In 2012, the Merlion brand was created out of a partnership between La Sirena and La Aurora. The brand launched with three sizes, but a new size followed within the next year, the Sea Lion, a 5 1/2 x 47 Figurado.
In May of this year, we broke the news that the Merlion Sea Lion, a cigar originally made for brand co-owner Arielle Ditkowich, would be released, limited to 5,000 10-count boxes which included nine cigars using the standard Ecuadorian corojo wrapper used for the Merlion blend and one cigar with the same base blend, but a Mexican San Andrés wrapper. The production cigars would also feature a shaggy foot that was missing on the prerelease and event samples.
Here is what I said about the Sea Lion in my original review back in June:
While the Sea Lion takes a few minutes to get started, once it does, it gets very, very good. This cigar had an impressive number of different flavors, all distinct and complex, but I can’t help but think that the vitola actually worked against the overall profile at times. The middle third is by far the best—and the two ends—which are noticeably smaller ring gauges just don’t have the same complexity. If the flavors had remained the same throughout the entire cigar—this would have received an even higher score—but honestly, it is good enough to track down just to experience the middle of the cigar.
- Cigar Reviewed: Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: E. León Jimenes Tabacalera
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Corojo
- Binder: Brazilian Sumatra
- Filler: Brazil, Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Size: 5 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 47
- Vitola: Figurado
- MSRP: $12.00 (Boxes of 10, $120.00)
- Date Released: October 29, 2013
- Number of Cigars Released: 5,000 Boxes of 9 Cigars (45,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Redux: 1
Like the one for the original review, the Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion is a fairly thin Figurado with pointed ends on both the cap and the foot, covered in a milk brown-colored wrapper that has a bit of tooth to it. There is no oil present and only one vein. The Sea Lion seems appropriately spongy when squeezed and the aroma coming off of the wrapper is light creamy leather, chocolate, cedar and white pepper.
The Merlion Sea Lion starts off immediately with flavors of creamy cedar, leather, milk chocolate and earth. There is a wonderful combination of both sweet vanilla and spice on the retrohale that builds in strength until the halfway point, where it starts to recede a bit. In the second half, the sweet vanilla note turns into more of a vanilla bean flavor, while the spice level continues at about the same strength until the end. A great nutty note is almost introduced in the final third, replacing the leather flavor from the first two thirds and making the profile more creamy overall until I put down the nub with less than a half inch left.
Construction-wise, I used a Dickman cut and as a result, the draw had the perfect amount of resistance for the entire smoke, and while the burn is far from razor sharp, it is not problematic enough to really give me any issues. Smoke production is well above average: bluish white and billowy, and smelling like spicy cedar. The strength in the blend was a non-factor, starting out noticeably below the medium mark and barely reaching a solid medium by the end of the find third.
Unlike the first time I reviewed this cigar, the Merlion by La Sirena Sea Lion had great flavors right out of the gate, most distinctly a combination of creamy cedar, milk chocolate and spicy vanilla. There was not as much of a difference in the profile between the first, second and final thirds. The smoke production was enormous—especially for such a small vitola—and while the construction was not amazing, it certainly was good enough to not give me any issues. I loved just about everything about this cigar the first time I smoked it, and while there was not a major change after six months of rest, the profile seemed more balanced and more consistent from the first puff to the last. A great medium-bodied, full-flavored blend in an interesting vitola that I think flew under the radar for most people this year, and well worth tracking down.