love how smooth and wet the Pilot Varsity nib writes. For this reason, and for the sake of variety, I'm not really looking for another Fine or Extra Fine nib for the Sailor Professional Gear. If I can find a vendor with a reasonably priced Matte Black in Medium-Fine, then it's a done deal. Otherwise, I'll probably just get the Matte Black in Medium and hope that the nib size is a winner.

I better wrap up this post before I change my mind and start looking at the Nakaya Piccolo again.

Back to Part 2; Way back to Part 1