El Rey del Mundo is one of the many Cuban cigar trademarks that have a post-embargo incarnation. The original Cuban line was launched in 1882. By the 1950's the Havana factory was in the hands of Karl Cuesta of Cuesta Rey fame. He had arrangements to sell the factory but when the purchaser made a few unilateral adjustments to the contract, Cuesta angrily cancelled the deal. This opened up an opportunity for Frank Llaneza's Villazon company to buy the factory, and with it came the rights to the El Rey del Mundo and Flor de A. Allones trademarks.
But soon Castro would come down from the mountains with his bandits and take everything for the government. By sheer coincidence, Llaneza happened to be in Honduras examining the very first test crop of Cuban seed tobacco when the U.S. embargo was declared. Eventually a Villazon factory was established in Danli, Honduras. By the early 70's Villazon was experiencing labor pains, the kind induced by unions and communism. They decided to open a new factory in Cofradia where the climate was a little less inclined to this sort of disruption. But their experienced manager was moving with the operation to Cofradia and they needed someone new to run the plant in Danli.
By another stroke of good fortune, Llaneza ran into Estelo Padron, who had been working with his brother in Nicaragua; he and his brother had a bitter falling out and he was looking to leave the Padron company in Nicaragua. Estelo was offered and accepted the job of running the Villazon factory in Danli. Like his brother, Estelo is an incredibly talented and hard-working tobacco man. But unlike his brother, he keeps a low profile. You don't hear too much about him, even though he is the man behind the blends in Punch, Hoyo Excalibur, Sancho Panza, and of course El Rey del Mundo. And yet there is no star over Estelo Padron's door, no spotlights in Cigar Aficionado magazine. To this he responds, "A cigarmaker belongs in his factory making cigars."
Padron's special expertise lies with maduro wrapper. And in examining the oily oscuro that covers these robustos, all I can say is, "Damn. That's a smoke." I've been enjoying my El Rey del Mundos for years, and while organizing my desktop humidor the other day I noticed that I had one from a box I picked up about a year ago. I just received a new box about three weeks ago, so I thought it would be fun to contrast and compare, see if a year's age on this one made any difference in taste or combustion properties.
It may not be a fair comparison, because the old sample I have turned out to have a very tight draw. It was still smokable, but the tight roll gave it a graphite tinge that is normally not there with these smokes. But otherwise I noted that it was much smoother than the new ones, which have a gamier taste and a slight bite. The old sample had no bite whatsoever, and very little aftertaste. Age has definitely mellowed this cigar; in addition to this, or perhaps because of this, a really nice floral element appears after the first half inch or so. I think of the ERDM as the prototypical Honduran cigar– full bodied, rich with leather and wood, and in the case of maduros, a sweet char rising above the other flavors. In the case of the newer ones, there's also pepper at the outset– but aging has an attenuating effect on this element.
The robustos in this line all have a large ring gauge at 54/64ths, and the Connecticut Broadleaf maduro is their hallmark. They're a great example of how a cigar can have a full bodied taste and texture without being "strong." Even though I had some bad luck with the aged one, I plan on putting half of this new box away for a year or so.