What’s In Your Humidor?: Master Sensei (Cigar Dojo)

What’s In Your Humidor?: Master Sensei (Cigar Dojo)

There’s few people in the cigar media world that I admire more than Eric Guttormson (Master Sensei) over at Cigar Dojo. In a very short time Dojo has gone from a cigar blog to a cigar media empire with a mobile app, weekly contests, an online show (Smoke Night Live), merchandise (there’s even Dojo trading cards), events and cigars sold through third party shops (ie. the Undercrown Dogma or Viaje Throwdown). As the visionary behind this empire, Master Sensei has become the Elon Musk of the cigar media world. (Of course, Master Sensei is way older than Musk.)  Master Sensei was the Cigar Media Association 2014 Member of the Year. Seriously, he’s deceptively young looking.) I’ve had the personal pleasure of working with Master Sensei on the Cigar Media Association board, and appearing Aaron Loomis of Blind Man’s Puff on Cigar Dojo’s Smoke Night Live. (Watch the episode here.) I’m honored to be able to call Eric a friend. (Even if his choice in pizza is a little iffy.)

So without further ado, let’s get on with the feature…

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So Master Sensei, what’s in your humidor?
A lot of cigars I will probably never get around to smoking. Seriously, I end up giving away 90% of every cigar I get my grubby little hands on. I do have some dedicated shelves that I’m proud of: Drew Estate, Tatuaje, Padrón, Fuente, Espinosa, and a few of my other favorite brands get their own shelf. I also have a small collection of Cubans, which I plan to expand. Finally, I have some oddities and rare stuff that I keep just to look at, like the first ever version of the DOGMA and an Espinosa “X” that was discontinued before it ever made it to stores for reasons you might be able to guess.

Do you age your cigars for years, or are you one of those guys that plans on it but ends up smoking it early?
We recently wrote an in-depth article on long term cigar aging with the help of cigar “guru” Santana Diaz from Pure Aroma Cigars, Inc., the master-mind behind D’Crossier Cigars, and it’s really interesting (http://cigardojo.com/?p=19069). However, I’m not a very patient nor diligent person, therefore when I age my cigars I typically do it by mistake.

I do have one Padron 1926 Anniversario that I bought when I first got into cigar smoking that I plan to smoke on my death bed (which will probably be next week 😉

I love the Cigar Dojo concept. It is more a social media platform and app that connects smokers from around the country, rather than being a tradition cigar blog. How did you come up with the concept?
It all started with the Cigar Dojo blog, which did really well right off the bat. Six months later I got this wild-hair to make a social app. It was at that point the Dojo crew looked at me as if I lost my mind. I thought it would be fun but had no idea it would get as big as it is now.

I think the thing that separates the Dojo community from other communities is the fact that we stress the positivity. Life is too short to bicker, fight, and bad mouth cigars. The Dojo is welcoming, friendly, and celebrates the cigar culture. We work very hard to keep it that way.

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Dojo has several cigars done in partnership with manufacturer’s sold through third party retailers that have been a big hit with cigar enthusiasts, like the Undercrown Dogma, or Sensei’s Sarsaparilla. How’d you guys get involved in that?
One night we were having a Virtual HERF on the Dojo and Abe from Smoke Inn was on the Dojo joining the fun. I made the comment about making a Dojo cigar and Abe texted me asking me if I was serious. He asked me what manufacturer I would like to work with and I said Drew Estate. Jonathan is a huge fan of the Dojo and loved the idea. A year (to the day) later the DOGMA was released. The Sarsaparilla was the follow-up project which was something I really wanted to do because I love all the stuff Erik Espinosa makes.

The goal with our cigar projects isn’t to make a quick buck or merely get the Dojo name on a cigar. Instead, we want to make truly legendary releases that will be remembered for years to come. We have several other projects in the works that we feel will be absolutely incredible.

The Dojo concept of the cigar bomb, where someone randomly sends another BOTL/SOTL a package with several cigars in it, with no expectation of anything in return is quite interesting. What’s the best bomb you’ve received and what’s the best bomb that you’ve sent?
Oh man, I have received some epic bombs. Capt-Maduro recently sent me some Cubans from the 80’s that blew me away. Both Moose77, Simon, and Deford, have also sent me some epic bombs that included amazing cigars, beer, whisky, and even gourmet pickles. There have been dozens of other ones as well.

I’ve done my best to send out some of my own and I hope the people who received them were as excited to get them as I was to send them. It truly is more fun to give than to receive.

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Since you were at this year’s IPCPR in New Orleans, was there anything that you found especially impressive?
The Davidoff/Camacho compound is always impressive and I think those guys are killing it these days with some amazing releases. Quesada is also one of my favorite places to hang out and the one that seems to really picking up steam is Erik Espinosa. Just 3 years ago Espinosa had a very modest setup at IPCPR and now it’s one of the most busy places at the show.

By the way, the Dojo party in New Orleans was awesome. Lots of great people showed up, and it was nice to see the whole CMA board (minus Seth) in one place. I see you guys have HERFs all over the country. Anything coming up in the next few months?
The annual Dojo BASH is something I really look forward to. This year was amazing so many Dojo people came in just for the party as well as guys like Jonathan Drew, Skip Martin, Nestor Miranda, Santana Diaz, Erik Espinosa, Danny Moya, Nelson Ruiz, Robert Arango, as well as many other cigar media guys. It was a night to remember.

Next up, in early September we are doing the California MEGA HERF, which is one night on an LA rooftop and then a day cruise on a fancy yacht the following day. After that, we are doing a Cigar Safari in Nicaragua at Drew Estate. Hopefully we can return to the The Great Smoke in February and CATS FEST in May. Which leads us right back to IPCPR in Vegas next summer. I love Vegas so I’m glad the show is heading back there for the next 3 years.

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What’ve you got coming up on Cigar Dojo?
Giveaways, giveaways, and more giveaways!! We typically have at least one MAJOR cigar giveaway per week. Smoke Night LIVE (our weekly live show) is every Friday night and upcoming guests will be Fred Rewey from Nomad Cigars and Skip Martin from RoMa Craft. We also have some REALLY cool stuff coming up that’s currently a secret, therefore if I told you I would have to kill you…

Last but not least, we recently released our Loyalty & Rewards program on the Dojo app, which allows local shop owners to help maintain their customers and attract new customers, which we plan to continue to develop and improve.

What are you smoking a lot of lately? Do you have a couple cigars that are just everyday go-to cigars?
D’Crossier 512 is the best $6 stick on earth and I can’t get enough of them. My daily smoke is still the Espinosa Habano. I have been gravitating towards lighter cigars these days after a long spell of being a maduro snob. The new Undercrown Shade is right in my wheelhouse. And if you are looking for something more obscure try an El Galan robusto for a great daily smoke.

What are some of your all time favorite cigars?
Padrón 1926 Natural and Fuente OpusX are easy picks. I love the Warped Don Reynaldo, La Palina Goldie, Moya Ruiz The Chinese Finger Trap, Epic Habano, Flor De Gonzalez 90 Miles Spectral, Camacho American Barrel Aged, and the Quesada Reserva Privada – which will blow your doors off. I also love some of the better Cubans – Cohiba Siglo, Monte #2, Partagas Serie D, and several others.

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Is there anything else you think our readers should know about you and/or Cigar Dojo?
What some folks may or may not know is the Cigar Dojo is a family business. My son Jordan is my number one guy, he is an absolute genius writing articles, taking great photos, and videos. I wake up every day being thankful that some large cigar company hasn’t stole him away from us. My other son Dominic, and friends Jack, Matt, and Keith are also instrumental in keeping the Dojo going. Finally, we have a great group of reviewers who contribute some of the best cigar reviews in the business.

Ultimately the Dojo community is about way more than cigars. It’s about fellowship. It’s about lifting each other up when we are down, it really is an amazing community. Sports, entertainment, current events, are all topics that get discussed on the Dojo.

It goes beyond our community. The friendships and comradery we have with other bloggers such as Cigar-Coop, Blind Man’s Puff, Cigar Vixen, and of course ToastedFoot, are a treasured part of being in this industry.

Hopefully when all the dust settles people will look back and appreciate the effort we put into making a positive impact on the cigar world.

Our tag-line for the Dojo is “Never Smoke Alone” and that to me is what it’s all about.