Oh!Val Ashtray
Photo/Jeff Harris

Escaping our frenetic lives to be alone with a cigar is not only one of life’s simple pleasures, but it’s good for the psyche as well.

This relatively brief period of time away from work, friends and family affords us an opportunity for introspection and to ruminate on the decisions of the day. A mental cleanse, of sorts.

And now, thanks to noted Japanese industrial designer Nobuo Inoue, cigar devotees who enjoy meditating with their smoke of choice can have an accessory that encourages them to tap into their subconscious: the Oh!Val ashtray.

Crafted by hand, the Oh!Val ashtray ($320) is a fine example of Nambu Tekki ironware, a traditional method developed in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture roughly 400 years ago. Tea aficionados might recognize Nambu Tekki (“southern iron” in Japanese) as the method that produces tetsubin, teakettles often used in formal tea ceremonies. They are sought-after not only for their simplistic beauty, but also their collectability.

The ashtray ships in three separate pieces, each with the same rough, black-matte finish. They attach to one another via high-powered magnets. Fully assembled, the nearly two-pound ashtray’s austere appearance, natural materials and functional simplicity showcase it as a sterling example of Japanese minimalist design, in particular the wabi-sabi aesthetic.

A small base, flat on the bottom and concave on the top, attaches to the underside of a shallow oval-shaped cradle in which the ash collects. The cradle’s lip shines a beautiful silver due to the fact that it’s been hand-polished in order to remove any divots or imperfections, a process that takes more than an hour. Should any divots prove too deep to buff out, the cradle is scrapped and must be recast. And finally, a cigar rest, wide enough even for 60 ring-gauge smokes, magnetically clicks onto the cradle lip and can be freely moved. (Extra rests are $21 more, but this ashtray is better for solo smoke sessions.)

Inoue, himself a cigar lover, spent 10 years experimenting with designs and materials before deciding on the final iteration of the Oh!Val ashtray. His goal was to create an ashtray that is not only durable and long-lasting, but one that also stands out among others on the market. After contemplating this with a cigar, we’ve concluded that he’s done exactly that. 

Visit nobinoue.com

"I broke down and ordered from Japan. It arrived a few days ago, and I've already enjoyed a cigar - even more beautiful in my house than shown in the magazine. " —May 8, 2015 00:36 AM