Welcome to halfwheel, apparently your number one source in 2020 for cigar ashtray reviews.
Unlike the last ashtray I reviewed, the HF Barcelona Melamine Grid Ashtray is an affordably priced place to put the ashes of your cigar. It’s priced at $19.99 and offered in red, black and brown versions.
WHAT IS IT?
It’s a new-age take on a classic grid style ashtray that has been made popular by Nat Sherman. It’s a two-piece design measuring 7 inches by 7 inches at the top piece, which features a 4 x 4 grid of channels and holes. There’s a total of 16 of those holes with the idea being that the ash goes inside the holes and into the removable base. The design allows you to place multiple cigars in a relatively small package—I suppose 16 cigars would be technically possible though not advisable—while also having the ability to not have to see the ash sitting in a bowl like a typical ashtray.
I suppose this should be under the “What Makes It Special” header, but the unique feature of HF Barcelona’s model is that it’s made of melamine, a composite material that combines many of the best parts of metal and plastic especially for ashtrays:
- It’s stronger than plastic — We’ve dropped melamine from 12+ feet and it won’t crack or shatter like glass or plastic.
- It’s lighter than metal — Melamine is much lighter; compared to a more or less identical metal version of this ashtray, the melamine shaves 30 percent of the weight.
- It’s heat-resistant — Unlike plastic, melamine isn’t going to melt because of the heat from a cigar.
- It can be molded and painted — Melamine has been used to make designs more detailed than this like the jar for Tatuaje’s Black Label Corona Gorda 2013.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Place your cigar in one of the channels, let it rest. If you want to ash, I find it best to physically shove the ash into one of the holes, which creates some mess but makes it much more likely that the clump of ash will end up in the bottom of the ashtray.
Oh—and don’t set a road flare on the ashtray.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Unlike most cigar accessories—though certainly more common for ashtrays—melamine is dishwasher safe, something which I successfully tested.
- Melamine is Awesome — It may not be as pretty as metal, glass or porcelain, but as mentioned above, melamine is a great material to use for an ashtray.
- This Is Great for Small Tables With Multiple People — This is a rather small form factor for an ashtray that could be placed on a tight four-top table and used by everyone. Given its price, it’s also a great option for cigar shops and lounges with this type of seating.
- Your Cigar Isn’t Going to Fall Off — Unlike ashtrays that use stirrups, oftentimes about an inch in length, the chances of you knocking your cigar off this ashtray are about as low as any ashtray. The grid pattern creates obvious channels for your cigar to rest and if your cigar gets knocked out of the ashtray, there’s a good chance the ashtray is also on the ground.
- It Can Be Used Outdoors — Melamine means this ashtray is definitely going to withstand whatever weather you throw at it but I’m not sure what to make of how this will do with messes. While on one hand, the ash in the bottom won’t go flying around, I’m a bit concerned—as explained below—about all the ash fragments that seem to appear on the top part.
- It’s Not Big Enough for Big Cigars — If you are smoking anything under 54 ring gauge, the ash will likely fall through the holes without an issue but even at 54 ring gauge, it won’t happen automatically. Yes, you could pretty easily knock the ash into the hole but it’s not as foolproof as it would have been 15 years ago.
- The Grid Gets Messy — I find these types of ashtrays produce random fragments that sit on top of the ashtray a lot more than other styles. While the total amount of ash isn’t much different and you probably see less of than you would with a normal ashtray, the ashtray routinely looks messy. This probably isn’t helped by the color choices which seem to make the ash a bit more obvious than if it were available in a gray hue.
- Cleaning Is a Pain — Because of the grid nature, getting it clean can be a real pain, particularly if you end up using more than one row or column of the grid pattern. All the random ash fragments mentioned in the bullet point above need to be cleaned. And when that’s all done, you’ll want to clean the bottom. I found that the corners of the ashtray always seemed to have a small speck or two of ash stuck in them. In the end it takes about a minute to fully clean the ashtray, which is a lot longer than most ashtrays.
When I see these ashtrays I think of the Nat Sherman Townhouse, which uses this grid style ashtray, albeit with a removable wood shell and a metal design. Nat Sherman sells those ashtrays, known as the Nat Sherman Executive Ashtray, for $159.95. They are more or less identical in shape, at least the inner ashtray pieces are, but are a tad bit easier to clean and look a bit nicer. I’m not sure I’d pay eight times the price of the HF Barcelona for the Nat Sherman version, but it’s slightly more refined.
- Big Easy/Quality Importers Grid Ashtray ($40) — Quality Importers offers a metal version of the same concept for around $40 that is sold at various retailers. It’s the same size as the HF Barcelona in terms of dimensions, just metal. One thing that concerns me is that some of the pictures online seem to show that the lid may not close as perfectly as the HF and Nat Sherman options. I don’t have one on hand to compare but it did jump out a bit. They also make other versions in a round format as well as a single cigar option in a rectangular shape with just four holes.
- Bo Lungberg and Holger Bäckström Ultima — I spent some time trying to figure out who invented this style of ashtray and Lungberg’s and Bäckström’s Ultima ashtray could be it. Many places suggest these are from the 1960s. Expect to pay at least $200 and if you are curious, the pair made some interesting variations of the ashtray as well.
- Eicholtz Ashtray Deluxe ($225) — This looks to be a more elegant and much more expensive version of this design. I’ve never used one personally, or at least not knowingly.
- Chairmans’ Ashtray ($50) — A slightly larger version of the same design, I’ve used these in stores a handful of times and I’d rather have the HF versions as I like the proportions and design a bit better.
- Stinky Ashtray ($38.99) — You can find some retailers that will sell the four-stirrup Stinky Ashtray for around $30. It’s a much different design and more expensive, but that’s the ashtray I use on my patio.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
For a grid ashtray, yes. For an ashtray, no.
I am not a fan of this style of ashtray because it’s a pain to clean and I never found a way to make it not get messy. I’d much prefer an open bowl style of ashtray where only one part of the ashtray gets dirty. That being said, the HF Barcelona Melamine Grid Ashtray is the cheapest grid-style ashtray I’ve seen and is arguably a better one because of its melamine construction. Much like punch cutters or soft flame lighters, this style of ashtray seems like it will have an audience that loves the design and then everyone else. I’m firmly in the latter camp.