You know that moment when you’re drinking a Thai iced coffee and the sweetened condensed milk is just starting to mix with the coffee — creating that delicious looking gradient of brown and cream? Now imagine stirring a handful of gold dust into it, and you’ve just described the Benu Briolette in Luminous Amber as a beverage.
That coffee analogy was the first thing I thought of when I saw this pen online, and I couldn’t shake it. I knew very little about the brand initially, but I knew that I wanted this pen. But there it sat, on my wishlist, week after week without me buying it. I wanted it, but I didn’t NEED it — or at least that was how I kept talking myself out of buying it every time I got the itch to add it to my cart. Like all things, though, that hesitancy soon gave way to me running up against a terrible day and wanting to engage in some retail therapy. I wanted something loud and extravagant and shiny that day — this fit the bill perfectly.
I was so excited to tell my wife when she came home. But when I told her about it, her expression instantly soured — and I suddenly got anxious. She asked me, “are you serious?” a half dozen times before quickly disappearing into the other room. I wasn’t sure how she would explain my demise to the police, but I was sure she had a few good excuses already worked out.
I was immensely relieved when she re-emerged moments later, holding a small gift bag. She had bought me the same pen for my birthday.
As soon as I had canceled my order (sorry, Mr. Goulet) I wanted to get this unboxed and inked. I’ve been writing with it pretty consistently since November, and I think this pen has a lot of fantastic qualities.
What I liked
First, the nib is glorious; it’s a gold plated Schmidt steel nib (a medium in the case of my specific pen) that lays down a clean wet line with a tiny bit of welcome feedback.
The barrel is exceptionally faceted – like a cubist abstraction of a classic cigar-shaped pen, which serves to prevent rolling (since there is no clip) and helps define the pen’s unique form factor and shape. While it doesn’t post, the pen has a nice weight and balance in my hand.
The material itself is truly unique. I’ve never seen anything like the resins that Benu creates in-house (this one glows in the dark!). There are some excellent materials out there, but when you see dozens of pen turners selling pens in the same handful of popular finishes (no matter how beautiful they are), seeing something genuinely original can be refreshing and exciting. The same can is true about many of Benu’s pen designs. While I’m not crazy about every BENU design (looking at you, Sceptre), I think that the Briolette and the Hexagon are offering something singular and unique to the market.
Finally, I think the price point represents a great value. For between $74.00 and $80.00, you get an incredible pen with a unique look that performs wonderfully. Their pens are stylish, but they have the substance and craft to back them up.
What I Didn’t Like
There are some issues with this pen that I think might be deal-breakers for some people. The first issue is the step-down from the barrel to the section. Due to the pen’s barrel’s faceting, it’s not just a step-down, but a step-down with corners. If I hold the pen in a classic dynamic tripod, it doesn’t bother me at all. I think the section is incredibly comfortable, especially the slight lip where it meets the nib, which gives me a great sense of control and just a touch more sensory feedback when I’m writing with this pen. But, If I’m writing for a long time, I sometimes start to shift to a lateral tripod grip, and suddenly I have the pointed corner where those facets meet digging right into my thumb — and it can quickly get uncomfortable. So I would take your grip into account when deciding if the Briolette is for you.
Something else to be aware of is an issue I have had that is likely specific to this colorway. One day I was looking at this pen when suddenly, I spotted a very noticeable band of pink starting to form in the cap. It took me a second to realize that this was a small amount of ink that had accumulated inside the cap over time. I hadn’t realized just how translucent that glow in the dark resin obtained (which explains some of the incredible depth this pen has). Still, there was a spot in the cap right near the tip where the material was thin enough for a band of color to show through — and I used to keep this loaded with Yama-Budo. I quickly washed it out, and thankfully there was no permanent staining. Still, since then, I’ve been a little more conscious of using inks that are in line with this particular resin’s palette. Robert Oster Caffe Crema and Diamine Ancient Copper have become favorite inks to use in this pen.
Benu is a polarizing brand. I don’t think that their design goal was to set out and create a generic pen that appealed to the broadest audience possible — but rather to create something that serves as both an art-piece and functional writing tool equally well. I personally love this pen despite the issues above, but some people will find these pens too flashy or the shapes odd. However, polarizing can be a good thing — having opinions, yearning for originality, sharing a point of view, and having an evident design vision can earn a brand a loyal following. This Russian brand is making great pens — period. They may be a little glam, a little loud, and pushing the envelope when it comes to materials, form-factor and silhouette — but those that get it, get it.
(The pen in this review was purchased by me for my own collection. This post contains no sponsored content, affiliate links, or items provided for review by vendors/manufacturers)