Merlion by La Sirena

The Merlion by La Sirena is the second major blend to join Miami Cigar and Company’s La Sirena brand.  Toward the end of 2010, the original La Sirena was launched.  In my opinion it was one of the finest Connecticut Broadleaf cigars to hit the market in recent years, and earned honors as our #2 Cigar of the Year for 2011.   When there is a special cigar, everyone is always ready for the sequel – and that sequel usually has some big shoes to fill.   The Merlion was given the honors of being that sequel.  In the case of this cigar, Miami Cigar and Company goes in a completely different direction for this new blend by La Sirena.   The end result was nothing short of outstanding.  The La Sirena line now has another excellent offering and made their brand even more exciting.

While the original La Sirena is rolled at the My Father Cigars’ family in Nicaragua, the Merlion is rolled at the La Aurora factory in the Dominican Republic.  Many people know that Miami Cigar and Company is a distributor to La Aurora Cigars.  In terms of this distribution arrangement, I feel this is as good an arrangement as I have seen in the industry.  There is a great synergy between the two companies.  In a way the Merlion reflects that synergy.   As the press release for the Merlion said: “The name Merlion comes from a mythical creature that is half lion and half mermaid, the perfect fit for La Sirena and La Aurora.”

The synergy just isn’t reflected in this cigar’s marketing, but in the whole cigar experience as well.  Let’s break down the Merlion and see what this cigar brings to the table.

Blend Profile

The Merlion is a true multinational blend – providing a wide range of tobaccos in its composition.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Corojo
Binder:  Brazilian Sumatra
Filler: Brazillian Bahia, Dominican
Corojo, Dominican Criollo ’98, and Nicaraguan Ligero

Vitolas Available

The Merlion which comes 20 in a box and is available in 3 sizes:

Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 5 1/2 x 54
Gran Toro: 6 x 58

Appearance

For this cigar experience, I opted to go with the Toro vitola.  The Merlion’s Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper has a medium brown color.  The wrapper itself has a silky complexion to it and to a lesser extent an oily sheen.  There were very few veins and very few wrapper seams that were visible.

The banding is very unique on my Merlion Toro.   The shape and size of the band is actually very similar to the original La Sirena.  The difference is that the band is actually two bands and the two bands put together make up the unique La Sirena banding shape.  The bottom band actually rests over part of the top band.   The lower band has a silver, indigo, rose, and red color scheme.  The La Sirena mermaid logo is prominently displayed.  Above the mermaid is the text “MERLION” in silver font on a rose colored ribbon shape.  Below the mermaid is the text “BY LA SIRENA” in silver font on a red colored ribbon shape.

The upper band has a silver, indigo, and rose color scheme.  The text “MERLION” is on a rose colored ribbon shape.   Below that ribbon is the silver font text “BY” on an indigo background.  Below that text is the text “LA SIRENA” on a rose background.   There is no mermaid on the upper band, but there is an anchor.  The nice thing about the two band system is that you can remove the lower band and still have an identity because the upper band remains.  The two band system exists on the Toro and Gran Toro sizes.  The Robusto size only has the lower band.

The upper band of the Merlion (on Toro and Gran Toro only);
Resulting is a nice white color

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For my Merlion Toro, I went with my usual straight cut into the cap.  The pre-light provided me a mix on wood and pepper notes.  The pepper notes lingered nicely on the tongue providing a nice spice effect.   Overall I considered the flavors from the dry draw to be satisfactory.  It was now time to light my La Sirena Merlion and see what this cigar would deliver.

Flavor Profile

The start to the Merlion provided some black pepper to start with some notes of wood in the background.  This was shortly followed by a natural tobacco sweetness.  By about the five percent point, the initial flavor profile began to take shape.  The natural tobacco sweetness moved into the forefront.  The wood notes remained in the background and were joined by some floral notes.  At the same time the black pepper moved to the background and provided the nice lingering effect on the tongue.

Later in the first third, the floral notes joined the natural tobacco sweetness in the forefront.  The flavors had a wonderful fusion and created a unique sweetness.  Meanwhile, in the background the wood notes took on more of an oak feel.  While oak may seem like a generic flavor, I feel it provided some old school intangibles to the flavor profile.

As the smoking experience of the Merlion progressed into the second third, the floral/natural tobacco sweetness took on more of a citrus sweetness.  The sweetness had almost a grapefruit quality to it, but it more sweet than citrusy.  The black pepper continued in the background with the nice lingering effect.

The flavor profile held through the end of the smoking experience.  The cigar had both a robustness and smoothness at the end.   The resulting nub was outstanding – firm to the touch and cool in temperature.

Burn and Draw

This La Sirena might be made in a different factory than the original, but the commitment to quality remains.   The Merlion gets very high scores with the attributes of burn and draw.   The burn was sharp for the duration of the smoking experience – requiring minimal touch-ups.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.   The resulting ash was white in color.  There was a little flaking on the ash, but nothing major.

The corresponding draw was outstanding.  The Merlion was a cigar that was enjoyable to puff on from start to finish.

Strength and Body

The Merlion starts out as a medium strength and medium-bodied cigar.  However, this will change as the smoking experience progresses.  In that second third, there is a transition as the strength picks up significantly and by the second half of the cigar, this is a full strength cigar – and you will feel the strength in that final third.  The depth of the flavor notes also picks up as the cigar experience progresses, and the notes get deep enough to become full-bodied in the second half.   I still wouldn’t put it as full in strength and body as the original La Sirena, but the Merlion still holds its own.

As both the strength and body build with the Merlion, they remain in balance with neither attribute overshadowing the other.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned up front, last year the original La Sirena was our #2 Cigar for 2011.  It was an amazing Connecticut Broadleaf cigar that has potential to be a Hall of Famer in our Cigar Coop Hall of Fame.   The obvious question is going to be – how does the Merlion stack up?  While my answer might be cliché , the best answer I can give is that the Merlion is different.  It’s a different blend and made in a different factory.  Right now I’ve smoked a lot more of the original line than the Merlion, but I can say the Merlion has a lot of potential.  This was an excellent cigar, and I believe might be one of the finest cigars to come out of the La Aurora Cigars factory.  Given this becomes a stronger, fuller cigar, I’d probably still steer this toward a more seasoned cigar enthusiast.  As for myself, it’s the kind of cigar that I’d smoke again and make a box purchase for.

Summary

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Full (Starts out Medium and progresses to Full)
Body: Full (Starts out Medium and progresses to Full)
Finish: Excellent
Assessment: Memorable
Score: 93

Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased at Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, Tennessee.